Larry Conger - Gatlinburg, Tennessee – Dulcimer U Artistic Director
A graduate of The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), Larry has been involved with music as a vocation for over 40 years. Besides being a popular performer and instructor at various dulcimer festivals around the country, Larry is involved with distance learning via online lessons. Larry has served as a Church Music Director for several churches. He has been involved with the Tennessee Arts Commission's Arts in Education program and the Kentucky Arts Council's Teacher Incentive Program, presenting dulcimer programs in the public schools. In 1995, Larry won the Southern Regional Mountain Dulcimer Championship at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Arkansas. In 1996, he teamed with Jim Curley of Kansas City to win the Southern Regional Dulcimer Ensemble Championship at the Folk Center. In 1998, Larry won the prestigious National Mountain Dulcimer Championship at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas. Larry has several dulcimer books and recordings to his credit, including contributions to Great Players of the Mountain Dulcimer, National Champions, and Masters of the Mountain Dulcimer II, compilation CDs featuring many of today's top dulcimer artists. He has also been featured on three Japanese compilation CDs of international acoustic music. The Acoustic Breath CD series has enjoyed widespread acclaim in Japan. Larry and his wife Elaine are directors of Dulcimer U at Western Carolina University, hosting numerous dulcimer related workshops throughout the year. They are also directors of their own Duet Dulcimer Retreat, Dulcimer Hymnposium, and September On The Mississippi Dulcimer Retreat. www.LarryConger.com
Elaine Conger - Gatlinburg, Tennessee – Dulcimer U Artistic Director
Elaine is a native of Nashville, Tennessee. She is a lifelong musician and music educator. After years of teaching and touring, she’s finally settled down in the mountains of East Tennessee for another chapter in her musical journey. Her current passion is writing and performing worshipful songs that stir the soul and encourage spiritual reflection. Music has been at her foundation from the beginning. She began piano lessons at the age of 4½ and started playing in church by age 12. Singing and playing guitar for church youth groups led to being involved in most every musical offering throughout her school career. She received a music education degree from Tennessee Tech, majoring in piano and minoring in voice and organ. She earned further music education certification in Orff-Schulwerk from the University of Memphis and a Master’s in Elementary Education from Tennessee State University. After teaching in Nashville for a few years, she decided to join a band and go out on the road. Her years as a professional musician include playing keyboards and singing back-up vocals for country artist Faith Hill and performing on the General Jackson Showboat. Once the biological clock started ticking, she went back to teaching and had her daughter, Krislen Sherrill, now a 24-year-old actress living in New York. Elaine’s tenure as the Senior Director of Music at The Renaissance Center had her playing and musically directing numerous music theater productions, including appearing in a few herself. Her favorite role to date is as Patsy in Always, Patsy Cline. That experience at a fine arts and technological center led her to meet and marry Larry Conger, a former National Mountain Dulcimer Champion. She now adds bass dulcimer to the mix, and they’re found quite often out on the road teaching and performing on the dulcimer when they’re not performing around their hometown of Gatlinburg, just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. www.ElaineConger.com
Jeff Furman - Chapel Hill, North Carolina – Morning Skills, Afternoon Electives & Evening Concerts
Jeff is an award-winning mountain dulcimer player who is known for his smooth and expressive style. His gentle, humorous, and effective teaching style has made him a very popular instructor at numerous mountain dulcimer workshops across the country. Jeff is a multi-instrumentalist who has been playing old-time music since 1980. Primarily a clawhammer banjo player for many years, he developed a rhythmic and melodic style which has heavily influenced his dulcimer playing. He has an extensive repertoire of old-time fiddle music which crosses over to a strong interest in Celtic music. He has a particular fondness for waltzes and Celtic airs on the dulcimer. He has been performing for more than 35 years, and his technical abilities, quick ear, musical sensitivity, and expression have made Jeff a popular choice for playing on multiple recordings, including music from Ireland, Scotland, the Appalachian Mountains, and American folk tunes. Touching someone’s heart with his music is Jeff’s most rewarding goal. www.jefffurman.com
Irma Reeder – Albuquerque, New Mexico – Morning Skills, Afternoon Electives & Evening ConcertsIrma is a life-long musician, directing, teaching, and performing. She worked as a music administrator and choir director for more than 36 years, taught music privately, and in school settings. She studied vocal performance, conducting, and plays numerous instruments. Irma has been a vocal soloist with symphony, theater groups, and performed with chorales, opera, and light opera companies. In 2021, she started a new venture directing a 70+ voice showtunes chorus! She teaches voice, guitar, Celtic harp, and mountain dulcimer. Irma started playing dulcimer in 2005, and is a past Colorado State, Texas State, and Southern Regional champion, a national finalist in 2018 and 2021 at Winfield, KS. She loves performing her music and sharing her unique arrangements. Irma is a manager and past Board member of the Albuquerque Folk Festival, co-founded the New Mexico Dulcimer Festival in 2010 where she is Association President, Festival Director, and an instructor/performer. www.scottandirmamusic.com
Laurie Alsobrook – Melrose, Florida – Morning Skills, Afternoon Electives & Evening Concerts
After a full career in elementary education, Laurie Alsobrook has found a perfect blending of her two passions - teaching learners and playing the dulcimer. Laurie has participated in a variety of festivals, online and in-person. Festival credits include QDF, Black Mountain, Nonsuch, Dulcimer U, NGFDA, Dutchland, Dulcimer Daze, CFDF, and DulciMoon. She also served as co-host/organizer and instructor at Stephen Foster Dulcimer Retreats, both digital and in-person events. Laurie is a regular contributor to the “Send in the Music Virtual Jam,” offering free tab to the participants and serving as a song leader. Her weekly “No Frills” segment on “Send in the Music” offers fun tips to add to the jam experience and is now a YouTube channel. More at Melrosedulcimers.org
Jim Miller – Hampton, Tennessee – Morning Skills Afternoon Electives & Jam Meister
Jim has been playing and performing traditional music for the past 46 years. An accomplished instrument builder and teacher, he has taught workshops at numerous festivals as well as won many awards for his musicianship, including first place dulcimer at both Galax, VA and Fiddler's Grove, NC. He has played with Celtic, Bluegrass, Swing, Blues and Old Time bands, and has done session work on many recordings. He plays guitar, mandolin, banjo, mandocello, bass, steel drum, percussion, hammered and mountain dulcimers as well as his own off-the-wall musical inventions, which are always entertaining. Jim holds a Masters degree in Elementary Education with an endorsement in instrumental music. He is a retired adjunct professor teaching mandolin, ukulele, dulcimer and autoharp in the Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music program at East Tennessee State University and played mandocello in the ETSU Mandolin Orchestra. jimmillerdulcimer.com
Carol Crocker – Winston Salem, North Carolina – Morning Skills, Afternoon Electives & Evening Concerts
Carol’s first introduction to mountain dulcimer was at a school Heritage Day program. For over 20 years Carol has enjoyed sharing her love of the dulcimer with children, adults, schools, churches and senior homes as an instructor and performer. She has been an instructor at various dulcimer festivals and events including Dulcimer U, Winston-Salem Dulcimer festival, the Stephen Foster Dulcimer Retreat, North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Festival, QuaranTUNE, Mt. Dora, New Mexico, and various other events. She is also a regular song leader on the Saturday Send In the Music Virtual Jam, and has a Send In the Music songbook “Tunes From Zoom”. Other books include “Songs of the Spirit”, African American spirituals arranged for the mountain dulcimer with a CD and digital download of “Songs of the Spirit”; “Beginner’s Guide to Mountain Dulcimer”, and “Dulcimer in The Schools”. Her website is www.Carolcrockermusic.com . Carol holds a BS degree in Music Education from Western Carolina University, a MM degree in Music Education from UNC-Greensboro, and Level III certification in Orff-Schulwerk. She is a retired music teacher from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband Joe.
Butch Ross – Chattanooga, Tennessee – Morning Skills, Afternoon Electives and Evening Concerts
Chattanooga multi-instrumentalist and mountain dulcimer maestro Butch Ross has tackled everything from Radiohead to Bach and come away with a renewed appreciation for what the humble dulcimer is capable of. No genre is off-limits, nor is there a limit to what Ross has envisioned for this specific instrument. The dulcimer is an unassuming thing, with a handful of strings and a history that feels embedded in the lineage of countless Appalachian musicians. But Ross has taken it and made it something more, something remarkable and versatile. His music is born from his respect for its abilities, a respect born from the years he's spent prying apart its pieces and discovering new sounds where none existed before. It is this groundbreaking and iconoclastic approach that caused ukulele-virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro to comment, "Now I know what a dulcimer is supposed to sound like." Ross had been a touring singer/songwriter when he was given a mountain dulcimer as a birthday present. At first, the instrument was a curiosity but before too long it became his instrument of choice. A chance meeting with musician, author and producer Robert Force (himself a dulcimer iconoclast) led to the 2005 release The Moonshiner's Atlas and a complete change of focus. Since then, Ross has become an in-demand performer at folk and dulcimer festivals throughout the US and Europe. He's performed at such festivals as the Central Ohio Folk Festival, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, the Lancaster (UK) Music and the prestigious Philadelphia Folk Festival. Ross' most recent release is called "They Should All Be This Easy." It's a collection of original instrumental tunes, unexpected arrangements of traditional material and quirky cover of Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill". It's an eclectic mix that led Times-Free Press reporter Joshua Pickard to call it "a sound both experienced and timeless, a result of its celebrated past and boundless future. www.ButchRoss.com
Carolyn Brodginski – Afternoon Electives & Evening Concerts
At the age of 10, Carolyn received the gift of music from her grandfather Rocco. A guitar. She quickly found chord charts and has been playing ever since. In 2012 she started playing the mountain dulcimer which lead to her work as a therapeutic musician in 2016. It didn't take long for people to take notice of her ability to play and teach the dulcimer, and in 2017 she began teaching at dulcimer and music festivals in Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Her 2018 open stage performance at Western Carolina University's Dulcimer U, earned her "Most likely To become a famous musician" by the university instructors. An accomplished performer and singer/songwriter, her voice has been described as having the richness and power of Joan Baez and Natalie Merchant, and the rootsy soul of Jillian Welch and Iris Dement. Four of her original songs have been featured on the music sampler of Dulcimer Players News (DPN), a quarterly journal for dulcimer enthusiasts around the globe. Her essay about her work as a therapeutic musician, "Reflections of a Certified Music Practitioner", appeared in DPN, and ECHOS, a literary journal published by St. Francis Hospital. In 2020, the music video of her song, "Hands", inspired by her work at St. Francis, received a Telly Award for Excellence. When she's not playing healing music at the bedside, or teaching dulcimer privately and in group workshops, Carolyn is performing with her band Seat Of Our Pants, contributing vocals, guitar, dulcimer, mandolin and ukulele to their Americana sound. (https://seatofourpantsmusic.com) When COVID hit, ironically, her musical world expanded. She taught herself to play the harp, an instrument that had been on her bucket list. Also, as a weekly song leader in Pat Clark's Send In The Music Virtual Jam, and co-host of Sally Roger's monthly Quiet Corner Song Swap on Zoom, her music is heard across the U.S. and beyond. A regular in the recording studio, Carolyn has production credits on 7 CDs. 3 with Seat Of Our Pants, a solo CD of lullabies, "Little Hands", 2 benefit compilation CDs, and a relaxation CD created for St. Francis Hospital which included a soundtrack of her original dulcimer music. More about Carolyn at carolynbrodginski.com
Nancy Minard – Cullowhee, North Carolina – Administrative Assistant
Nancy was introduced to the Mountain Dulcimer as part of the mountain culture of Western North Carolina in the early 90’s. She started playing in 2005 as a result of a family reunion. She taught herself the basics, asked a lot of questions and started attending workshops. Though Nancy never set out to teach, she ended up doing just that on a volunteer basis for over 15 years at Cullowhee Valley School, introducing children from the 2nd grade through 8th grade to their heritage and the beginnings of the mountain dulcimer. Several of her students at the school went on to major in music in college. Nancy took the mountain dulcimer teaching classes at Dulcimer U the first year the class was offered, completed the course work and graduated the following year. During the same time, she also offered “Introduction to Mountain the Dulcimer” classes at the Jackson County Senior Center. Nancy recently hosted two workshops at the Celtic Heritage Fam-Jam in Brooksville, Florida. She has also offered an “Introduction to the Mountain Dulcimer” class online. Since 2013 Nancy has performed for the Dillsboro Christmas Luminaries with her group, the Mountain Fretters.
Cheri Miller – Hampton, Tennessee – Dulcimer Emporium Director
Cheri has been playing and performing traditional music as a backup guitar player for many years. She has performed in swing bands, old time bands, and dance bands. Cheri enjoys jamming, gardening, traveling, reading, and puttering. Cheri spent 30 plus years in the educational field teaching elementary students, English to both high school and university students, as a Library Media Specialist, as well as directing and producing musical productions, and teaching guitar to fourth, fifth, and sixth graders in an after school string band program. Cheri holds a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in English, a Master’s Degree in Media Services, and an Educational Specialist degree in School Administration. Cheri is currently retired and enjoying life traveling and playing music. She currently plays guitar in a duo with husband, Jim Miller.