The sweet sounds of the dulcimer are in the air in Chelsea
Maybe you’ve seen the logo on a car around Chelsea. It reads “DulcimerbySharon.com.”
It belongs to Sharon Broyles, a local Dulcimer instructor and performer who doesn’t mind everyone knowing about her love for this unique stringed musical instrument.
Wanting to learn more, the Sun Times News connected with Broyles. In her introduction, she said “The dulcimer world is growing in Chelsea!”
Whether teaching a group at the senior center or performing with the String Sisters and Heart Strings, Broyles’ love for the dulcimer dates back to a trip 20 years ago to Evart, Michigan, where she attended a dulcimer music fest.
“I was very magnetized by the sound of a hammered dulcimer and mountain dulcimer instrument,” she remembers. “It’s not like any other stringed instrument with its unique sound.”
It was a year after that she started her journey of performing and teaching with this instrument, whose origin dates back hundreds of years. She teaches both the hammered dulcimer and mountain dulcimer (lap dulcimer). The Mountain instrument is a 3-stringed instrument that has as a history of being about 200 years old with a starting point in America, in the Appalachia mountain area, she said, while the history of the hammered dulcimer, of which she has a 98-stringed one, goes back to about 900 AD.
“After moving to Chelsea in 2018, my business of teaching dulcimer has grown steadily,” she said. “You may have seen my vehicle around town with graphics of Dulcimerbysharon.com.”
Teaching groups is a highlight of her week, she said.
Detailing her dulcimer fun, she said, “Currently, I teach a group of 14 children at Huron River Methodist Church, two groups of Seniors at Chelsea Senior Center, direct a free jam of mountain dulcimers in Chelsea, and give concerts for independent, assisted, memory care and brain damaged residents along with creating a jam with them as they join in with a hand held instruments I bring along for them.”
She said she also enjoys playing in churches, nearby eateries and private events as a soloist or with her small group.
In her private lessons, groups and jams, she said they all work on personal goals and gradually raise the playing ability to performance level. She said one group of mountain dulcimer students has a performance name of Back Porch Dulcimers while the hammered dulcimer performers’ name is Blackberry Jam Dulcimers.
“They love having a purpose to their practice,” she said of the groups.
In addition to dulcimer, she also teaches mandolin, guitar and ukulele to children.
She said most of her dulcimer students are adults because until they found an instructor, their dulcimer was typically stored in the closet or under the bed for years and now they’re delighted to have it dusted off and played. She said she’s grateful for receiving donated dulcimers in order to provide one for children and adult in group classes.
She also does children’s private parties ages 5 and up where they can have a hands-on experience on the lap dulcimer and other instruments along with fun surprises to explore music, such as using swim noodles and playing music games.
Exposing people to the dulcimer is a big goal, so she is finding different ways to do that.
Recently she started outreach missions in the area called String Sisters and with another group called Heart Strings, where she plays solo or with 1 or 2 other players for shut-ins, hospice and hopefully soon, hospital patients.
“We have a heart to bring comfort to people through unique music,” she said, and noted that these listeners can choose from hymns, seasonal tunes, slow, beautiful songs and Celtic.
“What a joy to share soothing and/or happy music with those who are hurting,” Broyles says. “This seems to be a treasured time for the caregiver as well.”
With these visits, she's heard comments like “You were able to take my pain away while you were here” and “That was just delightful please come back!”
Bringing joy and sharing the love for this unique instrument is the motivating inspiration for Broyles, so if you see her logo you will know. She hopes all ages come to know the joy of a dulcimer.
“I’m grateful that Chelsea has embraced opportunities to hear dulcimer music,” she said.
The Chelsea District Library has had her as a lead in the “Silly Songs” program for young children, having fun with music through movement, singing fun songs and playing instruments while over at Silver Maples she said they have scheduled dulcimer concerts for the community and recently embraced a multi-generational program having preschoolers join the audience on an interactive music program.
“Needless to say, it’s quite humorous and a natural way to bring smiles and laughter to all ages,” Broyles said.
And she’s looking to do even more. She says if there is enough community interest at the Chelsea Senior Center, they are looking at the possibility of continuing group classes perhaps in the spring.
“Do you have a dulcimer stored away or need to use one of mine? Get it out and let’s play!” Broyles said.