We continued working on the new CD as I started making plans to head west for the Southern regional in Mountain View Arkansas. The mecca of the mountain dulcimer world.
I remembered how my mentor Bob Thomason, who had won there, talked about this event. It was a major step up from the previous contests. I enlisted my friend Oliver to again take the ride out to Mountain View. We drove all night to get there in April of 1998. When we arrived, I started meeting some of the other contestants and listen to some good music. This seemed like the big time. I realized that this was not going to be easy.
Friday evening we headed out to the much talked about town square where there was a lot of music being played at different places around the square. That was a real neat experience for me. The next morning we had breakfast and we checked out the grounds of the Folk Art Center. The afternoon preliminaries where to be held in the main auditorium. I went over to check it out. It was huge. I had never been to the Grand Ole Opry, but this could have been it. I performed my two songs in the the prelims that afternoon and was chosen to be in the top five for the evening contest finals.
I did not know the other competitors being from the east coast. Most of these performers were from the mid west. The competition was fierce. I just concentrated on what I could do. Looking back now, I needed a little coaching and guidance to get into this level. Mark Tindal, two time national champion won first place. Linda Brockington won second, previous 2nd place finisher, and I placed third. I received a McSpadden dulcimer as my prize. I felt like I had done my best and took the notice of the the movers and shakers in the dulcimer world. I met Gary Gallier who came up to me and introduced himself. He was very complimentary of my playing and said he could show me a few things that would help me. I did not know who he was at the time.He was a judge and former National Champion in his own right. He showed me a few things that evening that helped develop my style even more. He has been a good friend since. I just needed to go back and regroup and work on my arrangements and get ready for the upcoming Mid Eastern Regionals in Ohio. Was I going? Oh yea! It seemed like a lot of traveling was in store for me. This little instrument was taking me across the country and I was having a ball. Stay tuned!