Dusty Strings has just unveiled a new harp model, so we figured it was time to catch up with the people behind the product, company founders Ray and Sue Mooers. We asked them to tell us more about their new harp and other things.
What prompted you to design a concert tension lever harp?
We’ve been asked now and then over the years for a concert tension Dusty, and when a dealer suggested we do a version of the Ravenna 34 with concert gut, it clicked. That design platform, which uses a unique time-saving construction technique, would let us offer the same combination of economy and features that has earned the Ravenna worldwide appreciation. It seemed like it could be very useful for teachers and students, so we gave it a go. It is our first concert-tension lever harp.
Who are you hoping will buy it?
The initial goal was to provide another choice of lever harp for students on the pedal harp track, as well as for pedal harpists who want a smaller instrument to take out and about. However, based on the initial feedback, we think the Boulevard will also appeal to non-pedal harpists who are looking for an instrument with a shorter sustain and a more typical gut sound.
When was the last time you released a new model?
The most recent model before the Boulevard was the FH34, which came out in 2009. The time in between has been focused on keeping up with building harps and making improvements to existing models and processes.
What has been the reaction so far?
Concert tension was a new world for us to explore, so we sent prototypes to a few of our dealers in the US and abroad to get feedback. We basically wanted to know whether teachers would recommend the Boulevard to their students. The answer was an overwhelming “yes.” The price, the portability, the flexible height and the quality and extra features of the case elicited the most appreciative comments. The tension and feel were deemed similar to pedal harp, and appropriate for students starting down that track. When you’re asking for critiques of the sound of an instrument, you get wide-ranging feedback, which will be true of any harp ever made! Everybody’s got their own particular thing they’re looking for, but on the whole, those tonal assessments were very positive.
Where can people try it out?
We’ll have a Boulevard to try at the AHS conference in New Orleans this June, and we’ll be bringing one to the Somerset Festival in July and the Southeastern Harp Weekend in October. We will also start to fill orders in early June, so we encourage people to check with their local store or give us a call if they’d like to find out more.
Tell us about Dusty Strings…..this is a family operation for you, right?
We started the company in our basement 35 years ago, with no real idea of what we were getting into! Basically, it was a hobby that got out of control. We started out making hammered dulcimers, then added harps a few years later, and we’ve grown from 2 people to a “family” of 45 over the years, all of whom have been instrumental (pun intended) in developing a music store, music school, and harp and dulcimer-building operation. Our daughter, Christy, who once sat patiently in a baby backpack while Ray strung and tuned harps, is now working here on web-design and development and more. Our son, Devin, occasionally consults on web architecture. If you want a real chuckle on how far we’ve come, there’s a story on our website about the true beginnings of Dusty Strings, including embarrassing photographs of hammered dulcimer #1. (Read the story!)
Who’s the harpist in the family?
Well… Ray is Chief Harp Noodler and plays for his own enjoyment and to assess the tone of the instruments that we make. Sue is Assistant Harp Plunker. Christy, who has a degree in music composition and theory and plays violin and bass, once took a harp lesson and was shown proper hand position. Everyone here would love to learn to play well but our first priority is designing and building. So when we’re finalizing a new harp design, we make sure to get feedback from professionals!
Anything else you want people to know?
We want to make sure people know that the Boulevard is quite different in sound and feel from our other harps. If they’re used to our lower tension harps or they are in love with the iconic bright and ringing “Dusty sound,” the Boulevard may seem like a mystifying departure. But for players who are looking for less sustain, the extra warmth of gut, or a pedal harp feel, the Boulevard could be just the thing.