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Learning a Kentucky music tradition

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Vine Grove Elementary students participate in dulcimer club

By Becca Owsley

Students at Vine Grove Elementary School have the opportunity to learn an instrument with historic significance to Kentucky.

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Once a week, fourth- and fifth-grade students meet for dulcimer club to learn an appreciation for the instrument and the value of teamwork.

Dulcimers are fretted string instruments that typically have three or four strings.

The class was started three years ago by music teacher Jeremy Lundy. Each term he takes 12 to 20 students for the club, but the response is always so good he could have 60 or more kids. He simply doesn’t have the time or resources to have that many students at a time, he said. 

Students not only learn how to play the instrument, they also learn its history.

Forth-grader Bryan Fox learned the dulcimer came from the Appalachia. He became interested in the program last year when his brother participated in the club. His brother came home one day with a dulcimer, and Fox didn’t know what it was and wanted to learn more about it.

“You get the chance to play different kinds of instruments that you didn’t know how to play or you didn’t know they were created,” Fox said.

Each year they play at Vine Grove’s Dickens of a Christmas and this year plan to play at a school gathering in May.

“The overall goal is to give them a connection,” Lundy said. “The dulcimer is the official Kentucky state instrument and it’s a historical instrument around here.”

He said the dulcimer is a big part of Kentucky’s culture and playing it helps give the kids a link to their ancestors.

Many of the kids don’t have a clue about the dulcimer before the join the club, Lundy said.

“I didn’t really know anything about it until Mr. Lundy brought it up” Sydnee Daniel, a forth-grader, said.

She likes being able to learn an instrument other than the guitar, and playing the dulcimer helps her continue to learn music.

“Hopefully the goal is to give them a love of the music and the dulcimer because it’s a very easy instrument to learn,” Lundy said.

While they use cardboard dulcimers for class, many, including Fox, Daniel and fifth-grader Xela Klockow, asked for the instrument for birthdays and Christmas. These three kids has a dulcimer of their own.

“I like it because not many people know about the instrument and it’s very unique,” Klockow said.

She’s learned a lot of songs in the club and likes to play them at home.

Several students have become quite skilled dulcimer players, Lundy said.

“They really enjoy it,” he said.

Lundy enjoys the dulcimer himself and built one with his dad.

Music is the primary thing students learn in the club, but Lundy said the club also helps build teamwork because they have to play together, listen, cooperate and pay attention to what is going on around them.

It also helps build friendships with kids from other classrooms, he added.

But, it is after all, mostly about the dulcimer.

“It’s a neat instrument and for these kids to have an opportunity to play it is great,” Lundy said. “It’s a really cool instrument and a part of our heritage.”

Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741.