While the Lake Martin Dulcimer Club may be only two years old, the ancient instrument its members play has been around for a long time. About 30 members who play the mountain dulcimer – often referred to as Appalachian dulcimer – rehearse weekly and love sharing their talents with the community.
A Los Angeles musician dubbed the last Saturday in August Play Music on the Porch Day six years ago. This year, along with thousands of musicians in at least 17 countries, Tallapoosa County had at least one group participating – the Lake Martin Dulcimer Club.
The group plays all kinds of fun songs, she said, from fiddle tunes, old folk songs and church hymns, and they are always learning something new.
Gerry White, co-president of the club, credits Walls, who loves everything musical, for keeping the group on the track.
“I learned to play the dulcimer; then, offered to teach a few people at our church, Red Ridge United Methodist Church in Dadeville, and it grew from there to people from other churches and around the area. Some of us have experience playing an instrument and reading music, and some of us don’t, but we play well together,” Walls said.
Walls said the dulcimer is not difficult to play, so it is accessible to all ages. It has a fret board, which is a major scale, and three to four strings. Dulcimers range in cost from $60 to $2,000, varying in shapes, types of wood, sizes, colors and tuning pegs. A few of the members and members’ husbands have even learned to make repairs on the instruments when needed.
“We want to branch out and find more people who want to learn. If someone is interested in playing, I am happy to teach them, and I have dulcimers to loan while they are learning. I can also give them pointers on where to find one to buy,” Walls said.
Club members are excited that they have had so many invitations to play at churches, nursing homes and folk music festivals. Officers for the club coordinate the events and make sure enough members, usually 15 to 20, are available to perform on requested dates. Since the dulcimer is not a loud instrument, they must be played inside or at least under a covered area, to be heard. At this time, there is no charge for performances.
Last summer, club members attended the Lee County Old Time Music Festival in Loachapoka, Alabama, which they said was a great cultural experience.
“We had a great time in Loachapoka jamming with other musicians. We learned so much from a clinician who was there teaching and from the workshops we attended,” Walls said.
Club member Jackie Wilborn said she played percussion from grade school through high school. After retirement, she tried the piano, but the dulcimer has become her instrument of choice. Her husband has taken lessons as well, so they can enjoy the music together.
“The club is very important to me. We have such a wide age range, and so many new friendships have formed. They are just a good group of Christian people to be around,” Wilborn said.
The Lake Martin Dulcimer Club practices at the Tallapoosee Historical Museum in Dadeville at 11 a.m. on Friday mornings. Patrons of the museum can hear the group play as they browse the exhibits. For more information about the club or lessons, contact Kim Walls at firstname.lastname@example.org.