Appalachian dulcimers are long, slender and curvy stringed instruments that produce a simple, rustic, melodious sound.
Jeremy Seeger, a nephew of folk legend Pete Seeger, has dedicated his life to crafting and playing them. He’ll share his knowledge of and deep appreciation for the admittedly “underground” instrument in a session of classes at Newton Community Education starting next month.
“The dulcimer, if you play it traditionally, is very easy to get good sound out of,” explained Seeger, who splits his time between Newton and Rochester, Vt.
It’s just one of many classes offered at schools, libraries, and community centers across the region this winter, from cooking instruction in Southborough to yoga in Shirley to personal fitness in Acton.
In Seeger’s eight-week session, to begin Jan. 16 at Newton North High School and open to newcomers to the instrument, he will introduce the fundamentals of playing the dulcimer, including strumming techniques and how to tune and replace strings. The goal, Seeger said, will be to start out with basic melodies, and have each player build up a repertoire of songs, and even compose their own.
“Everybody has a yearning to make music,’’ Seeger said. “People can come in never having played it.”
With just three (and sometimes four) strings and a simple fret pattern, the dulcimer is typically considered one of the easier string instruments to play. Tradition calls for it to be played while it lays flat on the lap, with the right hand plucking or strumming, and the left fretting.
“One of the beauties of the instrument is there’s not a false note on it,” said Seeger.
Unless you’re a Joni Mitchell or Jean Ritchie fan, you may not be familiar with it; Seeger calls its culture robust but “real underground,” with roughly 250 dulcimer clubs across the country, and several festivals held throughout the year.
“I’d say it’s alive and well, and not easily commercialized,” he said.
So how did he get into it? He called it “totally intuitive,” fitting in with how he’s “wired” for music. He started playing in 1968, and soon began crafting his own dulcimers; he now sells his instruments to artists all over the world. He also builds and sells Qilauts, a sacred Eskimo drum.
“Even though I come from a musical family, music has never come easy for me,” he explained. “I had to really work at it.”
Which translates to his instructing style.
“I teach to people’s abilities and how they’re wired for making music,” said Seeger, who is soft-spoken and has a laid-back demeanor. “Some people are fast runners and some people are long-distance runners. It’s the same with music. Some of us are wired for very fast, intricate work, and for others, it’s all about putting your heart into it, and expressing it.”
Tuition for “Play the Dulcimer” is $111, plus a materials fee of $20; participants provide their own dulcimers (which can be ordered through Seeger or at Music & Arts in Newton Centre). Other offerings by Newton Community Education include ukulele instruction, beekeeping, fitness boxing, improvisational acting, and Chinese brush painting, among many others. Visit www2.newtoncommunityed.org for details and to register.
Here are some other area classes coming up this winter:
Personal financial management and physical well-being — or, more specifically, identifying your goals regarding money and taking up the practice of yoga — may appear to be about as far apart as two forms of self-improvement can be, with the only factor the two have in common that both figure into many people’s lists of New Year’s resolutions.
But to Kripalu yoga instructor Nadia Puttini and certified financial planner Gayle Colman, the two areas overlap in profound ways. The two women will be exploring how the subjects interact through a series of three-week courses called “MoneYoga.”
“The theme for the winter session is human capital,” explained Colman. “Human capital can be described as our career and the capital, or value, of us as human beings contributing to society, and receiving benefits in the form of monetary currency. In short, being healthy — physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually — to work and be of service.”
The workshop, which meets monthly at Puttini’s Bare Sole Yoga, 581 Rutland St. in Carlisle, on Thursday evenings beginning Jan. 16, includes body movement, meditation, discussion, and journaling. The cost is $70 per term.
For more information, visit www.gaylecolman.com or www.baresoleyoga.com.
The Culinary Underground school is holding a series of classes to introduce novice cooks to classic food-preparation techniques in two six-week sessions this winter.
Evening sessions will run Tuesdays from Jan. 7 to Feb. 11 from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Morning sessions will be held Wednesdays from Jan. 8 to Feb. 12 from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The session topics include knife skills and kitchen tips; soups and simple sauces; moist-heat cooking methods such as boiling, steaming, and stewing; dry-heat cooking methods such as searing, sautéing and grilling; eggs and vegetables; and pasta, rice, and whole grains.
All classes are in the Culinary Underground’s kitchen at 21 Turnpike Road (Route 9 West), and the cost is $375 for each six-week session. For a full class schedule and descriptions, and to register, visit www.culinaryunderground.com or call 508-904-6589.
Personal Training International develops personalized fitness plans for young and old based on an individual’s age, athleticism, and needs, according to Yury Klimovitsky, who founded the company in 2003 and was an Olympic track and field coach in Ukraine.
All sessions and classes are directed by experienced personal trainers and instructors. Fees range from $5 to $20 per group exercise class, and from $27 an hour for small group training with a personal trainer to $130 an hour for one-on-one instruction by a master trainer.
For additional information, go to www.personaltraininginternational.net or call 978-897-2300.
Residents of Acton and Boxborough can register now for the Wellness and You event that will take place on Jan. 11 at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School.
The event is open to residents 18 years and older and is designed to promote a healthy lifestyle, physically and mentally. Workshops will be held throughout the day and vendors will be on hand. The event goes from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Registration forms are available on the town’s website, www.acton-ma.gov.
For more information, contact the Acton Health Department at 978-929-6632.
The town’s Recreation Commission is running yoga classes at Hazen Memorial Library on Wednesdays this winter, with sessions for adults and seniors.
Both classes will run Jan. 8 to March 5, with no classes Feb. 19. The class for seniors will meet from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and cost $30 for Shirley residents and $35 for nonresidents. The adult class will run from 6:45 to 8 p.m. and cost $65 for residents and $70 for nonresidents, with a drop-in rate of $10 per class. All participants should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing and bring a towel and yoga mat to class.
The registration deadline is Jan. 6. Checks should be made payable to Town of Shirley Recreation and mailed to Town of Shirley Recreation, 7 Keady Way, Shirley, MA 01464. For more information and a registration form, visit the town’s website, www.shirley-ma.gov.
The Emerson Hospital Integrative Health & Wellness Center offers a wide range of classes and programs designed to keep people of all ages healthy.
The center offers regular classes such as yoga, self-defense and tai chi, and a variety of specialized workshops.
Special classes include “Bold Vision,’’ which teaches participants skills they need to create success in their personal and professional lives, and “Drum for Your Health,’’ a group drumming program to reduce stress. Times, dates, location and cost of programs vary. Visit the center’s website, www.emersonhealthyliving.org, for a calendar and description of classes.