Bella Vistans find harmony in Southern Strings musical group

Bella Vistans find harmony in Southern Strings musical group

What if for one day everything stopped, Los Angeles artist Brian Mallman wondered. And on that day, “we all just listened to the music.”

The result was Play Music on the Porch Day, created by Mallman in 2014. At last count, the observance has more than 1,200 participating locations in 80 countries. And this year, Bella Vista has gotten in on the act.

“This is something I hadn’t heard of before this year,” says Xyta Lucas, co-president of the Bella Vista Historical Society. But she immediately saw the potential. After all, the Bella Vista Historical Museum has a Settlers Cabin with a porch, and Lucas knew that Southern Strings would probably be interested.

Founded in 2015 by four dulcimer players — the late Patsy Ward and three of her students — Southern Strings has grown to include 15 players on mountain dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, mandolin, kalimba, piano, echo harmonica, bowed psaltery, folk harp, cajon, chord stick, guitar and banjo. Experience levels range from Pat Kirby, who started playing piano when she was 6, to her husband, Mark, a retired minister who didn’t pick up an instrument of any kind until five years ago.

“Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember,” Pat Kirby says. “But it’s something that my husband and I could never enjoy together as a couple. He would be the first to tell you he knows nothing about music!

“The dulcimer is a fairly easy instrument to learn, as you play by finger numbering instead of notes. So now we have a way we both can enjoy music together.”

Mark, who is 77, says “you’re never to old to enjoy life. Find the instrument that is easy for you to play and let it speak to your soul.”

Sande Sederburg is the only Southern Strings member remaining from the original four and plays echo harmonica, mountain dulcimer, mandolin, kalimba and piano. She started taking piano lessons at age 10 and played the alto saxophone through junior and senior high and college, but she wasn’t exposed to a mountain dulcimer until she heard one played at Silver Dollar City in the early 2000s.

“I always have a song in my head,” she says. “[And] making music with others fosters friendship and is a way to feel connected.”

“Making music is both fun and therapy for me,” says Lisa Ferguson, who plays hammered dulcimer with Southern Strings. Already a pianist, she says her pivotal exposure to mountain music also happened in Branson.

“At the fall craft fair in Silver Dollar City one year, there was a hammered dulcimer luthier — Jim Round — right past the entrance,” she remembers. “The sound of the instrument just captivated me immediately. My parents gave me a hammered dulcimer as a gift when I graduated from veterinary school.”

Ferguson was living in Tulsa at the time and had access to an active dulcimer club.

“My piano background helped, as I could easily read music and understood chords and music theory. Now, after retirement, I spend some time every day practicing and playing the dulcimer,” she says. “I’ve done a lot of solo stuff with my dulcimer, and I enjoy introducing people to the instrument, and if they already know it, letting them see the broad range of music you can play on the dulcimer. It’s not just fiddle tunes! But I do love the old fiddle tunes.”

Rosie Floyd has only been playing her mountain dulcimer about a year, but she loves an audience.

“There is nothing sweeter than to hear someone singing along with the tune, or clapping their hands, especially the elderly, as you know they have many fond memories in their minds as they listen and participate,” she says.

“I hope Play on the Porch Day music maybe relieves the stress of the world for a little while,” adds Linda Uttley, who plays guitar and banjo. “If just a few people can receive happiness or joy from our music, that makes me motivated to play more. I hope it will encourage someone to pick up a instrument and make their own music.”


Play Music on the Porch Day:

The Southern Strings

WHEN — 10:15-11 a.m. Aug. 26

WHERE — On and around the porch of the Settler’s Cabin on the grounds of the Bella Vista Historical Museum

COST — Free

INFO —; for info on Southern Strings, email

FYI — Guests are invited to bring lawn chairs to the museum.

BONUS — Another group of musicians will play along the trails around the Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel from 9-10:30 a.m.



See video from a Southern Strings rehearsal at

Categories: Music