Local musicians win big

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By Kirsten Laskey

Los Alamos residents Jonathan and Tessa Dowell have been regular spectators at the Southern Regional Dulcimer Championship held at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Ark., for about 12 years.

They keep returning to the championship because of the scenery, Jonathan said – and the people, Tessa added. And the biscuits served at breakfast, Jonathan joked.

On a more serious note, Jonathan said, “the company is so talented. The other musicians in this community are truly world-class musicians.”

In the past several years, the Dowells have stopped being members of the audience and have joined the competitors. Of the stage in Mountain View, Jonathan said, “It’s like the Carnegie Hall of Folk Music.”

This has been a successful move from the spectators’ seats to the stage for the Dowells. Jonathan has competed in the individual division four times. Last year, he earned first place. This year, he and Tessa performed in the ensemble division and earned first place. Tessa also competed in the solo division this year and earned fifth place.

The competition was held at the end of April.

To earn first place in the ensemble division, was “exciting” and “fun,” Tessa said.

“(It was a) little surprising ee no, we worked hard at it,” Jonathan joked.

“It’s a great motivational tool for us,” Tessa said. “To arrange and really work hard on our music. It’s an incentive.”

They are currently on a roll. Jonathan earned first place in the Texas State Mountain Dulcimer Championship on May 10, as a result, he is eligible to compete in the national competition in Winfield, Kan., which will be held Sept. 18-19.

The Dowells performed two pieces at the regional dulcimer championship, a Celtic air titled, “Bonnie Doon,” which was “the prettiest Celtic air we could find,” Jonathan said. He added he arranged the piece for the competition.

The other piece was an “upbeat fiddle” piece, titled “Black Mountain Rag.” Jonathan said they arranged the piece together.

He added they chose these pieces because “They’re fun to play; they’re beautiful.”

Plus, the two works were easy enough for them to play well and hard enough to showcase their talent, Jonathan added.

Tessa has been playing the dulcimer for about 15 years, while Jonathan has played the instrument for 10 years.

Jonathan said he enjoys playing the dulcimer because it is the music his ancestors, Scottish and Irish immigrants in the U.S., performed.

“And the fact (is) we love to play and share our music,” Tessa said.

The dulcimer, Jonathan said, plays a range of styles.

“I love it because it has such a sweet, melodic sound,” Tessa added.

The Dowells have shared the sounds of the dulcimer with the local community in the past. Jonathan said they have performed concerts at the United Church of Los Alamos and the Betty Ehart Senior Center.

Next up will be a concert June 28 in Walsenburg, Colo. They will also be performing at the Albuquerque Folk Festival June 21 in the fairgrounds.

Additionally, Jonathan has performed at the Trinity on the Hill Episcopal Church and the White Rock Baptist Church. For the last two months, he has shared his skills with the third-grade class at Barranca Elementary School, through the Artist in Residence program.See www.reefnews.com/celticdulcimer, for more details.