"Super Dave" Schnaufer

By Jean Metcalfe

I have been wanting to write about David Schnaufer for well over a year. Since early August of 1990, to be more precise.

I had been impressed by David's dulcimer playing at Kentucky Music Weekend in late July of 1989. So, a year later, having decided that it was time I actually learned to play a musical instrument, I chose to try my hand at the dulcimer. After all, it had only four strings. I was pleased to subsequently learn from Instructor David that he took up dulcimer for that very same reason.

(I had long ago failed at piano, having taken a few lessons without a piano to practice on. And I had pretty much failed at guitar even though my adult education teacher,> Richard Branson, had been anexcellent teacher who made it fun to learn. I even developed callouses from playing faithfully for quite a few enjoyable months, but gave it up in order to play newspaper publisher.

Dulcimer 101 at Bellarmine College under the capable tutelage of David Schnaufer would perhaps be my last chance to become a musician.

But since I didn't live on campus during the week-long event, insurance considerations wouldn't allow me to take my rented dulcimer home to practice. And when I tried to rent one from a local music store, I was told that all their dulcimers had been rented to Nancy Johnson for the classes at Bellarmine.

The week wasn't a total loss, even though my contra dance class was cancelled because too few pupils showed up; perhaps the name of the dance had something to do with it. And the substitute dance involved using "pretend swords," made of rope, and I kept getting tangled up in my sword.

One evening after my dulcimer class, David graciously agreed to forgo dinner with friends to grant me an interview for this newspaper.

Alas, the story didn't come together in time to meet the deadline. So, to make up for it, I promised myself I would use my notes to do a story about David to promote his classes the following year. But when KMW '91 rolled around, David wasn't able to participate. I hope I didn't figure in his decision not to return, as he was a very fine teacher. He was also an interesting and articulate interview subject. I just wanted you to know that.

Permit me to add a post script to Dallas Embry's short review of David's albumDulcimer Player Deluxe:

I've got it and I really like it.

You don't care for dulcimer music? It is still very likely that you would enjoyDulcimer Player Deluxe.

David has played on several albums by the Judds as well as on recordings by Hank Williams Jr., Kathy Mattea, Holly Dunn, Emmylou Harris, Mark O'Connor, Dan Seals and others, and is generally considered to be the "world's premier dulcimer player."

Billboard magazine, in its November 2, 1991, issue, had this to say about David's single of "Fisher's Hornpipe":

"Aided by a smartly produced video now airing on CMT and Schnaufer's world-class dulcimer playing, this sprightly old fiddle standard may dent radio's normal resistance to instrumentals."

David has two videos to his credit. His debut, "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," received more airplay on Country Music Television and The Nashville Network than any other solo instrumental release. It also won a Bronze Award from Worldfest '91, the prestigious Houston International Film & Video Festival, which is the largest such competition in the world.

"Fisher's Hornpipe," released last fall, is David's second video effort. Nashville'sMusic Row magazine, in its October 23, 1991, issue, said of the video:

"Dazzling. A waterfall of dulcimer notes, a splash of fiddle and a rushing tumble of silvery, slippery country-rock instrumentation. The yelps in the background echo my own sentiments. Absolutely special. Absolutely spectacular."

Schnaufer has just completed the recording of his latest album,Dulcimer Sessions, and an it should be released this month, if it hasn't already been. Some heavyweight players on this one, too, including Mark Knopfler and Albert Lee.