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Arts & Entertainment WCU dulcimer conference to feature historian, progressive dulcimer virtuoso

Ralph Lee SmithA mountain dulcimer historian who discovered the instrument while living in Greenwich Village in the 1960s and a 19-year-old dulcimer virtuoso who already has been crowned national champion and is widely recognized for her progressive playing style will be on the instructional staff for Dulcimer U Summer Week at Western Carolina University.

WCU’s 14th annual conference of mountain dulcimer classes, concerts and jam sessions will be held Sunday, July 14, through Friday, July 19.

Born in 1927 and now living in Reston, Va., Ralph Lee Smith is widely considered to be the foremost authority on dulcimer history. Smith taught himself to play the dulcimer during the folk revival of the 1960s, and in the 1970s he became interested in learning the history of the instrument and spent time traveling through the Appalachian Mountains meeting old-time dulcimer makers and players.

Over the years, Smith has performed at venues such as the White House, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and he has taught numerous workshops in dulcimer history and traditions.

Sarah MorganSarah Morgan of Sharp’s Chapel, Tenn., recently graduated from high school, but she already has made a name for herself in folk music, earning the national champion title at the National Mountain Dulcimer Championships in Winfield, Kan., in 2012. Morgan adds modern harmonies to traditional Appalachian tunes to create a fresh sound, and she also has been known to perform everything from Beatles music to Italian operas on the dulcimer.

Morgan’s performances have included the Kentucky Music Weekend Folk Festival, Tennessee Fall Homecoming at the Appalachian Museum, and the WDVX Blue Plate Special, along with many other venues across the country. She also has taught at many workshops, including Kentucky Music Week, Dulcimer Chantauqua on the Wabash and the Ohio Valley Gathering.

“Ralph Lee Smith and Sarah Morgan may come from different generations and have different stories to tell, but they share a common love and appreciation for the mountain dulcimer and traditional folk music,” said Bobby Hensley, associate director of continuing education at WCU.

In addition to Morgan, this year’s Dulcimer U will feature four more dulcimer players who have earned the title “national champion,” Hensley said.

For information on accommodations, registration and class descriptions, visit http://dulcimeru.wcu.edu and click on “Dulcimer U Summer Week” or call WCU’s Office of Continuing and Professional Education at 828-227-7397.


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