My daughter looked at the green and white brochure and was impressed by the ASC course offerings, but thought my choice was an odd one. She asked why – with all this literature and history – would I choose “Introduction to Mountain Dulcimer?” My response: I didn't have violin lessons when
I was a little girl! That was in 2009.
In 2003, my husband David and I bought a house in Seal Cove, next door to one we had rented for seventeen vacations, and began looking forward to the day we could retire here. That day came sooner than we planned, because David suffered a stroke, I retired from teaching to be a caregiver, and decided I'd rather do that here than in Philadelphia.
My neighbor, the late Regina Ploucquet, had told me about ASC, given me a brochure (“This is what we do in the winter”) and regaled me with stories about the Blueberry Jammers, a dulcimer group that began as an ASC class taught by Ginny Blaney.
The first few months of living here, I was a full-time caregiver. Then I decided to hire somebody for respite care one afternoon a week. It was then that I took my first ASC class, the dulcimer class my friend recommended. At first I was skeptical. I said: How could it be easy? You are a musician. I can't even read music! She told me that dulcimer notation was by and for unschooled mountain folks and consisted of numbers that corresponded to three strings. So I signed up, and was very happy with my first ASC class.
The next year, when my children inquired about my playing, I told them that I would need a “real” dulcimer for that, not just the cardboard one we had used as a learning tool. And for Christmas, they gave me a kit to build one – So I joined the Blueberry Jammers.
My class turned out to be the final one taught by Ginny. She was diagnosed with cancer during that winter, and passed away two years later. The Blueberry Jammers group is part of her legacy. Several of the players come out of Ginny's classes: Wanda is one of her original students, has constructed her own dulcimers, has taught dulcimer herself. Ben is still with the group, which he joined because his wife told him she needed some men in her class. Rita was a classmate of mine, and is one of the musically adept and committed members of the group, which, over the years, has seen participants come and go.
I am not among the musically talented Jammers, nor one who practices diligently, nor have I tackled the more advanced skill of dulcimer “picking.” But still I (usually) attend jam sessions twice a month. And in November I love to get out our Christmas music and begin practicing for gigs. We recently played at Birch Bay, also for the bank's holiday open house in Southwest Harbor.
After this delightful introduction, I became more and more involved in ASC, especially after David passed away in 2011. I've taken numerous courses, served on various committees, made food for parties, organized field trips, written articles, taught classes, and served on the Board. My involvement with ASC led to many adventures (trip to Iceland: Thanks, Ben, for the Saga classes!), brought me good friendships, and has been instrumental in helping me shape a new life for myself!