Couple shares bond over unusual instruments
COLUMBIA - Even on the iciest days in the city, two folklore lovers can still bring a little sunshine to the community.
The Daniel Boone Regional Library hosted its first monthly “Tunes at Two” event of the year and featured local hammered dulcimer player, Cliff White and his wife Molly White, as the spent Saturday afternoon plucking the strings of ancient folkloric instruments despite winter weather warnings.
“This is really social music. It’s traditional music, it’s folk music. The origins are in the ‘folk’, sitting around and entertaining themselves because they didn’t have TV.”
After an hour performing for a small crowd at the library, the two received capplause, smiles and laughter. Others were interested in learning about the instrument.
It was curiosity that caught the attention of ten-year-old Kate Tollenaar, who approached the Whites during their performance. She and her father were searching for American Girl books when they heard the melodies of the banjo and decided to check it out.
“I thought it was unique, it had a very good sound, it was very nice and pretty and brought joy to everybody,” Tollenaar said.
She learned what a hammered dulcimer was and said she was glad she knows what it is now.
Molly White said her own love of music started as a little girl when her parents took her to symphonies and operas.
She believes parents often underestimate the importance of music when it comes to children.
“Kids are fascinated with all of those big instruments on stage, and the music that they hear,” she said.
It’s why she decided to study music at the University of Missouri, and continues to pursue her first love of music in her free time.
During the performance, Cliff White shuffled back and forth between the hammered dulcimer, the mountain dulcimer and the guitar, while his wife complemented his historic zither instruments with one of her favorites, the banjo.
The Whites have been married for 23 years, and music is a strong bond.
“It definitely makes our relationship stronger," Molly White said. "It’s a common language we have between us, and it’s something we can share and have a lot of fun with.”
Cliff White said his passion for folkloric music began shortly after he said, “I do,” to Molly in 1994. Her father had taken the newlyweds to the Big Muddy Folk Festival in Booneville, Missouri. White said the duo that hosts the festival, Cathy Barton and Dave Para, made a profound impact on his desire to play his unique instrument.
“She played, and I was like wow—that’s something I would really like to play,” Cliff White said. “From there, I started seeking out other places to hear it and learning how to play it.”
Now, the folk festival is a White family tradition. They've been back every year since.
Between them, the Whites play more than 10 different instruments.
But Cliff White said the hammered dulcimer is his favorite.