Today In Mountain Dulcimer History: 26 July 1979

A dose of mountain dulcimer history throughout the year

Today In Mountain Dulcimer History: 26 July 1979

Postby dbennett » Wed Jul 26, 2017 5:34 am

Educator and musicologist Mary Wheeler (1892-1979) died in Paducah, Kentucky. Mary was born in 1892 also in Paducah, Kentucky.

In 1926, Wheeler taught music at the Hindman Settlement School in Hindman, Kentucky. In "The Kentucky Review" Volume 3 Number 3 Article 6, 1982, Mary Wheeler: Collector of Kentucky Folksongs, by Bonnie Cave Bradley she writes, "...The songs the students at Hindman sang were usually unaccompanied, although occasionally one of them would "pick the dulcimore." In fact, Mary Wheeler discovered that in almost every mountain home she visited, a dulcimer hung over the fireplace; so while living in Orchard House, the school dormitory, she learned to play this instrument herself. After leaving Hindman she presented many recitals and radio programs of Kentucky mountain folksongs, accompanying herself on a dulcimer made for her from a walnut tree that had grown-beside Troublesome Creek. A picture of her, clad in a homespun woolen dress and scarf, entitled the "Dulcimer Lady," was released by her Cincinnati agent and drew widespread publicity..."

An on-line article, "Mary Wheeler, Paducah’s Songcatcher", states while teaching music at the Hindman Settlement School Mary documented traditional music from the school’s students and local Knott County residents. She later published “Kentucky Mountain Folk Songs” (1937) which reflected back on this early research..."

In the 2013 September/October Edition of Paducah Life, Voices from the Grave: Mary Wheeler, Tracey Buchanan quotes Wheeler, "... how I loved the work I did in those hills of eastern Kentucky. I’d find these dear people in their remote cabins and carefully write down the words and music to their beautiful, straightforward songs. I had only my ear and memory to rely on. For an instrument, a local dulcimer maker fashioned me a fine dulcimer. It had three strings and twelve frets and I played it with a tiny stick and a piece of goose quill. I’d write down the songs and then play it back to the people or sing it back to them until I’d get it correct. The women rocked babies or spun thread and I listened to their ancient English, Scottish, and Kentucky ballads of love, jealousy, or violent murders..."

Mary earned a master’s degree in musicology in 1937 and her thesis on folk songs received the conservatory’s Chalmers Clifton Award for musicological research.
Wheeler Mary.jpg
Wheeler Mary3.JPG
Last edited by dbennett on Sun Dec 10, 2017 4:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Today In Mountain Dulcimer History: 26 July 1979

Postby dbennett » Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:24 pm

Wheeler Mary Obit.jpg
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