Gwen Meister and Bill Behmer will present “The Mountain Dulcimer” on Monday, Dec. 9.

The two will speak at 5 p.m. at the Alliance Public Library. This presentation is made possible by Humanities Nebraska, the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, and the Alliance Public Library Foundation as part of the Humanities Nebraska Speaker Bureau.

Using folk songs as illustrations, Bill Behmer outlines the history and folklore of this simple-to-play, inexpensive and often homemade American folk instrument. He discusses the dulcimer’s European and Asian ancestors and similar fretted zithers found in other musical traditions. He demonstrates and compares traditional and contemporary playing styles, a variety of tuning methods and how to play the dulcimer by ear. Behmer is accompanied by his wife, Gwen Meister, singing harmony and playing autoharp and rhythm instruments.

Behmer has been playing American folk music for more than 40 years and is one of the founders of LAFTA, the Lincoln Association for Traditional Arts. He received a Mayor’s Arts Award from the Lincoln Arts Council for his volunteer work promoting old-time folk music. Behmer plays the mountain dulcimer and is a three-time Midwest dulcimer champion. He has done extensive research into the history and playing styles of this and other American folk instruments.

Gwen Meister is a folklorist with a master’s degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Meister served as the state folk arts coordinator for the Nebraska Arts Council in Omaha for five years. She was also the founding executive director of the Nebraska Folklife Network in Lincoln, a statewide non-profit organization that documents, promotes and presents Nebraska’s ethnic and other folk traditions to the public.

“The Mountain Dulcimer” is one of approximately 300 programs offered through the Humanities Nebraska Speakers Bureau. The more than 165 available speakers include acclaimed scholars, writers, musicians, storytellers and folklorists on topics ranging from pioneer heritage to ethics and law to international and multicultural issues, making it the largest Humanities Speakers Bureau in the nation.

Speakers are available to any non-profit organization in Nebraska. Each program lasts 30 minutes to an hour, plus a question-and-answer period.

The most frequent users of the HN Speakers Bureau are primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, libraries, museums and historical societies, agencies for the elderly, rural organizations, churches, arts organizations and ethnic organizations. Humanities Nebraska sponsors the largest Speakers Bureau program in the U.S. according to the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For information detailing the available speakers and guidelines for booking them, please access Humanities Nebraska website at www.humanitiesnebraska.org (Speakers section) or contact Humanities Nebraska at 215 Centennial Mall South, Suite 330, Lincoln, NE 68508, phone (402) 474-2131, fax (402) 474-4852 or e-mail info@humanitiesnebraska.org.

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