There may be no name more readily associated with the dulcimer in the United States - for decades this spellbinding singer and virtuoso player of hammered and mountain dulcimers has been highly acclaimed for her performances, several independent recordings, and as a gifted instructor both in person and in her series of books and videos for Mel Bay Publications.
Known for her talents as a singer and performer on the hammered and fretted dulcimers, she is equally well known for the warmth and generosity with which she shares her music and encourages others to play and sing. The silver-haired woman with the golden voice has won the admiration of countless fans across the country, performing in concerts and festivals throughout the United States. Maddie’s twenty-five years as a professional musician have produced many recordings as well as several books for Mel Bay Publications. She arranged the music for Ralph Lee Smith’s book from Mel Bay, Songs of the Wilderness Road. Maddie publishes Dulcimer Player News, which reaches dulcimer enthusiasts throughout the United States and in many other countries.
It has been said that Madeline MacNeil’s audiences hold their collective breath as the last notes of her songs drift into the tableau of stages large and small. Since 1972, when she began performing in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, Madeline’s goal has always been to bring listeners into the song. Her interest in stories first brought the mountain and hammered dulcimers to her attention, for they are part of this country’s musical history and the heritage of other countries before they arrived here. This is part of Madeline’s treasure as a performer: she sings and tells the stories with her beautiful voice and exceptional dulcimer skills.
"Very early into my teaching career at Warren County High School in Front Royal, Virginia," says Maddie, "I decided that being a folksinger might be a better option for life’s work. Fortunately, soon after that stunning decision I was hired to perform six nights a week in the Mountain Room at Skyland Lodge in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. I stayed there for six years, from 1972 through 1978, and the adventures and opportunities were many."
"I began my days there playing the guitar as an accompaniment to my singing, and most of my songs came from the repertoires of Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins. I knew there was a dulcimer in the folk world, having heard some recordings, but had never seen or heard one in person. That changed in 1974 when I met Ralph Lee Smith. What a simple statement that is to write! Meeting Ralph literally changed my life. He insisted that I add the dulcimer to my music—and I did. Through Ralph I became more interested in Southern Appalachian folks and their music. Also in those Skyland years I met the hammered dulcimer and the Dulcimer Players News became part of my life. Around 1978 I began to think about taking my music “on the road.”
"At the end of the 1978 season in the Park I resigned, saying I was ready for the road and it was ready for me. Those turned out to be “interesting” days, both with the travels and with Dulcimer Players News. I had so much to learn all over again about making music—and publishing—my career."