Dulcimer Days aims to bring once popular instrument back to notoriety

Nathan Baker • May 13, 2018 at 9:00 PM

Organizers hope something at one of the events in downtown Jonesborough this week will strike a chord with you.

Monday kicks off the third annual Dulcimer Days, now a weeklong celebration of the instrument that helped shaped the sound of the mountain South.

The event only spanned one weekend when Don Burger started it three years ago. Believing the dulcimer needed to be recognized and celebrated locally, he put together some workshops, a performance downtown and a Sunday hymn singing for a “no-budget, grassroots public festival.”

Now, it’s seven days and more than two-dozen events, from crafts to performances to lectures, but it’s still free.

Burger said he wanted the events to be accessible to everyone, like the simple three- or four-stringed instrument it celebrates.

“The purpose is to regrow the dulcimer in this area,” he said Thursday. “At one time, years ago, it was a really popular instrument, it was taught in schools, and we had makers and shops. I moved here seven years ago, and no one was talking about the dulcimer.”

The dulcimer is rooted in the Appalachians, first made by the Scots-Irish immigrants who tamed the rolling land.

It grew to popularity as a parlor instrument, something to bring out and play with the family at a time when there were no televisions or cellphones for entertainment. Some luthiers started making and selling them, and heirloom instruments were passed down through generations of families, but it fell into relative obscurity until it was rediscovered during the folk music revival of the 1950s.

Burger said he was a piano and guitar player until he picked up a dulcimer at a folk music festival.

“I felt like I was home,” he said.

Because of dulcimers’ simplicity, Burger said they are the perfect instruments for children and seniors with no musical experience.

At the events this week, he said he’s encouraged musicians to bring extra dulcimers to offer to visitors to try their hands at them.

After putting out a request for people who may be holding on to one of those old hand-me-down dulcimers to bring them for assessments, Burger said he’s come out of his house to find several “small miracles,” gifts of dulcimers, left on his front porch.

His relationship to the instrument is one of love, he said.

“I think the word love is probably a good part of it, it’s traditionally made with sound holes in the shapes of hearts. The thing I’ve enjoyed the most, is helping people who didn’t think they could play instruments realize their dreams of playing one.”



12:30-1:30p.m. Needle Felting demo w/ Deb Burger

1-3 p.m. Guitar and Mountain Dulcimer w/ Phil Ling and Don Burger

Make Your Own Jewelry w/ Tami Moore

Eureka Inn, 12 W. Main St.


7-9 p.m. Duos with Dulcimers:

Don Burger and Phil Ling, "Unsung (Dulcimer) Heroes"

"Alathea," Mandee Radford Langley and Cristi Johnson Reilly

Mockingbird Music Room, 210 Spring St. ("train yard")




11 a.m.-2 p.m. Make Your Own Pottery: Barb Cara

One-40-Four Gallery, 144 East Main St.


Noon-5 p.m. Dulcimer Troubadour: Don Burger as "Jeremiah Potter"

Noon Storytelling Library at Mill Spring Park

2 p.m. Paul’s Pens, 105 Fox St.

4 p.m. Tennessee Hills Distillery, 127 Fox St.




Noon-1 p.m. Renaissance Strings from Kingsport

Storytelling Plaza


1:30-2:30 p.m. Cloudland Circle Dulcimers from Roan Mountain and Hands On Drawing/Painting with Caroline Lowery

Mauk’s Corner


7-8:30 p.m. Soothing Evening Dulcimers

Eureka Inn




2-4 p.m. Make Your Own Pottery: Noriah Shaw and Stephanie Nichols

Boone Street Market, 101 Boone St.


2:30-4:30 p.m. Hands On Drawing / Painting: Tom Root

Root Studio, 139 1/2 East Main St.


Musical Appetizers: Don Burger

Downtown Sweet, 137 East Main St.


5-8 p.m. Tasty Guitar and Dulcimer Music: Phil Ling and Don Burger




12:30-1:30 p.m. Needle Felting Demonstration : Deb Burger

1:30-2:30 p.m. Land of Waterfalls Dulcimer Players

Chuckey Depot Museum, 110 S. 2nd Ave.


7-9 p.m. Music on the Square, featuring:

"Thistle Dew:" foot-stompin, Celti-lachian Trio!

Tull Glazener: Dulcimer Master Extraodinaire!

Courthouse (Rainout location: The Corner Cup)




9-10:30 a.m. Experienced Dulcimer Players Clinic: Tull Glazener

10:30 a.m.-Noon Beginning Dulcimer: Tull and area instructors bring a dulcimer, or borrow one of ours for the clinic

1:30-3 p.m. Experienced Players Clinic Part 2

4-6 p.m. Eureka Inn's "Root Beer Garden Gala!" Locally-sourced sodas and other goodies, home-brewed dulcimer music with Tull Glazener and more!

Eureka Inn Courtyard, 127 W. Main St.




11 a.m. Jonesborough Presbyterian Church Service

Worshipful Dulcimer Music, with Deb and Don Burger

Jonesborough Presbyterian Church, 128 W. Main St.

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