Dave and Laurie Thompson had no idea, when he gave her a hammered dulcimer in 1992, that they were marking the conception of what would eventually become their bouncing and all consuming musical offspring. Laurie fell completely in love with the dulcimer, and since Dave already played guitar, an instant duo burst onto the music scene. Well, maybe not “burst” exactly – it was more like “started tinkling around in their living room.” It wasn’t long, however, before the word got out and they received a request for some pre-wedding dulcimer music. “I declined, since I didn’t know many tunes yet, and certainly no wedding music” says Laurie. But love is blind and apparently deaf, and since the groom was of Celtic descent the couple was undeterred by the limited repertoire as long as the dulcimer was there. “But,” says Dave, “that was the only time we played ‘Irish Washwoman’ at a wedding!”
“Dive In …”
Dave and Laurie christened their band “String Fever” and the fun began. Dave borrowed, then bought an upright bass. He bought, then sold, a mandolin. He rented, then returned, a cello. He was given, and treasured, a family violin. He built, and hung on the wall, a mountain dulcimer. If it had strings, it became at least a foster child if not a full-fledged adoption. Dave became fascinated with the history of the instruments – he bought piles of books and read himself to sleep night after night. Laurie always knew it was time to turn out the light when the book fell on Dave’s face.
In the meantime, Laurie stayed focused on the hammered dulcimer. She expanded her repertoire to include many types of music, including some appropriate wedding tunes. By 1997, after countless requests for a CD, Dave and Laurie released their first album “Sharing Life,” a sampler of the many different types of tunes they enjoy playing. That CD was sent to Silver Dollar City, an 1890’s theme park in Branson, MO, and the Thompsons were contacted to play during the Great American Music Festival, where they have appeared for six seasons. In 2003, Laurie and her dulcimer duet partner Jo Arnold won the Southern Regional Dulcimer Ensemble Contest in Mt. View, Arkansas.
“So Many Strings…So Little Time”
As people’s interest grew, Laurie began selling dulcimers and giving lessons. She attended workshops whenever possible to pick up new tunes, new techniques, and new teachers–er, become acquainted with new teachers, that is. Dave would tag along, bringing out his bass at jam sessions in the evenings. Invariably, someone would ask him if his bass was for sale – so Dave started buying and selling basses.
Once they began selling instruments, they of course needed to have accessories for those instruments. So the Thompsons began stocking items not only for dulcimer, bass, and guitar, but many other instruments. Their little mobile store has saved more than one fiddle player who neglected to bring a spare pair of strings along! After a number of years giving private lessons and doing local workshops, Laurie began exploring the festival circuit as a teacher, beginning at the Montana Fiddle Camp in 2007. Her students appreciate her patient approach to helping them learn. She loves introducing people to the instrument. Laurie’s aunt bought her first dulcimer in 2007, one month before her 80th birthday.
What began as Laurie’s own birthday gift for her personal enjoyment evolved into a personally satisfying business encompassing performing, teaching, recording, manufacturing, selling, making new friends, learning new skills, traveling new places, and discovering something new nearly every day. Who could ask for more?
“Speaking of Birthdays”
Several birthdays have come and gone since this page was first written. Dave and Laurie spent some years assisting in raising a couple of their grandchildren. Dave had some health problems which caused him to have to give up playing his beloved instruments, as well as working in the shop. Traveling to festivals and workshops has now moved into the category of “very happy memories.” Laurie plays at church most every Sunday, but misses her “band”. She honed her shop skills and is thankful for the time she spent working alongside Dave so she could learn from him. The phrase “this too shall pass” is true of both the best and the worst of times. Don’t put off doing things you want to do, as you never know if you’ll have another opportunity. And make music – it’s really, really good for what ails you!