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
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
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