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About Matthew

Abelson grew up in Princeton, New Jersey and was introduced to the hammered dulcimer at age 6, when his father built one for his other brother. Both of his parents were involved with the Princeton Folk Music Society and folk musicians would often visit their home. While his brother's interest in the dulcimer evaporated, Abelson's fascination grew.

He began practicing on his own, every day for a month. This convinced his parents that he was ready for music lessons. So, following a more conventional route, the dulcimer was stored away and the family piano became his focus.

     "I studied piano for 10 years and in fifth graded began violin lessons. In seventh grade, I switched to viola and became very good, very fast. There was something about the viola's deeper, richer sound that encouraged me to play. I ended up as a first chair in my high school orchestra, coaching the entire section. I also played with the Lewis String Quartet."

      By this time, Abelson had taken up a variety of instruments such as the bagpipes and the English concertina. Abelson remembers, "There was a wall in my parents' living room that had three guitars, two banjos, a lap dulcimer, a hammered dulcimer, kazoos, nose flutes, and Appalachian rhythm toys. Although I was surrounded by music, it was always a casual interest of mine - I never thought of becoming a professional musician."

      When it was time for choosing a college, it was as important the it offered a good music school as well as a good biology program, his stated major. He choose Oberlin College, where hew as reintroduced to the hammered dulcimer. One of the residents in his dormitory has set one up and Abelson couldn't resist. He sat down with his long forgotten, trapezoidal friend and played several melodies from his childhood. He was hooked - again. In 1990, he pulled together the funds to buy a dulcimer and, again , taught himself how to play.

      In October 1991, he traveled to New Orleans with friends and played as a street musician in the French Quarter. It was then he realized his love for performing for an audience.

      Abelson returned to college and was graduated in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in biology. In the summer of 1993, a job offer at a molecular genetics research and some music gigs lured him to Cleveland, Ohio. The research job never panned out, but his public performances encouraged him to pursue his dream.

     Between gigs he worked at a local coffee shop and a cooperative grocery store to make ends meet. Many meals were missed as he saved the $3,500 needed to produce his first demo tape and CD. Abelson quit his day jobs in 1994 when he landed a Christmas gig at Tower City, an upscale shopping mall in Cleveland. As he stood on stage in front of thousands and performed, he knew he was headed in the right direction.

      His second hammered dulcimer was built in 1984 by the late Michael Autorino. It was on this instrument that he recorded his first CD, The Flying Dulcimer. His most recent CD, From There to Here is the last recording to feature this instrument. Abelson now performs on a custom James Jones acoustic/ electric dulcimer with dampers, three fill chromatic octaves and an extra octave on bass.

     Abelson plays a variety of musical styles. Although he started with primarily Irish tunes, his repertoire now includes traditional American music as well as classical, renaissance, jazz, and original works. His performances are exciting, engaging, and entertaining - weaving together traditional stories, personal anecdotes and humor to compliment the music.

      Abelson is now performing, recording, and teaching full-time. He appears extensively at colleges, universities, major festivals and coffee houses through-out the Mid-Atlantic region, Michigan and his home state of Ohio. His audiences have included President Clinton, Vice President Gore, author Anne Rice and other notables. In May 1999, Abelson took first place at the Mid=East Regional Hammered Dulcimer Competition.


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