Research News

Online archive extends legacy of dulcimer legend David Schnaufer

An online archive dedicated to the dulcimer and conceived at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music is extending the work of legendary musician David Schnaufer in reviving the Appalachian instrument.

The Appalachian Dulcimer Archive went live in February. It contains sound clips of Schnaufer playing various dulcimers, photos and history about dulcimers from Schnaufer’s collection, biographical material about Schnaufer and other information. Future plans call for other dulcimer players to be able to upload information about their instruments to the archive.

[rquote]“The original concept for the archive came from David Schnaufer himself[/rquote],” said Jacob Schaub, a music librarian at the Anne Potter Wilson Music Library at Blair. “He died in 2006, but with the help of his colleagues Sandy Conatser and Zada Law, who both now teach dulcimer at Blair, we were able to get it up and running.”

Schnaufer, a native of Texas, moved to Nashville in 1985 having already won the first National Mountain Dulcimer Competition in 1976. He played with Johnny Cash, The Judds and many other country music stars.

As critic Michael McCall put it: “David’s pulled off a near miracle. He’s made a close-to-forgotten acoustic instrument relevant, and he’s done it in a hi-tech age obsessed with drum machines and the latest synthesized equipment.”

The Appalachian Dulcimer Archive is part of Vanderbilt’s Global Music Archive, which began about a decade ago with the collection of folk music from Uganda. Schnaufer is also represented in a free exhibit running until June 2013 in Vanderbilt’s Central Library and Special Collections, Stage & Screen: The Star Quality of Vanderbilt’s Performing Arts Collections.