Dulcimer class strikes a chord with seniors
To learn more
Those interested in joining the new beginner dulcimer class should call instructor Pat Tobin at (608) 755-3040.
Cost for the dulcimer textbook and CD is $8. The Janesville Senior Center also asks people to make a $15 annual contribution to the downtown Janesville facility.
A unique American instrument is bringing more people to the Janesville Senior Center. The center is now offering dulcimer classes. Kyle Geissler reports. You can read more in Saturday's Janesville Gazette.
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JANESVILLE More than a dozen students showed up early for class at the Janesville Senior Center so they could tune their dulcimers—long, hourglass-shaped wooden instruments with four metal strings.
They were preparing to learn new strumming techniques while playing folk and children’s songs.
“One, two, ready, play,’’ said Pat Tobin, instructor.
As the students played in time, the classroom filled with the harmonious melody of “Down in the Valley.’’
“Should we try ‘Three Jolly Fishermen?’” Tobin asked.
“It goes like this,” she said as she played the song.
Then everyone joined in.
“Oh, you guys got this,’’ Tobin praised her students.
Next, they moved on to “Skip to My Lou.’’
One woman kept time by tapping her black orthopedic shoe on the tiled floor.
“Good job!’’ she said.
Tobin struck a chord with members of the Janesville Senior Center when she offered a workshop on the dulcimer five years ago.
“It was just for people to get acquainted,’’ she said.
A year later, Tobin started a mountain dulcimer class to teach others how to play.
“But nobody wanted to quit,’’ the center’s recreation programmer said.
So Tobin made it an ongoing class that meets at 1 p.m. Thursdays at the downtown facility, 69 S. Water St.
More recently, others approached Tobin wanting to learn how to play the dulcimer.
So a month ago, she started a beginner dulcimer class that meets at 3:15 p.m. Wednesdays.
The advanced class has 15 students who have performed at the Rock County 4-H Fair, a local church and Christmas program. They are scheduled for an April appearance at the Edgerton Senior Center.
People are attracted to the dulcimer, which means sweet music, because it’s a very user-friendly instrument, Tobin said.
“It sounds pretty just to strum without playing any notes with its built-in harmony,’’ she said.
Mary Kilmer, 71, Janesville, agreed: “The dulcimer has a different sound and is easy to learn.’’
Tobin, who is self-taught, teaches class with a textbook and CD.
During the one-hour class, she teaches them how to tune their dulcimer, how to hold it comfortably and various strumming techniques to get a nice tone, she said.
Tobin learned during a Wisconsin Regional Senior Center Conference that many baby boomers want to learn to play a musical instrument.
“They maybe wished all their lives they had time to learn to play, and now that they’re retired they have the time,’’ she said.
That’s true for Kilmer, who is enrolled in Tobin’s newest dulcimer class.
“When I retired, my goal was to learn to play the piano,’’ she said.
Kilmer also participates in the senior center’s other fine arts classes.
“It takes away a lot of boredom,” she said.