Dobro instructor joins Allegheny Echoes
A week-long celebration of mountain music and art commenced this week as Allegheny Echoes kicked off its 15th annual series of workshops and concerts.
Allegheny Echoes is a non-profit organization, incorporated by a group of West Virginia musicians and other artists, to teach, promote and preserve Appalachian culture. More than 100 students and instructors arrived in Marlinton starting Sunday evening to participate in the group's annual workshops and jam sessions.
Marlinton Motor Inn serves as the operations center for the event. Classes are conducted in several festival tents on the motel grounds, with the mountains of Monongahela National Forest providing a scenic backdrop. As the students and instructors pluck and strum in the various tents, the music combines to create a gorgeous melody.
Classes are conducted every year on a variety of instruments and broken down into styles and skill levels. In addition to the Motor Inn, classes are held at several Marlinton locations, including the Pocahontas County Opera House and City National Bank.
New to the Allegheny Echoes curriculum this summer is bluegrass dobro, taught by instructor Chris Stockwell, of Birch River. A dobro, or resonating guitar, is played on the lap with a slide and features a large metal resonator plate.
Stockwell said a dobro is somewhat similar to a steel guitar.
"The dobro has six strings - a pedal steel will have eight-to-10," he said. "It's like an acoustic version of a steel guitar."
The doboro is less traditional than a fiddle or banjo, according to the instructor.
"The dobro is one of the younger instruments, it hasn't been around very long," he said. "The difference is that you play it with a slide instead of playing it with your fingers. Most normal instruments, like a fiddle, you're playing with your fingers but you're playing with a bow. A dobro, you're playing like a banjo, with finger picks, but you're playing it with a slide."
The new instructor said the sound of a dobro is unique.
"It gives you more of a lonesome kind of sound, almost a bluesy kind of sound," he said. "It really has its own voice. It has more of a sliding kind of sound, kind of a whine effect to it."
Stockwell started singing at an early age and also played drums and guitar. In 2002, he listened to a record by an Ohio dobro player and liked it so much, he decided to learn the instrument himself.
"I first heard a Jerry Douglas album - he's one of the best out there," he said. "Strength In Numbers is the album and I heard it when I was in college and it pretty much turned my ear around. It really got me into the instrument."
Stockwell was teaching a class to two students; Chuck Andreatta, of Washington, D.C. and Mark Dean, of Morgantown.
Andreatta has played banjo for 39 years and is attending his ninth Allegheny Echoes, but his class with Stockwell was his first time on the instrument.
"I always liked the sound of the dobro," he said. "It's got a lot of sustain. In other words, the strings keep sounding a lot longer than banjo strings. It's real tasteful in particular songs, especially slower songs."
The Washingtonian said he was "hooked" on Allegheny Echoes.
"This is my ninth year," he said. "I first started in 2003 and I'm pretty much hooked. I schedule my summer every year around it. Number one is the quality of instruction here. They have advanced level, if you're at that level, which I am on the banjo. But they also have the beginners on the different instruments and they have really patient instructors. Like anything you do repeatedly, the people get to be sort of like family. Every year it's like coming to a reunion."
Dean is attending his first Allegheny Echoes. He's staying in Marlinton with his future in-laws, Greg and Cathy Mosesso, who inspired him to learn a musical instrument.
"I have family members who play," he said. "I spent a lot of time with them and decided that, rather than listen, I would try to pick something up and play with them."
The Morgantown resident taught himself dobro, starting six years ago, but decided to get some formal instruction.
"I always did think it was a neat instrument," he said. "I pretty much self-taught, but kind of hit a plateau, where I needed someone to show me some things. When I found out there was going to be a dobro instructor here, I got real interested."
The Allegheny Echoes student concert is scheduled for June 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Pocahontas County Opera House. The instructor concert will be held at the Opera House on June 24 at 7:30 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public. For a full schedule of Allegheny Echoes activities, see alleghenyechoes.com on the internet or call Monica Bing at 304-799-7121.