How to form a local dulcimer group

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
5 years ago
1,249 posts

@dulcinina Way to go!  And thanks for the update.  

dulcinina
@dulcinina
5 years ago
86 posts

Here's an update on forming a dulcimer group.  I have 4 people in the group so far.  I had a PSA on the radio and sent emails to those who were in the group before.  No one from the old group came but the 4 who did heard about it through word of mouth.  They are beginners but know a little about the dulcimer and are very enthusiastic.  So while I was hoping to just be the coordinator/leader, I am teaching basics.  It was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to the group growing.  Thanks for your input a couple months ago.  Oh, we have free space at our local Carnegie Center, a venue for music and art exhibits. We decided to meet twice a month. The group is going to work on coming up with a name.  Things are looking good.  Dulcinina 

majajog
@majajog
5 years ago
21 posts

I agree with Dusty.  Good ideas!  We started our group in Gold Canyon AZ using 4 core players who met at a LaCrosee WI workshop.  We posted a notice in our RV park in AZ and got a couple of others.  We circulated at the New Mexico dulcimer festival and picked a couple of others.  Very usefully, we posted our group on Everyhing Dulcimer and we got several members that way.  We still get regular inquiries from that posting.

We meet every week in our RV Park facilities for two hours.  As Dusty said it is vital to play music at both beginner and advanced levels.  My wife and I will often show up early to provide instructions for beginners.  We play a set of core tunes that we all know but we often introduce at least one new tune.  Members are prompted to bring in new material and teach it over several sessions until most members are comfortable playing it.  If most of us  really like a new tune it gets added to the core set.  So the meetings usually include both a sort of jam and a sort of workshop.

The hardest part is keeping the early beginners and the very advanced players both interested.  Too hard and the beginners stop coming and too easy and the really good players stop coming.  We have had both happen to us so you need to keep trying to reach a good balance of stuff.

You also need a reasonably sized group.  Our core group is 8 to 10 with as many as 16.  My ideal group would be 12 to 16 or so players. It's also nice to have another instrument or two.  We have a hammered dulcimer player who comes regularly.  She is a good player and has good timing.  Her instrument sounds enough different from the mountain dulcimers that beginners can use her to keep on beat.  We also have an occasional guitar player but they seem to get tired of playing in D.  

We do play music in other keys, with and without capos, which is great for learning stuff you can play with other instruments and expanding repertoire.

Hope this helps.

dulcinina
@dulcinina
5 years ago
86 posts

Thanks for the pointers, Dusty.  I'm getting together with a couple group leaders and getting their input as well.  Then I'll contact a couple possible location sites and take it from there.  You are always so helpful.  Thanks again, Dulcinina

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
5 years ago
1,507 posts

Dulcinina, about 5 years ago I started a dulcimer group from scratch. I had perhaps three or four email addresses that I collected at a dulcimer festival about three hours from where I lived. One of those original people agreed to host the event at her house.  Initially I recruited pretty heavily, looking through the member lists here and at Everything Dulcimer to find anyone within a few hours and invited them.  The first gathering we had perhaps 5 people, but we met every month and now the only times we've skipped a month has been when our meeting date was too close to a major holiday.

Towards the end of the first year I started a website to list tab for the songs we were playing and announce our meeting dates.  That website helped bring in a lot of people and I still get a new inquiry about every other month.  There are some tricks to building a website in order to get "hits" on search engines, so make sure you put the name of the town or at least a nearby city, the state you're in, the word "dulcimer" and any other obvious words on the home page of your website.

Eventually, a nearby music store heard about us and asked if we'd like to meet there instead. I thought people would prefer the privacy of a home, but moving to the store helped us get a lot more publicity, and we've been meeting there ever since.  We've had as many as 20 people show up (a lot for the west coast) but never less than 6.  For a while the music store was using the social site Meetup to announce our gatherings, and I'm sure we got some people that way, but we don't do that anymore.  I've thought about putting up flyers at other obvious spots, but we seem to have enough people so that kind of publicity hasn't been necessary.

One trick to keeping the group going is to make sure it appeals to people of all levels.  We begin our weekly gathering with a free beginners lesson. I think that's important if you want newbies to join.  Eventually people stop considering themselves beginners and skip that part, but it's good to keep it open. The second hour we devote to group play of our common tunes, a list that has been growing slowly.  Our third hour is a kind of song circle when people can play a song solo, call out a tune for group play, or just "pass" and sit and listen.  This third hour was created at the request of the beginners who wanted to hear what the more advanced players were playing, but it is a nice space for intermediate and advanced players to have an informal and friendly audience to work on new arrangements before they're fully ready for prime time. At the end we enjoy some finger food and friendly banter.  This organization, which evolved over time, has been key to keeping our gatherings interesting for people of different skill levels.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie

updated by @dusty-turtle: 07/20/17 05:37:44PM
dulcinina
@dulcinina
5 years ago
86 posts

I'm in Somerset, KY, 75 miles south of Lexington.

Bob
Bob
@bob
5 years ago
86 posts

Dulcinina- Where are you located?

dulcinina
@dulcinina
5 years ago
86 posts

I've been asked to head up and form a dulcimer group in my community.  I was part of one a couple years ago that someone else started and it folded after several months. 

What suggestions do you who lead groups have?  How did you advertise?  How often to meet?  What seems to kill a group once it's formed?  Thanks for any suggestions. Dulcinina


updated by @dulcinina: 10/27/19 12:02:25PM