Photo courtesy of Becky Cleland.
Types of Artistry
Luthier and oldtime musician
Tryon, NC (Polk County)
Ben Seymour has been building dulcimers of his own Kudzu Patch design and other stringed instruments since 1994, in addition to repairing a wide variety of acoustic instruments. Later, Galax-style dulcimers also became part of his regular line of products. From the beginning, all Ben's instruments have possessed excellent tonal quality and exceptional volume, which are maintained in those he builds today. In the past few years, he has been drawn to build many of the dulcimer’s antecedents, including museum-based historical reproduction scheitholts, langeleiks, hummels and epinettes des Vosges, to meet the needs of musicians and collectors around the world.
Ben began his first Galax-style dulcimers after hearing that Jacob Ray Melton of Galax, Virginia, the last traditional builder of that dulcimer style, had passed away. He added it to his own line of instruments in order to preserve the Galax from disappearing into history. In building the first Galaxes, Ben carefully reproduced their special features by studying original instruments and photographs in Ralph Lee Smith’s preeminent history of the dulcimer, Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions. When shown one of his Galaxes, Ralph Lee Smith stated that Ben had achieved the “traditional-style instrument of the Virginia type.” Ben will continue producing Galaxes, as he takes seriously his role in preserving the instrument’s Appalachian heritage, as well as his Kudzu Patch dulcimers and the antecedents of the dulcimer.
Ben is a member of the Guild of American Luthiers, a graduate of the Chimneys Workshop for Violin Makers, is on the Artists Registry of Handmade in America, and is included in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area online Artist Directory.
More information and photographs of Ben’s work can be viewed at www.kudzupatch.net.
Ben instructs the playing of the mountain dulcimer to students from third graders to retirees. He offers five-day residencies which include historical notes on the progress of the dulcimer, a demonstration of its German predecessor the scheitholt, and an exhibition of the modern dulcimer’s versatility in performing a range of musical styles. Students learn to read tablature, how to count beats and measures, and how to play to the timing of basic musical signatures. By the end of the week, students are able to play a few tunes on the dulcimer. As the situation allows, a concert by students and/or the instructor may conclude the week.
Ben has held several Visions Summer Art Institute programs teaching residencies at Dawkins Middle School (Spartanburg, South Carolina) and has provided educational performances at O. P. Earle Elementary School (Landrum, South Carolina.) Ben’s experience also includes teaching electives at Western Carolina University's Mountain Dulcimer Week for several years. More locally, Ben has mentored Polk County, North Carolina high school students in construction and playing of the dulcimer, and taught at the Polk Center of Isothermal Community College in Columbus, North Carolina. Ben spent two five-day residencies teaching fifth-graders in Sumter,
South Carolina, how to create their own stories-in-song based on
commonly known tunes, as well as performing in the Sumter festival there
with his wife, Becky Cleland. He also takes on private students for lessons at his home.