Once every two years, the best dulcimer players from around the world gather for an international event organized by the Cimbalom World Association. (“Cimbalom,” by the way, is the Hungarian word for “dulcimer.”) In October 2013, the world event came to Taipei, Taiwan. When asked to represent the United States, Mark Wade, assistant professor of music and the 1998 National Hammered Dulcimer Champion, jumped at the opportunity. Wade and his bluegrass trio, consisting of Denison music faculty members Andy Carlson and Casey Cook, brought their distinctly American style of music to Taipei.
“In most countries, the dulcimer is a standard conservatory instrument,” said Wade. “Most groups there were performing their country’s classically arranged music, not folk music.”
The improvisational nature of bluegrass offered a different experience for the audience, and the trio was the only group that featured instruments other than a dulcimer — Cook played guitar, while Carlson played the mandolin and fiddle.
“Mark really wanted to help promote the idea that bluegrass shares the responsibility across a group of musicians,” says Carlson.
So how was the audience’s reaction to this distinctly American performance?
“Fantastic,” said Cook. “Absolutely fantastic. They were excited and enthusiastic, and just terrific.” The rest of the trio was equally enthusiastic about the trip. “It was amazing. The people, the food, the night markets … we had a great time.”