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2018 Faculty Biographies


Featured Faculty / Performers


Nina Zanetti: Featured faculty/performer

  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 several 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.  Her newest CD, "Winter’s Light " is a gentle celebration of the quiet joys and consolations of the winter season.


Ruth Smith:  Featured faculty/performer

   A native North Carolinian, Ruth studied music at the University of Illinois and composes music especially for the hammered dulcimer. Her compositions have been featured on NPR's All Songs Considered, Sirius XM satellite radio, PBS TV "Song of the Mountains" and in Dulcimer Players News magazine. Dirty Linen Folk & World Music Magazine says “Ruth Smith's touch on the hammered dulcimer is absolutely magical, with exquisite phrasing, highlighting the range of the instrument especially on her own pieces.” She teaches hammered and Appalachian mountain dulcimer workshops at festivals and folk schools throughout the country and is the author of "From Heart to Hands" and "Touch of Grace" hammered dulcimer instructional books of her compositions and arrangements. Ruth is also accomplished in traditional Appalachian fiber arts, including weaving and spinning.


Steve Smith:

   Steve, an ASCAP award-winning songwriter, plays fingerstyle guitar, clawhammer and North Carolina up-picking style banjo, and ukulele. With over 50 years of experience as a fingerstyle acoustic guitarist, Steve is noted for his rich guitar chords, leading patterns, and embellishments which compliment acoustic lead instruments. Dirty Linen Folk & World Music Magazine says Steve Smith's accompaniment on guitar and clawhammer banjo provides "a traditional . . . rich, true sound" to their Appalachian Americana music. Steve has a Master’s degree in Appalachian Studies from Appalachian State University with a major emphasis in Appalachian music and folk-life, and is the recipient of the Cratis Williams Fellowship in Appalachian Studies. He teaches workshops nationally at festivals and folk schools on guitar, clawhammer banjo, and ukulele, recording, songwriting, copyrights and publishing, live sound reinforcement, and performing techniques.

Master Class Faculty



Paul Mueller: Master Class faculty/performer

   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 solo CD release, “Floating On Land,” has been heard nationwide on over 120 National Public Radio Stations.


Kristin Gitler:  Master Class Faculty/performer

   Kristin has been playing and performing with the mountain dulcimer for over 20 years. Introduced to the dulcimer at historic re-enactments, she immediately found in the instrument a way to combine her love of history and love of music.  She later joined a local Irish session where she fined tuned her skills on Irish fiddle music. She has developed her own unique flat-picking style and is known for her lively and authentic interpretations of international dance tunes.  Kristin teaches mountain dulcimer workshops at festivals and privately around the northeast, and has earned a certification for teaching the mountain dulcimer from Western Carolina University.  Kristin founded the CNY Mountain Dulcimer League, where she teaches a bi-monthly group workshop.

  Kristin performs in an acoustic due with her partner David Goldman, and they have released two CDs and accompanying tab books, Old Tunes - Baked Fresh, featuring American, Celtic and French Canadian fiddle tunes on mountain dulcimer and acoustic guitar, and Tunes Twice Stitched, a collection of French Canadian tunes.

Mountain Dulcimer Faculty


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.


Carol Walker

  Carol’s formal training includes a degree in Music Education, with majors in piano, harp, and voice.  She retired after 32 years as an active high school choral teacher (and was the recipient of the 2003 NJ Governor’s Teacher of the Year Award), but soon found a way to combine her love of teaching with her new direction in folk music, and has become a popular workshop leader and featured performer at festivals all over the US.  Carol has published six dulcimer tab books, which have established her as a favorite arranger among players of all levels.  Her first two books (Tailless Tunes 1 & 2) are exclusively devoted to the Celtic-flavored Manx music -- traditional tunes from the Isle of Man.  Her next project featured a unique method of learning to play the dulcimer in gradual and progressive increments, using familiar Americana songs from yesteryear.  This trilogy, DNA* Dulcimer Ditties (*songs so familiar they're part of your DNA) takes dulcimer players from Basic Beginner to Nicely Novice to Adventurously Advanced.  The long-awaited Classical Dulcimer for Wascally Wabbits, released in 2017, includes a unique collection of solo and ensemble “awwangements of cwassical favowites.”  Along the way, Carol also produced several CDs and an instructional DVD, directed by Happy Traum of Homespun Tapes.  Carol also plays upright bass and travels with her husband, guitarist Toby Walker, during his US, UK, Europe, and Canadian tours.  www.musicladycarol.com


Carolyn Brodginski, CMP:

   Carolyn discovered the dulcimer at the age of 19 when she heard Sally Rogers perform at a folk venue in Connecticut. An accomplished folk guitarist at the time, she just couldn’t figure out what to do with this beautiful, sweet sounding instrument with so few strings. More than 30 years later, she found The Ct. Mountain Dulcimer Gathering, and has been playing ever since. She loves the many voices of the dulcimer, playing roots, blues, classical, ethnic music, lullabies, as well as the music of contemporary musicians. As a performer, songwriter, teacher, and Certified Music Practitioner, she is passionate about “spreading the dulcimer Gospel”, taking great joy in introducing this beautiful original American folk instrument to others. Her essay on her work as a CMP, and her original piece written for the dulcimer were included in the 2017 Spring edition of Dulcimer Players News.


Charley Buckland:

   Charley is a multi-instrumentalist composer and songwriter, has performed and recorded with numerous artists during his musical life.  He is also currently a member of the groups Matou, Mecca Bodega, Atomic Mary. Charley has composed and produced numerous recordings, including: Spider Heart, Dreams, Woodlands, Symbiotic, Lakota Theme for the Lakota Sioux Indian Dance Theater, Peoples Wings for the first Native American Music Awards (NAMA); and Southern Grass for the play First Time for Barbie which won the Beaux Arts Award for Best Play. He released two records in Europe and Japan with Phantom, rereleased in 2009.  He has also taught as an adjunct music professor at Webster University in Holland.


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.


Janene Millen:

   Janene has been playing the dulcimer since 1986 having first heard of a dulcimer through Joni Mitchell's "Blue Album". Shortly after purchasing her first dulcimer, as an army wife, she moved to Europe living in Belgium, Germany, and Austria having taken her dulcimer along and her copy of Larkin Bryant's dulcimer book (and tape.) After that first dulcimer purchase, she didn't see or hear another dulcimer for 12 years, having developed a "less than traditional" playing style for herself. Upon her return to the US in the 90s, thanks to the then, new popularity of the internet, she was able to connect with the dulcimer community at large and begin her own journey of dulcimer discoveries. She literally found her own voice in the last 7 years, and consequently, has since been collecting and arranging her versions of songs; Celtic, traditional, pop, show tunes, country, classical....and posting them to her YouTube Channel, Janene M


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.


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.


Lori Keddell:

   Lori has been playing the dulcimer since 1985, and has taught classes and workshops for both children and adults in building and playing cardboard dulcimers. She was instrumental in organizing the DAA’s first Mountain Dulcimer Music Fest in 1989, and has been the coordinator since 1991. She was on the staff of the Cranberry Dulcimer and Autoharp Gathering from 1987 until its final year in 2016, and has been an instructor at numerous festivals in New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. With George Haggerty, she taught a week-long Dulcimer Elderhostel class in Vermont for many years. She has published 4 books of arrangements for the mountain dulcimer, each with an accompanying CD: A Mountain Dulcimer Potpourri – 33 Songs in DAA for Beginning and Novice Players”, "A Treasury of Christmas Music for the Mountain Dulcimer”, “Night Songs and Lullabies”, and “Dulcimaniac’s Delight – A Multitude of Minor Melodies in DAC Tuning”. She has also contributed many pieces of music to the monthly newsletter of the Dulcimer Association of Albany.

Hammered Dulcimer Faculty:


Brett Ridgeway:

   Brett's philosophy is that "anyone can make music, regardless of age, musical ability or knowledge!” And his philosophy shows in responses to his workshops. He currently teaches hammered dulcimer, mountain dulcimer, bluegrass banjo, clawhammer banjo, beginner acoustic guitar and mandolin as well as several unique ALL INSTRUMENT workshops. Brett has authored and marketed a series of instructional CDs that display his friendly method of teaching the hammered

dulcimer. He currently has a lesson series available on YouTube and also teaches lessons via Skype and FaceTime. Brett's workshops offer a large draw. He had the largest class at the 2016 Dulcimer Funfest in Evart, Michigan and the largest classes at the Ohio Valley Gathering for the last two years. There are a few reasons for this kind of draw but for the most part, it is because Brett loves to teach and he remembers what it was like to learn in an inpatient world. Brett tours alone

promoting traditional American music and sometimes performs and teaches with Phyllis Woods Brown. He has released a total of eight recordings. Additionally, an original composition, "Gettysburg Rain" written and performed by Brett Ridgeway is featured in the soundtrack of “The Path of the Wind”, a 2010 movie which features Wilford Brimley.


Jon Weinberg:

   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.


Linda Littleton:

   Linda Littleton began her musical studies with classical violin at age seven. Over the years, she has added hammered dulcimer, old time banjo, bowed psaltery, and recorders to the mix. Linda has performed, taught workshops, and recorded with Simple Gifts since 1989. The group performs 80-100 concerts per year in a 10-state area, and they have released seven recordings, the latest two of which have won national awards. A strong believer in sharing music in a friendly, non-competitive way, Linda has created Folk College and Greenwood Furnace Folk Gathering, two annual musical weekends where Linda is Founder and Artistic Director.

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