Mountain Echo Dulcimer Band
June 23, 2010 - Martha Proper, along with 15 other local seniors, is a member of the Mountain Echo Dulcimer Band.
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Proper said the central instrument of the band, the mountain dulcimer, is a teardrop-shaped, four-stringed instrument from the Appalachian mountain region. Among the other instruments in the group are harmonicas, an autoharp, and a set of bells.
"The bells add a lot to our music," Proper said.
The band plays a variety of oldies-but-goodies, Proper said, but her favorites are "Clementine" and "Morning has Broken."
"We play familiar music," she said. "Not real popular music, but everybody knows our songs."
The band plays at senior-centered locations, including the Edna Burton Senior Center, assisted living complexes, nursing homes and festivals.
"We played at a John Deere tractor club in Lapeer once and there were about 150 people there. That's a lot," Proper said. "Sometimes we don't play for but 10 people, but we're still happy to play."
Proper said the band advertises themselves through flyers, but they also rely on word-of-mouth marketing.
"We aren't real fussy about where we play," she said.
Beyond their musical appeal, the band also brings along a therapy dog to their locations.
"Our mascot," she said. "A beautiful golden retriever. People are always tickled to see the dog."
Whether it's the dog or the music, Proper said audiences seem to enjoy the band enough to make donations.
"We don't ask for money when we play, but we always accept donations," she said. "We use it to buy new music or music stands. And last year we made our own donation to the Edna Burton Senior Center."
The Mountain Echo Dulcimer Band originated in May 2008 and now includes 16 members between 60- and 83-years-old.
"We stay busy and practice once a week at the senior center," Proper said.
The Edna Burton Senior Center not only hosts practices and gigs, but dulcimer classes are held there, as well.
"Two men just finished taking dulcimer classes, so we'll have five men in the band now," Proper said. "It's a ten week class and the dulcimer is so easy to learn to play."
While members of the band own their own dulcimers, three are available for loan during the classes, which begin again in September.