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This profile was last updated on 3/22/11  and contains information from public web pages.

Founder

Sunhearth Folk Instruments
 
Background

Employment History

  • Sunhearth Dulcimers
9 Total References
Web References
Sunhearth: The History of Bear Meadow
www.bearmeadow.com, 22 Mar 2011 [cached]
Dwain Wilder learned it from Walter Martin, of Roaring Spring, a little town in the mountains of western Pennsylvania.
...
Walt is a world-famous builder of Appalachian dulcimers. He made a thousand of them before retiring at age 80.
Walter founded Sunhearth Folk Instruments in 1971. Walt had built and driven race-cars, had taught high-school shop for years, and had built the family home (which he named "Sunhearth") with the help of his father in the 1930s. Now, looking for another challenge, he happened to hear a group of folk-singers at State College, PA, and fell in love with the music. He invited them all home and bet them a keg of beer they couldn't sing all night long without repeating themselves. He paid for a lot of beer that night, but also fell in love with the Appalachian Dulcimer. It turned out there was a whole world of music right on his doorstep he'd never heard.
Now, Walt can't carry a tune in a bucket, but he is an excellent artisan, and he set out to research the dulcimer with an engineer's thoroughness. The design he came up with in a few months became the heart of the Sunhearth success. It was half engineering, half wit, and half luck. Over the first few years, he puzzled painfully though string physics, fret spacing, musical scales, and design refinements, but he built dulcimers that have a sweetness and clarity no one else had achieved. Most dulcimers begin to sound like thumb pianos up in the second octave, but Walt's just keep singing with that same sweetness all the way up to the strum hollow.
He was soon winning notice at fairs and music festivals around Pennsylvania.
...
Somewhere along the way, Mike and Walt met Lorraine Lee Hammond.
...
Walt called him his "Number Two Son", and it would be like keeping the business in the family if Dwain took it up.
...
Dwain Wilder studied formally with Walt for a few weeks to catch up on the arcane little corners of what Walt knew.
...
After a few years of development, Bear Meadow dulcimers have greater dynamic range and are more responsive than Walter's were.
Mel Bay's Dulcimer Sessions | Dwain Wilder - Luthier Profile: Dwain Wilder, Bear Meadow Dulcimers | April 2007
archive.dulcimersessions.com, 1 April 2007 [cached]
I entered the world of the dulcimer through the work of my old friend, Walt Martin, of Sunhearth Dulcimers. I'd gone through the Navy with his son Mike, and after we were discharged at the same time I came home with him. I promptly fell in love with the whole family. Walt was soon calling me "Number Two Son. I married his grand-niece, and Mike and I became godfathers of each other's children.
In 1970 Walt Martin heard a dulcimer at a festival in State College, Pennsylvania, and felt an immediate attraction to it and its music. He had to have one, so he made it himself out of his grandmother's walnut bedstead and some redwood siding he had lying around. It sounded so good he decided to make one for every member of the family. By then he just couldn't let it go. He did some serious design research, and started taking the improved models around to craft fairs. By 1980 Walt made a thousand dulcimers. He had sold them around the world and established a reputation as a very good luthier. The Sunhearth design produced a uniquely full-bodied voice, and his instruments were widely sought after. But after a thousand, he was ready to retire. When I got wind of that, I told him I wanted to study with him and buy the business. He grinned and gave me an offer nobody could have refused. So I studied a couple of weeks with him to get the details down of what his building techniques were, and went home with his sanding machine, building forms, jigs, many tools, and a lot of his supply of wood. But we decided that the Sunhearth name should stay with the Martins. I would create my own brand - Bear Meadow.
It was an amazing experience for me to inherit Walter's mantle in the dulcimer world. I had instant acceptance in dulcimer circles. Walt had published an advertisement in Dulcimer Players News declaring me his successor, so most people knew what to expect of me.
...
And I started building a little lighter than Walt did. His tops, backs and sides were on the order of a tenth of an inch thick.
Bookmatching Top Sets
www.bearmeadow.com, 22 Mar 2011 [cached]
Currently, I use a home-made thickness sander that I inherited from Walt Martin, of Sunhearth.
Mountain Dulcimer History
www.bearmeadow.com, 2 Feb 2006 [cached]
At Roaring Spring, deep in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, Sunhearth Folk Instruments was founded by Walter Martin, in 1971.
Dulcimer
www.sunhearth.org, 19 Jan 2010 [cached]
Sunhearth dulcimers were built by Walter Martin of Roaring Spring, a little town in the mountains of western Pennsylvania. Walt was a world-famous builder of Appalachian dulcimers. He made a thousand of them before retiring at age 80.
Walter founded Sunhearth Folk Instruments in 1971. Walt had built and driven race-cars, had taught high-school shop for years, and had built the family home (which he named "Sunhearth") with the help of his father in the 1930s. Now, looking for another challenge, he happened to hear a group of folk-singers at State College, PA, and fell in love with the music. He invited them all home and bet them a keg of beer they couldn't sing all night long without repeating themselves. He paid for a lot of beer that night, but also fell in love with the Appalachian Dulcimer. It turned out there was a whole world of music right on his doorstep he'd never heard.
Now, Walt can't carry a tune in a bucket, but he is an excellent artisan, and he set out to research the dulcimer with an engineer's thoroughness. The design he came up with in a few months became the heart of the Sunhearth success. It was half engineering, half wit, and half luck. Over the first few years, he puzzled painfully though string physics, fret spacing, musical scales, and design refinements, but he build dulcimers that has a sweetness and clarity no one else had achieved. Most dulcimers begin to sound like thumb pianos up in the second octave, but Walt's just keep singing with that same sweetness all the way up to the strum hollow.
He was soon winning notice at fairs and music festivals around Pennsylvania.
...
Somewhere along the way, Mike and Walt met Lorraine Lee Hammond.
...
Walt called him his "Number Two Son", and it would be like keeping the business in the family if Dwain took it up.
...
Dwain Wilder studied formally with Walt for a few weeks to catch up on the arcane little corners of what Walt knew.
...
After a few years of development, Bear Meadow dulcimers are louder and more dynamic than Walter's were.
...
If you wish to list your Sunhearth instrument (Walter Martin also built banjos and hammered dulcimers) on our site, please contact us with the number, photo, your name and contacts.
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