On Seeing His First Hammered Dulcimer...

"I was 12, while visiting a friend in Kentucky, I saw a hammered dulcimer for the first time. I was instantly drawn to the sound and the design of the dulcimer. Immediately I began saving my allowance, and a year later I bought my first dulcimer."

On Styles of Playing...

"Because of the many musical influences in background, my dulcimer style is rather diverse. Most of the time, if you see me playing in a jam session, my traditional music style is highly rhythmic and driving. I use common tones as pivot points around a melody to fill the holes in a tune and keep the momentum. I like to throw in blue notes and non-traditional chords to spice things up. It's a lot of fun to play this way, and it attracts a lot of attention but I also enjoy a more subdued classical, and lighter style too.

"Since it's not feasible for a jam session to jam on Bach, I use the classical pieces to demonstrate my technical facility. In concerts these tunes let my programs breath between heavy bluegrass numbers, lively Irish tunes and moving gospel. It's really neat for me as a performer to keep people guessing about my style. Just when people think they have me figured out and labeled as a show-boating bluegrass player, I love to shock them with a heart wrenching classical piece. That's what keeps my audience's attention."

On Drawing from a Formal Musical Education...

"I have an appreciation of what makes certain chords sound the way they do. I like to go beyond what the ear hears, to a technical knowledge of why a tune sounds good or bad, why it works or doesn't work, and how to improve it."

On Playing Concerts...

Liberty Church

"When in concert we play everything from Blues to Bluegrass to Beethoven. My favorite gig is every fall when I do one big, full band concert at Liberty Presbyterian Church. Liberty is an Amish built barn/church that seats about 1200 people. Concerts there with my full band allow me to show every side of my dulcimer style, and are less stressful and just plain fun at my home church."

"When I play out of state I am fortunate to have my dad, Roger, come along and play guitar. Our father-son bond seems to really reach our audiences emotionally and musically."

Advice for New Players...

"Listen, listen, listen! Too often, when people buy a new instrument, they buy a couple of books, have some one point to where D is, and immediately begin training their eyes--not their ears! Though books can be helpful to get started, learning music is about training your ears."

"I always warn beginners not to get addicted to reading what's on the pages, or to following their note name guides under the strings. My advice to a serious beginner is to start a listening library of various dulcimer players of differing styles. Your library doesn't even need to be limited to dulcimer players. Some of the biggest influences on my playing are my granddad, Robert Mann, and my late great-uncle, J. D. Harris. They played guitar and mandolin."

On the Dynamics of Playing...

"With the hammered dulcimer, it is really easy to overplay songs. All of us hammered dulcimer players can fit four hundred notes into one measure, but sometimes playing one note and leaving sustained silence is much more effective. Leaving periods of silence in your phrasing draws listeners in, builds suspense, and allows a song to breathe. Conversely, even though overplaying can be mind numbing by itself, a performance that uses only a 'tinky-tink' style with over simplified melodies, no embellishments and too many holes, can sound equally mind numbing and immediately turn you into back ground music. Always strive for a balance in your performances."