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B&B (+ L & D) Lessons

The course of study        For hammered dulcimer B&B students only        Accommodations and meals        Cost        The daily schedule

When are lessons available?        How to sign up!        Weather note

        From Day One, I received insights and instruction into not only the Hows but the Whys of getting optimal sound out of my autoharp.  I loved that I got to work on the music I brought along; all the work I did was on tunes I love.  Lucille's musical knowledge, her eagerness to share, and, most importantly, her ability to pass on that knowledge in a way that made applicable sense, made the week extremely productive.  I can tell you honestly, both my fingers and brain got quite a workout!  And it was all done in an environment and atmosphere that made me feel completely safe to learn from my mistakes.  I worked hard, but I had a great time doing it....[B&B lessons are] so very different and so very needed in the autoharp community.        —Judy Dugas (autoharp), Texas

        As each concept sank into my brain and body, the right notes started coming back more easily, better sounding, and much more fun to play.  I progressed much further than I expected and now feel the confidence to be more adventurous in making music and not simply trying to play right notes.
        If you want to move on to making music or are playing with any kind of pain, try the B & B lessons.  You’ll leave feeling great about your playing (and well fed!).         —Charles Smith (hammered dulcimer), Washington State

        You say you'd like some concentrated instruction to jump-start your dulcimer or autoharp playing, at whatever level?  How about getting away from it all to submerge in five days of music study with a master teacher and performer, including great food and good times?  Get yourself to mile-high Denver, Colorado and I'll take care of the rest!
        My instructional focus is mostly hammered dulcimer and autoharp, but I also cater to injured musicians on any instrument.  See The Course of Study.








The course of study

        The week I spent with Lucille was one of the most unique experiences in musical education.  The complete immersion, Lucille's personal attention, insight, thoughtful diagnosis and individualized approach were remarkable.  If she will have me, I will absolutely be back.    [Yes, come on back any time, Mike!  LR]    —Mike Wolkomir (diatonic autoharp), Wisconsin

        If you feel your playing is boringthe same old tunes sounding the same old wayyou are probably where I was before I took the plunge in B&B lessons.  Lucille will show you how to put life into those jigs and reels [or anything else! Ed.] by giving them "that sound."  Where else can you find an opportunity to be the sole student of a great teacher, player and cook for five days?  It will have a profound effect on you as a person as well as a player.        —Chuck Spaulding (hammered dulcimer), Washington State

What do B&B students study?  Just about anything, along with whatever else I flesh out that they need to play well!  Here are some of the topics past B&B students have focused on (by the way, each student delves into more than one topic on this list):

  • Tunes! (of course)
  • A "crash course" for the new player
  • Mastering valuable techniques, including but not limited to:
    Hammered Dulcimer: Tone enhancement, stroke order, freeing yourself to move, mastering two-stroke rolls, syncopation, easy play at any tempo, etc.
    Autoharp (diatonic and chromatic): Tone enhancement, strumming techniques, fingerpicking/fingering, making good melody-chord choices, 
              how to "pump felt" (diatonic only), using all your strings, singing accompaniment, etc.
  • Ergonomics and injury reversal/prevention (all instruments, folk and classical; click here for an introduction, and be sure to visit your doctor at home about the issue before your arrival to rule out any kind of organic disease)
  • How to play music atypical to dulcimer/autoharp (jazz, classical, etc.)
  • Finding the dance in the music
  • Contest coaching (all folk instruments)
  • Arranging tunes (all folk instruments, a big part of contest coaching)
  • Or, what have you?

Whatever you want to study, you can do it here, at your own pace!


For hammered dulcimer B&B students

        You are welcome to use one of my dulcimers if shipping your own here is a concern.  I have two 15-15s by R. L. Tack & Son (Professional and Lightweight), one 15-14 chromatic MasterWorks, and a 12-11 Dusty Strings Apprentice.  It is, of course, fine to bring or ship your dulcimer here; I just know how worrisome shipping "your baby" can be!  Regardless of dulcimer, I have an all-ways adjustable dulcimer stand for your use also.  


Accommodations and meals

        Your accommodations are a basic, comfortable room in our home, pictured below.

Your room awaits you in Colorado!
Left: The dulcimer-shaped quilt on the bed was stitched by dulcimer player Norine Humm of Michigan.  
Other gifts from fellow dulcimer players, such as the vase and doily on the end table, grace this room,
along with books written by autoharp students.
Right: The two bowls on the gentlemen's desk were both knitted and felted by me.
(PS--The rug is
not solid blue.  Wait 'til you see the detail!)

        As for meals (which include lunch and dinner), your instructor doubles as chef, making the best pizza in metro Denver right here from scratch, while developing menus catering to musicians with special dietary needs.  (Let's not forget good old meat loaf and mashed potatoes, too!)  When the weather is warm enough, we can also enjoy appetizers and s'mores at the chiminea on the patio.
        We usually eat out once or twice while sight-seeing.  The chef hopes you'll give her one night off from the kitchen by preparing dinner for us, even a simple one.  (We'll go shopping while you are here; be sure to bring with you any unusual ingredients that you think may be hard to find in Denver.  We managed to hunt down some filé for Cajun chicken gumbo that one student made, but it took a lot of phone calls and a 20-mile, round-trip drive!)  We will go grocery shopping, and your instructor is happy to sous-chef while you work your magic.

        A two-block walk from our home to the bus stop begins your journey to downtown Denver (The Tattered Cover bookstore is a popular haunt on the 16th Street Mall, along with great restaurants all around).  Weather permitting, Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park (boasting 14,000+ feet in altitude!) are still more must-see sites.  It's a bonus when I have a local performance coinciding with your visit, but if not, you will surely hear private performances at home.


The daily schedule

        This schedule is approximate.  Depending on the subject matter of the moment, lessons can flex to be more or less time than the 45 minutes allotted.  (We may even have a "lightning round" some time!)  In the end, it all works out!

8:00 or so—breakfast and conversation
9:00—lesson (first day: tune up, warm up, practice beforehand, if needed)
9:45—coffee/tea break
10:00—practice on your own
12 noon—lunch, rest, read, a walk around the block…
1:00—practice on your own
2:00—lesson (this one may be deleted one day in the event of a longer sightseeing trip)
2:45—“hard-drive burn-in”: brief review on your own to solidify afternoon concepts OR
        review, answer questions, tweak concepts of the afternoon
3:00 or so—rest, have some fun: see local sights
ca. 6pm—dinner
after dinner—“talk shop”, jam, practice, read, watch TV, whatever.



        $850 covers circa 10½ hours of private instruction, access to my personal tune collection and books related to music making, six nights of accommodation, all at-home  meals, travel by car to local destinations, including pick up and drop-off to airport or terminal if you fly to Denver.
        Expenses on your own include transportation and instrument/accessory shipping to/from metro Denver, nominal bus fare for a downtown Denver excursion (currently $2.25 each way), an occasional meal out, and who knows?  Maybe some souvenirs to take home.


When are lessons available?

        B&B lessons are available any time of the year that's convenient to both you and me (be sure to see the Weather Note as you plan your time).  The best times to schedule are January (unbelievable, but yes) through May, August, October and November (before Thanksgiving).  Other times of the year are possible, too, as long as I'm not on the road performing.  The week immediately before Easter is not possible, due to Holy Week commitments. 
        Lessons can start and end at any point in the week.  Monday through Friday is what most students go for, but if you are flying and airfare costs are a concern, consider study on Thursday through Monday to take advantage of what are usually cheaper flights on Wednesday and the following Tuesday.  Or choose some other five-day range, remembering that you'll need to arrive the day before your first lesson.  (Note that I go to church on Sunday, so no morning lessons that day.)


How to sign up!

        First, with two or three date ranges so I can pick and choose.  I request at least 12 weeks lead time to make sure I can fit you in on my calendar.  Once you write, it may take a few days or even a week for me to get back to you.  I check web-site mail once a week.  Hang in there; I will respond.
        Once your B&B dates are secured with an initial deposit of $100, I will send you a questionnaire to fill and return well before your time here that gives me an idea of your background, past music experience and food preferences.  About 3 weeks before your arrival, you will receive an electronic welcome packet that tells you more about travelling here and what else to expect.  If you are driving, let me know and I will supply you with directions to the house from anywhere in the US!
        And did I mention that our cats will greet you with open paws?  (We have three, and they all adopted us.  More about them when you get here.)

Even our cat Sheebah is learning how to play the dulcimer (paws-on) with the help of my book!

        for more information.


Weather Note

        Denver is brilliantly sunny much of the year, with low humidity (The Weather Channel once posted it as low as 2%), thanks to mile-high altitude.  A swamp cooler provides relief in the house during the summer months, making this a delightfully cool (in temp and vibes) space in which to study and practice.
        When we do get significant precipitation, it can often translate into a major weather event.  We often get a fair amount of snow, sometimes ice, during (surprise) the last week of October, right around Halloween.  (In fact, I'm writing this on October 29, 2009, just as a major snowstorm winds down.)  The month of March is supposed to be Colorado's snowiest month, but then sometimes a big snow overtakes us in April.  We've even had six inches of snowfall in mid-June!  Amazingly, January and February are balmy, often sunny and in the 50s.  Tornadoes?  The sirens have gone off only a few times over the last ten years, with twisters landing some 30 miles east of us. (Whew!)
        I can't speak for how the weather will be where you live while you are here, so consider the weather in your locale when planning your visit, too, so that you are sure to get here and return home without incident.  The Weather Channel and its Internet version are good sources to plan your clothing needs while you are here.

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