As Ray and I explored downtown New Harmony last Thursday afternoon, we were intrigued by this business on the corner.
Was it a theater perhaps?
To our surprise, it was a dulcimer shop. We went inside and saw a wire art sculpture of a trumpet-playing New Harmony High School band member in the center of the room.
You can see the trumpet better in this picture.
When I asked about the statue, we learned that New Harmony High School closed in 2012 (or was it 2011?). According to one of the men operating the shop, that graduating class had only 11 members. The school had been small for a long time. It had only 38 graduates when he graduated a half-century ago, but it would “still be open if Jane Owen was still alive,” he said.
Soon the two men operating the shop were telling us the story of how a town of 750 ended up with a dulcimer shop.
As Rick Gooden, the minister I told you about yesterday, said more than once: “A town of 750 needs a dulcimer shop, don’t you think?”
Rick Huffman is a transplant from Kentucky. Rick Gooden is from New Harmony. Both majored in music. Huffman is a former band director, but Gooden earned his living for many years in electronics. He did that work in some impressive places, including the vice president’s home in Washington, D.C. When Gooden was in his early 50s, he returned to New Harmony to care for his mother, who had Alzheimer’s. New Harmony did not have enough opportunities for him to continue in electronics, so he began to do the woodworking that he enjoyed so much, working especially in historic restoration.
One day Rick Huffman heard Rick Gooden playing music in his woodworking shop. Huffman started trying to convince Gooden to build a dulcimer. He went on trying to convince him for a year and a half! Finally Gooden, in his early 60s then, agreed to build one.
That one dulcimer was the beginning. Huffman and Gooden have been business partners now for six years. Gooden builds these beautiful dulcimers. They sell 15 to 20 a month. Some of the best dulcimer players in America are now using New Harmony dulcimers.
Gooden builds — beautifully.
Huffman plays — beautifully.
Gooden told us that he puts Soli Deo Gloria inside each dulcimer he makes. He began doing that after learning that Johann Sebastian Bach wrote the first letters of these words at the end of most of his musical scores. Soli Deo Gloria means “Glory to God Alone.”
Rick and Rick enjoyed telling us the story of this special dulcimer. It is a courting dulcimer. Parents once used these when their daughters were courting. Couples sat opposite one another and each played one side. “Of course, you can visit our daughter alone,” they told her suitor, “as long as we keep hearing the music.”
One of the most important lessons you will ever teach your children is what each New Harmony dulcimer says inside.
. . . whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31b