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It’s impossible to pinpoint any one moment in time as “The Beginning” of Dusty Strings, but if we had to pick the experience that planted the seed that was then nurtured by subsequent choices, chance meetings, and accidents of fate, that experience would probably be the 6th annual Northwest Folklife Festival in 1977. It was there that Ray and Sue Mooers and Randy Hudson happened upon a busker making the most enchanting sounds on a strange, trapezoid-shaped instrument. The sound captivated them, and though they moved on without learning its name that day, it didn’t take much nudging from fate to keep them moving down the path that led to building their own hammered dulcimers and founding Dusty Strings.
As Dusty Strings has expanded over the years into its current Seattle identities - a well-loved music store and school in the heart of Fremont and an internationally-known brand of harps and hammered dulcimers, handcrafted in our workshop in Interbay - much of our history has been closely tied to the Folklife Festival. Not only have countless Dusty employees and teachers performed at the festival, for many years (starting in 1979) we had a booth in the Musical Instrument Emporium in the Northwest Rooms, we ran a shuttle back and forth between Seattle Center and Fremont to offer tours of our workshop, and we brought our teachers to Folklife to offer free mini lessons on everything from harp to guitar to banjo.
In many ways, we feel like the roots of Dusty Strings are very much tied to the Northwest Folklife Festival. (The person writing this post spent her first Folklife Festival in a basket underneath the dulcimer her dad was playing, and didn’t miss a year for the next 18.) We are proud to share a long and intertwined history, and we’d like to offer our heartfelt congratulations and thanks for 50 years of bringing folk music, art, dance, food, and other cultural expression to the Seattle community!
Though the festival can’t happen in person this year, we encourage you to check out the virtual offerings over Memorial Day weekend, including both performances and participatory events: https://www.nwfolklife.org/festival/schedule/ It’s truly a cultural treasure trove!