Two Signal Mountain dulcimer players will be featured performers on the national stage this month and in March, one performing as a concerto soloist in Tucson, Ariz., the other appearing on television.
Stephen Seifert, who left Nashville and moved to Signal Mountain to join forces with Dan Landrum, performed this month with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. The performance marked the world premiere of a composition written for mountain dulcimer by Conni Ellisor.
Landrum will be featured in an installment of the PBS series “Music Voyager,” which is expected to air locally on WTCI at the end of March.
Landrum said the “Music Voyager” crew caught up with him during the East Tennessee leg of a statewide tour in search of indigenous music. He will be joined on the program by Chattanooga’s Matt Downer and the New Binkley Brothers.
“‘Music Voyager’ gets around,” Landrum said. “They crossed the state to try and find out what indigenously is going on in the music scene.”
The dulcimer duo recently began renting studio and office space at the Mountain Arts Community Center on Signal Mountain, which is housed in a former grammar school, built in 1926. Here, in a former classroom, the two shoot video of themselves teaching the delicate art of dulcimer playing as part of an ambitious online project. Their content-rich website, called The Dulcimer School (dulcimerschool.com), features lessons in both hammered and mountain dulcimer playing.
For Landrum and Seifert, computer technology today is a beautiful thing.
“Technology has truly removed the barriers of space and time,” Landrum said. “Students can comment online and ask questions about the music that is in their head and heart.”
Landrum acknowledged the efforts of another Signal Mountain resident, Andre Dantzler, who created the highly interactive Dulcimer School website: “Andre and the team of talented folks behind Dulcimer School have made it possible for us to teach students in a more complete and effective way without having to travel so much.”
Seifert said the site initially required lots of editing to put up fresh content.
“Now we have a three-camera set-up with lots of software switching,” he said. “We now don’t have to dump tape; we don’t have to edit stuff live as you might for a news show. We’re just live, and it’s ready to go on the Dulcimer School site. What I did in half an hour yesterday used to take me three hours.”
For a monthly fee of $15, aspiring dulcimer players can access video, audio and tablature and receive instructor feedback. In the past year more than 300 users have signed up, a higher number than the pair had projected. By the end of 2012, the partners hope to double that number.
When they’re not busy with their video-lessons, Landrum and Seifert are making names for themselves internationally as dulcimer performers. Landrum, who began his career as a street performer in Chattanooga, has performed in Olympic ceremonies, at U.S. presidential inaugurations and at music festivals around the world. Seifert also travels the festival circuit. From 2003 to 2006 Landrum toured as a soloist with Greek performer Yanni.
Said Landrum of his partner, “Arguably, Steve is one of the best-known mountain dulcimer players alive.”
In addition to all of his other commitments, Landrum serves as the editor and publisher of Dulcimer Players News, a quarterly publication which he writes and edits in his studio/office at the MACC.
With two renowned dulcimer players on site, MACC Director Barb Storm envisions an opportunity when the arts center might host large dulcimer events which could attract enthusiasts from the Southeast and across the U.S. For the time being, Storm is hopeful that Landrum and Seifert can find the time to perform in concert at the MACC. The duo performed briefly during the center’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
“The MACC is rapidly becoming grand central for their dulcimer world,” Storm said.