Colorado Dulcimer Festival 2023 - May 4-6
The Colorado Dulcimer Festival is back and in-person May 4-6 at Saint James Presbyterian Church, 3601 West Belleview Avenue, Littleton, CO 80123.
This festival brings you great musicians and teachers that play a wide variety of music and teaching styles. This year two of the featured teachers and performers are Bob Elieson (Mountain Dulcimer) and Tina Gugeler (Teaching Hammered Dulcimer, Bodhran).
Bob began playing mountain dulcimer at 50 years old, after purchasing a dulcimer at a pawn shop. He taught himself how to play and was hooked after attending his first Colorado Dulcimer Festival in 2012. Bob plays multiple instruments including dulcimer, old time banjo, guitar, ukulele, bass and mandolin.
Tina Gugeler first heard a hammered dulcimer in 1986 while living in Ketchikan, Alaska, and it quickly became her passion. Since moving to the Denver, CO area in 1990, Tina has become a full-time musician, performing solo and in small combos with fiddle, guitar or piano and in several local contra dance bands. Along with her busy performance schedule, she teaches students on the dulcimer and bodhràn.
Over the years, Tina has won many local and regional competitions and in the years 2000 and 2015 she won the U.S. National Hammered Dulcimer Championship. She appears on recordings with John and Sue Reading as the Grandview Victorian Orchestra. John, Sue and Tina also play local contra dances under the name Balance and Swing. Read more about Tina HERE.
We spoke with Bob and Tina about their involvement with the Colorado Dulcimer Festival.
Tina got started with the festival early on. “Steve Eulberg and Bonnie Carroll, another multi-instrumentalist who plays mountain and hammered dulcimer, had put together a little one-day mini festival and invited me to teach. There was enough interest that Steve started putting on the festival. It started in Ft. Collins at a church where his wife was a pastor, I believe.”
Bob had been playing mountain dulcimer for a little while and was looking for a teacher. He found the festival on Steve Eulberg’s website. “I think I attended the ninth or tenth annual festival and really enjoyed it. Then I got involved with doing a contra dance with Bonnie Carroll and helped out on the planning committee. I’ve been doing the festival five or six years.”
There’s all sorts of learning and fun to be had at the festival. As Bob explains, “you primarily get to play with other people, and that’s really important on improving your musicianship. You’re networking and find people that have like interests and have jam sessions. The festival is really focused on playing together. It sure beats sitting at home playing by yourself.”
Tina: “You take workshops and a lot of people say there’s so many Zoom classes now, why don’t I stay home and do it via Zoom. There’s some validity to that. But what you miss is the real personal interaction. With Zoom you can’t really play all together because of the delay. I don’t care what platform you’re using, none of it’s perfect. And playing physically in person together is such a wonderful learning experience.”
Jamming together also teaches people how to listen. Tina hosts a monthly music jam in Lafayette, CO. “I encourage people that if they don’t know a tune, listen to it a few times and then start plucking it out. This is the most nonthreatening environment when you’re learning. Try something, and if it doesn’t work, when that tune comes around again, try something else, and eventually you’ll learn. That’s kind of learning by ear. These in-person sessions, playing together, that’s safety in numbers, because if you don’t know the tune, you’re covered. Or you can just dance!”
Bob: “One of the things I think is really cool about the festival is we bring folks in from out of town who you may have seen on YouTube or teaching online. You get to meet them knee-to-knee and get instant feedback. You get to know those folks and play with them in informal situations as well and that’s just fulfilling and a lot of fun.”
This year Bob will be teaching a beginner’s workshop and Friday night he may perform and play a bluegrass song. Tina will be teaching a beginner’s class and an intermediate class. She’ll also be teaching a bodhràn class, which is an Irish frame drum and you hit it with a stick called a tipper. “I bring recorded music and you get to practice against real folk music like jigs and reels. And one of the classes I’ll be teaching is how to listen in a jam, how to participate in a jam when you know nothing, how you don’t have to just sit like a bump on a log. Little tips to break the ice and get you to start playing for real. Also, if you go to a class and find it’s way over your head, sit near the door and sneak out. You don’t have to stay in the class.”
Tina will also be one of the core members of the dance band and be performing on Friday night’s concert, which is open to the public. There’s a small fee, but if you don’t want to learn how to play dulcimer, you can support the festival and musicians by coming to the concert. There’s a concert on Friday and Saturday night from 7-9pm. They’ll bring up all the headliners and there’s also a singalong.
If you play something other than the dulcimer, you’re encouraged to bring other instruments as well and play in jam sessions. There’s a mini showcase for folks who want to show off and do a mini performance. The festival is Friday and Saturday, but on Thursday there’s an optional extra teaching session, totally separate from the festival with the money going to the artist. The trainings on Thursday are several hours and you can sign up on the website for that too.
For more information and to register for the festival, visit their WEBSITE.