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2017 Faculty Biographies


Featured Faculty / Performers


Aubrey Atwater & Elwood Donnelly: 

  Aubrey and Elwood met as volunteers at the Stone Soup Coffeehouse in Providence in early 1987. Within just a few months these self-taught musicians from Rhode Island formed a duo. Married since 1989, Aubrey and Elwood perform throughout the United States and, on occasion, abroad. Their ten recordings receive international airplay. Highlights include airplay on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," Fiona Ritchie's "Thistle and Shamrock," and the nationally syndicated "Midnight Special" out of Chicago.

  Atwater and Donnelly have performed and researched traditional folk music and dance in Appalachia, the Ozarks, New England, and other key places in the United States, as well as Ireland, England and Prince Edward Island. They have performed with or shared festival billing with folk legends Jean Ritchie, Pete Seeger, and Doc Watson.

  Aubrey and Elwood lead workshops, study with traditional musicians and folklorists, play for and call contra-dances, appear on television, and regularly receive standing ovations for their concerts during trips to festivals and camps such as the Hindman Settlement School in Eastern Kentucky, the Augusta Heritage Center in West Virginia, the Old Songs Festival in New York, the Ozark Folk Center in Arkansas, and the Swannanoa Gathering and the John C. Campbell Folk School in western North Carolina.

  In 2005, Aubrey and Elwood appeared in six performances of a play called "Folktown: The Story of the Fifth Mary," which was written and produced by playwright Bob Hollis and based on twenty-two songs in the Atwater-Donnelly repertoire. This exciting community project involved approximately one hundred people and took place in their then hometown of Foster.

In 2015, Aubrey and Elwood joined forces with 2nd Story Theatre in Warren, RI to present nineteen performances of a play, “Story Theater” by Paul Sills, based on Grimm's Fairy Tales and Aesop's Fables.

  Atwater-Donnelly have won Motif Magazine's Music Awards in the following categories: "Best Local Folk Act" 2006; three awards in 2007: "Best Folk Act" for the Atwater-Donnelly Band, "Album of the Year" for "The Halfway Ground,” and "Best Female Vocalist" for Aubrey Atwater, which Aubrey won again in 2009; “Best Folk Act” 2010; “Folk Act of the Year” 2011; “Americana Album of the Year” for “Each Other's Story” 2012; “Best Folk Act” 2014; “Best Americana World Music Act” 2015; Elwood won “Best Americana Male Vocalist” 2015; and in 2016, Atwater-Donnelly won “Best Folk Act” and Aubrey won “Best Americana Female Vocalist.”

  In addition to thirteen recordings, Aubrey has written three books of poetry and a songbook and Elwood has written a songbook of The Carter Family, for mountain dulcimer, a book of recipes and musings, and has created a songbook for "The Halfway Ground" and for "The Weaver's Bonny." The duo is part of more than fifteen compilation CDs and has appeared on numerous recordings of other musicians.



Rick Thum: 

   Ranked as the most influential dulcimer player of the last decade by readers of Dulcimer Player News, Rick Thum has made his mark on every aspect of the hammered dulcimer world. Rick is perhaps best known from his latest album, “Front Porch Waltz,” and his festival performances, which have regularly earned him the “most popular performer” title at the largest national dulcimer festival. He brings a combination of passion and friendly accessibility to his teaching that makes his workshops and master classes favorites at festivals across the country, and has tapped this teaching experience to produce the best-selling instructional CD series for hammered dulcimer, the “Original Song of the Month Club”. Rick is also the designer of the highly-regarded line of hammered dulcimers bearing his name. Yet for all his time in the studio, onstage, in the classroom, and in the luthier’s shop, Rick is most at home at a late-night jam session, where you might even find him playing an instrument other than the dulcimer from time to time.

   Rick Thum taught himself to play guitar and drums at age twelve and played the trumpet in his high school band. Throughout high school and college (B. S. Industrial Administration) Rick played in rock bands, eventually playing regularly on the upper deck of the Admiral in St. Louis. While raising his family Rick directed his church choir. Rick’s interest in traditional music was sparked when he bought a hammered dulcimer on a whim and found himself in a three-piece folk band. In 1991 Rick became co-owner of a large midwestern acoustic instrument shop. In 1994 he sold his interest in the shop to devote more time to being a traveling musician. He placed first at the 1994 Southwest Regional Dulcimer Contest and third in the 1995 National Championship at Winfield, Kansas. Rick was voted Best Performer and Favorite Teacher for several years running at the prestigious Evart Dulcimer Funfest. (The oldest and largest dulcimer festival in the nation.) He has shared the stage with Mike Seeger, The Tony Rice Unit, Steve Kaufman, Norman Blake, and Bryan Bowers and opened for John Hartford, Norman & Nancy Blake, and Leo Kottke. Rick is a popular teacher on the festival circuit and travels across the country playing solo and teaching at music festivals. He currently has five recordings; “Hammered Fiddle Tunes”, “A Reason to Dance”, “Front Porch Waltz”, “Down the Old Dirt Road” and “Seifert & Thum Live at Mt Dora 2014”. Mel Bay Publishing Inc. has published the companion book to Hammered Fiddle Tunes. Rick is currently manufacturing hammered dulcimers (Rick Thum Dulcimers) which can be seen at a retailer near you and has, by demand, started the Song of the Month Club. Mail order lessons by audio Cd.

Master Class Faculty



Jon Weinberg: Master Class Faculty

   Hammered dulcimer performer, teacher, and recording artist Jon Weinberg has been playing hammered dulcimer and guitar for contra dances, concerts, wedding ceremonies, religious services, and coffee houses throughout New England for over 20 years. He has performed on the hammered dulcimer at the New England Conservatory of Music and Boston Symphony Hall as a featured accompanist with the New England Conservatory Children's Choir. He is the featured speaker and musician on the hammered dulcimer at musical instrument gallery of Boston Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

   An accomplished dance musician, Jon has been a member of several contra dance bands in eastern Massachusetts and currently plays in the band Wild Card. Jon founded and ran the Northboro, MA contra dance for 14 years and for several years was the musical director for the Country Dance Society's monthly open band in Cambridge, MA. He is a frequent performer at the New England Folk Festival.

   Jon teaches private hammered dulcimer lessons to area students, and online via Skype to students across the country. He is a frequent performer and workshop leader at dulcimer festivals across the country and has helped organize several Massachusetts dulcimer festivals including the Cambridge Center for Adult Education Spring Dulcimer Festival and the Baypath Dulcimer Festival. Jon created and leads annual week-long Hammered Dulcimer Chord Camp workshops in New England and North Carolina each spring and fall.

   In 2013 Jon released his first CD "About Time" which showcases a mix of traditional and contemporary acoustic music played on the hammered dulcimer. This CD, plus information about Jon's performances, workshops, and the hammered dulcimer is available on his website.



Carol Walker:  Master Class Faculty

  Carol’s formal training includes a degree in Music Education, with majors in piano, harp, and voice.  For 32 years Carol was a high school choral teacher with an active and successful program.   In 2003 she was honored to receive the NJ Governor’s Teacher of the Year Award, and in 2008 retired after deciding it was time to let someone else have all the fun!

  She branched out from her formal classical training after purchasing her first mountain dulcimer in 1999, and a folk harp in 2001.  It wasn’t long before she found a way to combine her love of teaching with her new direction in folk music, and has been a popular workshop leader at festivals across the United States.

  In 2014 she ventured for the first time to the famous Winfield Dulcimer Championship where her performance placed her as one of the Top Five Finalists.

  Carol has made two trips to the Isle of Man where she has done extensive research into traditional Manx music, producing two books of arrangements for mountain dulcimer (Tailless Tunes and Tailless Tunes 2) and a CD (Alas! The Horse is Gone), all exclusively devoted to this delightful Celtic-flavored music.

  Carol has also written three other instructional dulcimer books (DNA* Dulcimer Ditties), each with accompanying CDs. She recently released her first instructional DVD (Exploring the Beauty of the Appalachian Dulcimer), produced by Happy Traum of Homespun Tapes.

  Since 2002 Carol has been performing with Wayfarers & Company, a Pennsylvania-based eclectic, old-time gospel folk group for which she adds vocals and also plays dulcimer, upright bass, piano, melodica, and harp.  She is also a member of the PDC and coordinates registration for their Winter Dulcimer Festival.

  Carol is married to world-class acoustic guitarist, Toby Walker, and occasionally joins him on stage as vocalist or bassist during his tours around the US and Canada, UK, Europe, and Cyprus.

Mountain Dulcimer Faculty


Bob Mallalieu:

   Bob sings and plays mountain dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, claw-hammer banjo, guitar and autoharp. His sharp wit and true-life stories are always audience pleasers. Along with Norm Williams, he founded the Pocono Dulcimer Club and teaches at local Festivals. He has released three previous recordings with the popular Christian folk-band, Pure Water Supply.  He currently leads and performs with the band, Wayfarers and Company that includes Carol Walker and Norm Williams.


Bonnie Leigh:

   Bonnie has lived all her life in Ocean County, New Jersey.  As a singer/songwriter, Bonnie’s music reflects her thoughts of home, family, love, life and nature.  She plays the guitar, mountain dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, autoharp, harp and banjo and has created a wide variety of musical programs for children to adults.  Bonnie performs and teaches at various venues along the east coast as well as teaches at a variety of dulcimer festivals since 1991.   Bonnie has 4 recordings of her original songs along with some traditional songs and songbooks to go along with each recording.   As a Certified Music Practitioner, certified through the ‘Music for Healing and Transition Program’, Bonnie has taken her dulcimer and harp music to patient’s bedsides in hospitals, nursing homes and at home as a form of physical and mental healing and relaxation.  Bonnie is a mentor for new students becoming Music Practitioners and has published a booklet for new students about music practitioner internship.


Dave Fox:

   Dave has a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education with a concentration in low brass, from Nyack College, and a Master’s Degree in Music Education with a concentration in 5-string banjo, from Shenandoah Conservatory.  During his tenure at Brookfield Central School, his thesis/research-teaching project was on the use of the Appalachian dulcimer in the general music classroom and it’s use as an inter-disciplinary tool involving each academic subject, and also included the technology classes. More advanced performance classes were available for older students.  Dave has been teaching music since 1988 and is currently in Herkimer, NY.  He also holds the positions of tuba player with Rags to Riches - a Dixieland band, and tuba player with the Mohawk Valley Chamber Brass Sextet – a brass ensemble comprised of current and retired band directors in the Utica/ Mohawk Valley area.  Dave has been building and playing Appalachian dulcimers and  5-string banjos for nearly 20 years.  Dave also builds mandolins on a special-order-only basis.  His instruments are made from his own locally grown wood, most of which he has hand- selected right from standing timber.  The wood is always high quality and, and each instrument allows the wood to “show off” it’s best features.  Fox’s instruments are built with the goal of preserving the instrument’s heritage yet having a slightly more streamlined, modern appeal.


Ellen Pratt:

   Ellen has been playing dulcimer for sixteen years. She began writing her own music in 2004 and has performed at numerous open mics and festivals. Ellen’s style of playing is a mix of traditional and contemporary. She enjoys the hard, fast strumming of old time music and jam tunes with both the dulcimer and banjo but also enjoys the quieter, more contemporary chord style with fingerpicking on dulcimer. Ellen plays with the Northeast Dulcimer Orchestra in Connecticut. She co-coordinates Vermont’s August Dulcimer Daze festival with George Haggerty.


Jeremy Seeger:

   “I build musical instruments and give workshops, intensives and run programs to awaken abilities in you that the modern world overlooks. These abilities were present when you were born and have not been nurtured.  My workshops, residencies and intensives are designed to empower you to explore, build skills and develop your talents in the crafts offered. My experience of falling thru the “cracks” in school gifted me with my lifelong commitment to make sure that everyone I work with succeeds. You'll find many ways to integrate your new skills into the fabric of your life.”  Website: http://jeremyseeger.com


Jonah Talbott:

   Jonah is a social worker who works with at risk youth for the Carbon-Monroe-Pike (C-M-P) Drug& Alcohol Commission.  A mountain dulcimer player, he joined the PDC in 1998 and has been a member of the Dulcimer Fest committee since 2004.  Jonah demonstrates great skill, patience and humor in helping newer players to learn this wonderful instrument. He lives in Hamilton Square, PA with his wife and son.


Ken Longfield:

   Ken first heard the mountain dulcimer in the early 1960s. He built his first dulcimer in 1974. Since then Ken’s interest in the history of this instrument has grown. He reproduced a Pennsylvania German zither and an early dulcimer manufactured by Charles N. Prichard of Huntington, WV. He wrote several profiles of dulcimer builders for Dulcimer Player News. Ken was interviewed for a Hearts of the Dulcimer Podcast where he talked about the scheitholt (Pennsylvania German zither). (http://dulcimuse.com/podcast/) Currently Ken plays with Shade Mountain Strings in McClure, PA and resides in Reedsville, PA


Kim Jennings:

   Kim Jennings is an art teacher at Voorhees HS in Glen Gardner, NJ. She discovered the mountain dulcimer in 1987 and become a more avid player after becoming a member of the Pocono Dulcimer Club in 1997. She especially loves playing her Folk Notes Banj-Mo and enjoys helping new dulcimer players become comfortable with their dulcimer.   She lives in Bangor, PA with her husband and two sons.


Kristin Gitler

   Kristin has been playing the mountain dulcimer for nearly 20 years, and performs as a duo with her partner and guitar player, David Goldman.  She leads the CNY Mountain Dulcimer League, a bimonthly workshop in Syracuse, NY, and earned a certificate from Western Carolina University for Teaching Mountain Dulcimer in 2015.  She has two CDs and accompanying tab books featuring American, Celtic and Québécois fiddle tunes on mountain dulcimer and acoustic guitar.


Nick Platco:

   Nick currently lives in Skippack Village located near Philadelphia. He began playing mountain dulcimer in 1985 after being introduced to the instrument by one of his high school students. Nick currently is active in two dulcimer clubs in his area, the Indian Valley Dulcimer Society and the Quakertown Area Dulcimer & Autoharp Society (QUADAS).  He enjoys giving lessons to beginner and novice club members. He has also hosted numerous annual dulcimer workshops with the Indian Valley group. In addition to playing in the standard DAD tuning, he enjoys playing in turnings such as FAC, DF#A, EAA, and others. Nick also has a passion for playing both fiddle tunes and the "Blues" on the dulcimer. He is a member of a recently formed music group called Morningstar. In addition to the mountain dulcimer, Nick plays the bowed psaltery, the BanJammer, and the mandolin.


Norm Williams

   Norm is co-founder of The Pocono Dulcimer Club, a coordinator of their Winter DulcimerFest held every January in Stroudsburg, PA and co-founder of the Maiden Creek Old Time Music Festival.  Norm began teaching out of necessity in 2002 and has been faculty at festivals throughout the Northeast (including MDMA, August Dulcimer Days, Music by the Bay, Cranberry Dulcimer Gathering, Maiden Creek Old Time Festival, and Augusta Heritage Center, WV).   In addition to dulcimer he plays guitar, and banjo.  Norm is a lover of Old Time music and plays with the bands Wayfarers & Company , The Druckenmillers (an Old Time family band), and most recently in the Dulcimer Boys w/ Cliff Cole & Rob Yoder. Norm lives with his wife, Erin, in Breinigsville, PA.


Nina Zanetti:

   Nina is the 2008 National Mountain Dulcimer Champion.  She comes to the mountain dulcimer from a diverse musical background, including choral music, violin, viola, piano, and shape note singing.  She plays regularly at churches, historic sites, and community events and has taught workshops at dulcimer festivals throughout the country, including Western Carolina University, John C. Campbell Folk School, and Kentucky Music Week.  Nina is especially fond of the “softer side of dulcimer”. She has produced four books of solo arrangements for mountain dulcimer and has co-authored four books of duet arrangements (the Tunes for Two or More series, including the new Tunes for Two or More Christmas Edition with Beth Lassi.) She has a strong interest in American folk hymns, many of which appear in her tablature book Glories Immortal: A Collection of Hymns from America’s Past and in a new book of Shaker music (co-authored with Bill Collins), The Humble Heart. Here other musical love is early music, featured in her latest tablature book, Heart’s Ease.  Nina is featured on Masters of the Mountain Dulcimer Play Music for Christmas (CD) and has also recorded a CD of solos and duets with Bill Collins, as well as a solo CD, Beside Still Waters. 


Hammered Dulcimer Faculty


Cliff Cole:

   Cliff Cole fell in love with the hammered dulcimer at the Philadelphia Folk Festival three decades ago, and he’s been hammering on ever since. He started off as a drummer playing rock, jazz, and blues, and then carried that musical experience and sense of rhythm over to the hammered dulcimer and folk music. Rounding out his musical expression, Cliff studies acoustic guitar, plays the blues harp, and enjoys singing.

   For many years, Cliff has presented workshops at dulcimer and folk music festivals, including The Cranberry Dulcimer Gathering, Nutmeg Dulcimer Festival, The Pocono Winter Fest and the French Creek Retreat.

   Cliff's first regular dulcimer gig was playing Bluegrass with Steel City Strings in the late '80s. He then founded the folk ensemble DayBreak in 1989, and they are still performing together today. The group has delved into many musical styles including Celtic, Old Time, Bluegrass, American folk, early music and their own original tunes, many of which Cliff created and arranged.

   Over the years, Cliff produced six recordings with DayBreak, including Lost Cave, which was recorded live inside Lost River Caverns in Hellertown, PA., and two recordings with his daughter, accomplished vocalist and poet, Emily Rose Cole. Cliff can often be found in the recording studio working on some new, secret project.

   Cliff is very involved in the folk scene; he is a founding member of QUADAS (Quakertown area dulcimer and autoharp society), and is on the Nutmeg Dulcimer Festival Committee. Cliff also serves on the board of Perkasie Patchwork Coffeehouse.

   Cliff and his wife Pamela live out in the woods not far from Quakertown, Pennsylvania.


George Nixon:

   Like many people, George first heard John McCutcheon play the hammered dulcimer, never knowing what the instrument looked like.  One score and five years later, George has owned a number of dulcimers and continues to learn the instrument.   Retirement from teaching high school chemistry has allowed George to attend PDC for the last seven years and he started and has been leading a small and still growing dulcimer club in Rockaway, NJ – the Rockaway Hammered Dulcimer Club. He has an interest in Celtic music and enjoys playing the Bohdan at a local session.


Paul Mueller:

   Paul is the lead musician and song writer, producer, and audio engineer for the successful percussive driven group from New York City, Mecca Bodega.  He’s led the group through amazing live performances at venues such as Lincoln Center, Woodstock, Celebrate Brooklyn Festival, Merkin Concert Hall, and tours of the US and Australia as well as the completion of eight internationally acclaimed CD recordings.  Whether it’s the soundtrack for HBO’s Subway Stories, compositions for directors Jonathan Demme and Spike Lee, or PBS documentary scores, Paul’s truly original songs and unique playing style have been heard around the world.  As a studio musician, he’s featured on over 40 CDs/DVDs including sessions with Public Enemy, Stephen Stills, Branford Marsalis, Bill Laswell and Mike Doughty.  Paul’s new solo CD release is “Floating On Land” and has been heard nationwide on over 120 National Public Radio Stations.


Rich Carty:

   Rich has been teaching mountain dulcimer since 1985, and beginning hammered dulcimer since 1992.

He and his wife Mary Carty were 2 of the founding members of the Greater Pinelands Dulcimer Society in 1979. They also started the dulcimer band "Sunday Circle" in the 1980's, and their store Pinelands Folk Music Center in 1992. 


Russ Rentler:

   Russ started playing stringed instruments with his first ukulele in 5th grade purchased with S+H Green stamps in Dover, NJ.  After a brief stint in heavy metal bands in high school he discovered bluegrass which led to a life-long love of acoustic music.  At his first night at Moravian College, he met John Gorka where they were both playing at an open mic.  They soon formed a band with Doug Anderson and were joined the following year by Rich Shindell on lead guitar. Russ was the mandolin player, John played incredible 5 string banjo and Doug Andersen provided the solid rock rhythm on his custom made Froggy Bottom guitars. Tim Germer later joined as bass player. Throughout all four years of college, they played around the Lehigh Valley centering around Godfrey Daniel's and the Southside of Bethlehem, PA.

    After college, Russ went to medical school, Doug received a Ph.D. and needless to say, John and Rich went on to well-deserved fame and glory in the folk music world.

During his medical training, Russ continued to pursue his passion of acoustic music and picked up hammer and mountain dulcimer, fiddle, dobro, autoharp and bouzouki.  He also started building his own hammer dulcimers and uses his own instruments on stage.

    While continuing to practice general internal medicine, Russ played every chance he could at local bookstores, churches, open mics and music festivals. On several of John's return trips to the Lehigh Valley, Russ has joined him on stage.

    In 2002, Russ left his solo practice of internal medicine and geriatrics and now works as a medical director at a Lehigh Valley nursing home. This has allowed him to pursue his life-long dream and passion of performing original and traditional music.  He counts Bob Dylan, John McCutcheon and Walt Michaels as major influences in his style.  His live performances are a mix of folk, Celtic and blues-inspired tunes with multiple instrument changes interspersed with his off-beat humor and wry observations about life that keep the audiences coming back for more.   (As well as for free medical advice!)

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