Performers / Instructors 2015

Karen Mueller

Karen Mueller is one of the top performers and instructors on the dulcimer circuit today, specializing in mountain dulcimer and autoharp. Based in Minneapolis, she has been a workshop leader from coast to coast as well as in England. Her exciting and innovative performing style features Appalachian, Celtic and contemporary music. /Bluegrass Unlimited/ magazine has said "Karen Mueller's touch, timing and taste make her a true virtuoso. Her talent and clarity...deserve a wide audience." Karen won the 1986 International Autoharp Championship and was a National Dulcimer finalist in 1985, both at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS. In 2006 she was inducted into the Autoharp Hall of Fame. A native of Winfield, she first attended the festival while in high school and was inspired to learn to play the autoharp and dulcimer by the performers she saw there. She has released six solo CDs and authored three music books. Karen is an active teacher of private lessons, school classes and residencies, and also performs with Irish singer Katie McMahon, the original lead singer from /Riverdance/. In 2012, Karen received a McKnight Artist Fellowship, one of the top honors and awards for musicians in Minnesota.

Kendra Ward & Bob Bence

KENDRA WARD, hammered dulcimer teacher and performer and Kendra's husband and guitar & banjo instructor BOB BENCE The music of Kendra Ward and Bob Bence has its roots deep in the mountains of Appalachia and it possesses a universal appeal that the duo has shared with audiences around the world for more than 30 years.

Kendra is a musician, teacher, author and composer with a lifetime of experience in traditional Appalachian arts. She has played the dulcimer since the age of four, learning primarily from her Father and her Grandmother, but also from her constant exposure to the fiddlers, banjo players, dancers and other traditional artists who live in the Appalachian hills she has always called home. Bob is an award-winning musician who possesses a uniquely bold and powerful guitar style, and a twisted sense of humor. His professional credits include not only festivals and concert halls, but also comedy clubs and improv stages! Bob doesn't work the comedy clubs any more, but audiences still enjoy his spontaneous wit in concert with Kendra, and at the numerous "emceeing" gigs he gets!

Together Kendra Ward and Bob Bence have earned a reputation as one of the most entertaining and influential traditional music duos in the nation. They have released ten CDs and are the authors of a number of DVDs and instructional books.

Aaron O'Rourke

Aaron O'Rourke Aaron began teaching and performing on mountain dulcimer at the age of 16. In a short period of time, Aaron became one of the headlining names at many dulcimer festivals across the country. To date, Aaron has authored nine instructional books for mountain dulcimer.

In 2010, Aaron won the National Mountain Dulcimer Competition held at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS. Aaron is also a past winner in the Florida Old-time music competition held in Dade City, FL and the Southeastern Regional Dulcimer Contest in Mountain View, AR.

As the front man of the Aaron O'Rourke Trio, a group consisting of mountain dulcimer, fiddle and upright bass that melds the sounds of traditional Irish and Old-Time music with classically influenced arrangements and original compositions, he has headlined many folk and progressive acoustic music festivals in the southeast including the Florida Folk Festival, Gamble Rogers Folk Festival, and Stringbreak Festival. In 2007, the group released its debut self-titled album which is currently available on David Grisman's digital record label, Acoustic Oasis. In 2012, the current line-up, featuring Katie Geringer on fiddle and Erik Alvar on bass, released its debut CD, "Syzygy" on Gatorbone Records.