Starry Lullabye

Ailing Houston-area native David Schnaufer has taken the Appalachian dulcimer to the mountaintop

In addition to his musical talents, Schnaufer is sage beyond his years. I toured with him one summer -- an epic journey from North Carolina to Maine in an Olds 88 -- and hung out with him quite a bit in the early '90s. He changed the way I think about not just music but life and politics too, in ways I have now internalized so deeply that I can't really recall specific examples. His mind is both extremely thoughtful and iconoclastic. He accepts almost nothing he reads or is told at face value and has a novelist's eye for detail. And he can find beauty almost anywhere or in anyone.

Schnaufer's later recordings found him continuing to break new ground. He cut music by everyone from Bach to Charles Mingus to Hank Williams. With Nashville composer Conni Ellisor, he also composed a classical concerto for the dulcimer called "Blackberry Winter," which Olympic gold medalist ice skater Ekaterina Gordeeva used on numerous occasions as her accompaniment.

Composing classical pieces for Russian ice skaters and founding endowed disciplines at elite universities...He has come along about as far from La Marque as you can get, and yet always, at bottom, remains the same Hank Williams-loving Gulf Coast kid he was born.

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