Larry Conger (Paris, Tennessee)
Dulcimer U Director – Larry and his wife Elaine are co-directors of Dulcimer U at Western Carolina University. They make their home in Paris, Tennessee where they operate a private music studio, teaching piano, voice, guitar and drums as well as the mountain dulcimer. Some of their instruction includes long distance learning via Skype and Larry's Tune of the Month, a CD lesson by mail.
A graduate of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) Larry has been involved with music as a vocation for over 35 years. Besides being a popular instructor at various dulcimer workshops around the country, Larry also served as a church music director for several Baptist churches during the late 1970s through the 1990s. He has been a participating artist for the Tennessee Arts Commission's Arts In Education program as well as the Kentucky Arts Council's Teacher Incentive Program, bringing dulcimer music into the public schools.
In 1995, Larry won the Southern Regional Mountain Dulcimer Championship in Mountain View, Arkansas. Three years later, he won the prestigious National Mountain Dulcimer Championship in Winfield, Kansas. Larry has authored fourteen dulcimer books and has three recordings to his credit.
When Larry is not teaching the Master Class during the morning hours or attending to the details of Dulcimer U, he will be helping his wife, Elaine direct the Dulcimer Ensemble elective each afternoon.
Elaine Conger (Paris, Tennessee) Dulcimer U Director – Elaine is a professional music educator and Orff-Schulwerk specialist who has a passion for instilling a love for the arts in young people. Her years as a professional musician, combined with her experience as a classroom teacher give her a unique perspective when working with students.
Her past musical experience includes touring with her own country band, performing on the General Jackson showboat at Opryland in Nashville and touring as pianist and back-up vocalist with country music superstar, Faith Hill. More recently, she has directed and accompanied numerous musical theater productions and even starred in a few herself. Her favorite role to date is as Patsy in "Always Patsy Cline." Elaine also serves as organist/music director for a local Episcopal Church.
Butch Ross is from Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was given a mountain dulcimer for his birthday a few years ago, at the time he had no idea of the impact the instrument would have on his career. "I thought it's be cool to have one around the house, but I found myself playing it more and more. It had made music fun for me in a way that I hadn't felt since I first picked up the guitar."
More than "making music fun," this primitive mountain instrument began to open doors for him too. Not long after adopting the dulcimer he met Robert Force a musician, producer, independent label owner, who had once written a best-selling book on the mountain dulcimer. He saw in Butch "a spirit, talent and vision" that he last saw in his own idol; 60's folk-icon Richard Farina. Almost immediately, he offered to sign him to his Blaine St. Records and produce, for free, his debut CD "the Moonshiner's Atlas."
The dulcimer has quickly earned Butch a reputation amongst the dulcimer community as one of the most innovative and exciting players on the scene, He's opened for wide variety of performers from bluegrass comedy artists like Hayseed Dixie and the Cleverlys to folk greats like Small Potatoes, Bill Staines and Jean Ritchie to instrumental masters like Orrin Starr and Jake Shimabukuro, who said, "Now I know what a dulcimer is supposed to sound like." Additionally the dulcimer has found him invited to play festivals and clubs in England, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, Germany and most recently Budapest, Hungary.
Sean Phipps of the Chattanooga Times Free Press says, "His set consisted of folk songs and various instrumentals, including blistering version of Richard Thompson's '1952 Vincent Black Lightning' and The Beatles' 'Eleanor Rigby.' We're lucky to have such a talented, interesting musician living in Chattanooga." And the Bottom of the Glass Blog quips, "Ross is a guitarist turned mountain dulcimerist who also takes his instruments in directions that others have not considered (or were not capable of). ...his songs were stunning."
Sarah Morgan (Sharps Chapel, Tennessee) Sarah Morgan started her musical journey at 7 years old and has fallen in love with traditional and folk music through the years. A native of East Tennessee, Sarah has incorporated the rich musical heritage of the area into her music. In July of 2010 she released her self-published, debut album, Simply Sarah and has just released her second album, Run to the Window.
Sarah has performed at numerous festivals and venues across the country including, Kentucky Music Weekend Folk Festival, the Tennessee Fall Homecoming at the Appalachian Museum, and the WDVX Blue Plate Special. Also an enthusiastic teacher, Sarah has shared the joy of the dulcimer with many workshop students across the country, including Kentucky Music Week, Dulcimer Chautauqua on the Wabash, and the Ohio Valley Gathering.
Sarah is the reigning National Mountain Dulcimer Champion, having won the honor at age 18. Prior to that, she also won multiple titles including Mid-Eastern Regional Mountain Dulcimer Champion, Kentucky State Champion and Southern Regional Champion.
Steve & Ruth Smith - from the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, play a special blend of Appalachian Americana music with Celtic roots, featuring hammered dulcimer, mountain dulcimer, guitar, and old time banjo. Named the "2013 Americana Instrumental Group of the Year" at the Appalachian Cultural Music Association's Blue Ridge Acoustic Uprising Awards, their music is rich in centuries old Appalachian and Celtic musical traditions yet uniquely fresh and innovative.
"Ruth's touch on the hammered dulcimer is absolutely magical" says Dirty Linen Folk & World Music Magazine. Steve, an ASCAP award-winning songwriter, adds fingerstyle guitar, clawhammer and North Carolina up-picking styles banjo, and vocals to the duo. Dulcimer Players News says, "He is a master storyteller and the perfect vocalist to convey the meaning of the lyrics. His songs stand out for their imagery and melodic strength . . . on par with John Denver's songs."
Also in 2013, Steve and Ruth made a second appearance on the nationwide PBS TV series "Song of the Mountains," performed again at Merlefest in North Carolina, and were featured performing artists in September at the Winfield, Kansas Walnut Valley Festival. www.steveandruth.com
Jim Miller (Hampton, Tennessee) Master of the Jam – Jim has been playing and performing traditional music for more than 35 years. An accomplished instrument builder and teacher, he has taught workshops at numerous festivals as well as won many awards for his musicianship.
For twenty years, Jim was the owner of the Hampton Music Shop, in Hampton, Tennessee, where he handcrafted over 750 hammered dulcimers. He has played with Celtic, Bluegrass, Swing, Blues and Old Time bands, and has done session work on many recordings.
In addition to being an accomplished performer and workshop leader, Jim also is an enthusiastic jam facilitator (Jam-Meister, Master of the Jam, etc.) who likes to get everyone involved. He plays guitar, banjo, octave mandolin, bass, steel drum, percussion, autoharp, hammered and mountain dulcimers as well as his own off-the-wall musical inventions, which are always entertaining.
Jim holds a Master's degree in Elementary Education and has completed the course work for certification in music education. He teaches 4th grade at Cloudland Elementary School in Roan Mountain, Tennessee, where he leads an after school traditional string band program. He also teaches dulcimer and autoharp in the Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music program at East Tennessee State University.
Anne Lough (Waynesville, North Carolina) Anne Lough joins the Dulcimer U staff this year to teach some afternoon electives. She is a nationally known traditional musician with over thirty-five years experience in performance and teaching. A native of Springfield, Virginia, Anne has been around music all her life and began playing and singing folk music as a young teen. She has continued to share her love of music through the years while raising four daughters and completing a Music Education Degree from Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky, and a Master of Music Education Degree from Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC. She now devotes all her time to festivals, workshops, performances and school residencies.
In addition to being a frequent instructor in mountain and hammered dulcimer at the prestigious John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC., Anne has taught at the Swannanoa Gathering, Augusta Heritage Dulcimer Week and at numerous other festivals and workshops throughout the country. Equally at home on guitar, autoharp, mountain and hammered dulcimer, Anne's mastery is impressive. Her artistic interpretation, sensitive playing style, versatility and skill as an instructor have earned her national acclaim.
Anne is well known as an instructor and performer of traditional singing, storytelling, folklore, folk dance and the shaped-note tradition, but her repertoire ranges from classical music to old standards, show tunes and sacred music. Her programs have delighted and inspired all ages from day-care and pre-school children to Elderhostelers. Active in schools as a Visiting Artist, Anne is also on the Touring Artist Roster for the North Carolina Arts Council.
Anne's music can be heard on a number of recordings, Smoky Mountain educational videos, public radio and a recent PBS Christmas Special. She has also published several collections of arrangements for the mountain and hammered dulcimer.