Karen Mueller is one of the top autoharp players in the world, attaining the two highest honors for the instrument: winning the International Autoharp Championship and being inducted into the Autoharp Hall of Fame. She tours nationally and in England, has released five critically-lauded solo recordings, and published three instructional books. Her performances amaze, engage and uplift audiences wherever she plays. Karen’s repertoire ranges from traditional old-time and Celtic to contemporary and classical music. Besides her ground-breaking work with the autoharp, she also performs, teachers and records on the Appalachian dulcimer, mandolin, guitar and ukulele. A committed educator, Karen is in constant demand as a private instructor, workshop director, and residency artist. Since 2000, Karen has also performed with Katie McMahon, the original lead singer of Riverdance, and serves as bandleader for shows and tours. Karen was inducted into the Autoharp Hall of Fame in 2006, won first-place winner at the International Autoharp Championships in 1986, won the McKnight Artist Fellowship for Performing Musicians in 2012, and received the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Association Recognition of Excellence Award in 2000. She has performed at Festival and Workshops all over the country and abroad, including Sore Fingers Week in England, the Augusta Heritage Center, the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, the Ozark Folk Center, Seattle Autoharp Week where she is also the co-founder and Director, the California Traditional Music Society Festival in Los Angeles, Minnesota Bluegrass & Old Time Music Association Festivals, and the Minnesota Irish Festival, the Cedar Cultural Center, in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS (performer and judge for national competitions), the Old Songs Festival, New York, the Official showcase artist at Folk Alliance International Conference in Boston, the Summer Acoustic Music Festival in Houston, the Northeast Dulcimer Symposium in New York, Kentucky Music Week in Louisville and has been a Soloist (dulcimer and autoharp) with the Lirica, Vox Corda, and 3M Orchestras. “She’s taking the autoharp into new and exciting territory.” — Dirty Linen magazine; “Karen Mueller’s touch, timing and taste make her a true virtuoso. Her talent and clarity of musical vision deserve a wide audience.” —Bluegrass Unlimited; “Her playing will blow you away.”— Lorinda Jones, director, Heartland Festival, Kentucky; “An album of fine musicianship and well thought-out arrangements…a thoroughly enjoyable album.” — Old-Time Herald review of “Landscape of the Heart” CD.
John Gwinner is a versatile musician who plays mandolin, fiddle, dobro, electric lap steel, and guitar. His music draws from a diverse range of musical styles, rooted in a rich mix of Americana. John and Tina’s interest in music had them both involved in radio broadcasting at university FM stations, and John continues to host a folk and bluegrass program at California State University, Stanislaus. John has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about the pioneers of country music, and he is an avid fan of early jazz-influenced western swing groups led by band leaders such as Milton Brown and Bob Wills. Tina Louise Barr and John Gwinner perform as “Hot Wire” and will be featured during our Cambria Picking in the Pines autoharp festivities. Fasten your seat belt, it will be a lively show! In the meantime, check out Tina’s Facebook Page.
Carey Dubbert has been playing music for 65 years. Though best known for autoharp and hammered dulcimer, his other instruments have included the piano, orchestral percussion, and bassoon. He has been a featured performer and workshop leader at the California Autoharp Gathering, the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering, the Willamette Valley Autoharp Gathering, the Sonoma County Folk Festival, the Occidental Center for the Arts, and the San Francisco Free Folk Festival, as well as assisting with the Northern California Autoharp Study Group. He has won the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering contest and the National Hammered Dulcimer Championships in Winfield, Kansas.
Noted for his relaxed and comfortable teaching style, playing tunes is always an important part of his workshops. Participants are encouraged to achieve the sound they desire by finding techniques that work best for them.
Having grown up in Rochester, Minnesota and then graduated from the University of Minnesota, it was a quite an adventure to do graduate studies at the Manhattan School of Music. While in New York City, he played bassoon with the New York City Symphony and a big band called “The New York Brass”.
“Thanks Dad” was Carey’s first recording featuring his hammered dulcimer. Next came “One Of Mine”, a wonderfully relaxing mixture of hammered dulcimer and autoharp. On his most recent CD, “Being Home”, Carey plays autoharp and hammered dulcimer. Carey was honored to be chosen to be included on both “The Autoharp Legacy” CD and “Autoharp: Up Close and Personal” DVD.
Occidental, California, has been home to Carey and his wife for about 35 years. They have two fine cats and a varying number of chickens. Ellindale is known for her fiber arts and quilting.
Ray Choi was born in Chuang Ju in South Korea in 1959. When he was a teenager he taught himself to yodel and went on to start a yodeling club and began a yodeling and singing career, winning a national competition in Korea. He found he had a natural ability for music, theory and perfect pitch, and soon taught himself guitar. In 1968 he heard his first chromaharp, and was so impressed by its sound that a few years later he got his first autoharp, teaching himself strums, finger and thumb picking.
In 1984 he followed Jane to California, where they later married, and had two children, David and Esther. Together Ray and Jane own and operate Grace Music in Tustin. After collaborating with mentor Paul Cramm, a luthier in Orange County, Ray became a luthier, building beautiful, rich resonating tones with full volume into the warm and exotic woods of his own autoharps. Currently Ray has built over 650 autoharps, each taking about 100 hours to craft. Through the years Ray has given lessons to as many as 600 students. Ray is also Music Director of his church, performing at many other churches and public events, including weddings, funerals and celebrations. Ray conducts autoharp workshops and concerts and currently has two local autoharp groups that he meets with monthly. In his spare time Ray is compiling three new books for autoharpists: one of approximately 650 hymns, and another of approximately 1000 popular, folk, religious, western and classical songs, all in authoharp tabluature, a booklet illustrating his finger techniques, and a book/DVD for beginning autoharpists.
Although Ray plays woodwind instruments, mandolin, and guitar, he lives and breathes the autoharp. “I think autoharp all the time, all day, when I wake up and when I try to sleep,” he passionately states. Over the years he has developed a new technique, dubbed “the hummingbird tremolo” because of its incredibly fast flutter of fingers across the strings, similar to the sound of a mandolin, a skill that took 1000’s of hours to perfect. In 2011,using this new skill, Ray Choi won both first place championships at both the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering and the Walnut Valley International Music Festival in the same year, a feat only a few other autoharpists have ever accomplished.
Ray has sold 1000’s of Oscar Schmidt autoharp through the years and the company calls him “Mr. Autoharp.” His passion for the autoharp resonates not only through his own handcrafted instruments, but also through the intensity of his skill, passion and dedication to his students and the autoharp community as he teaches, sings, yodels, and plays the songs we’ve all come to love. Ray truly lives and breathes the autoharp!