About Stefan: his instruments and musicianship.

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Born into a musical family, Stefan Dollak grew up around recorders, harpsichords, clavichords and many other musical instruments, starting on the piano at an early age.  In his teens, he taught himself how to play the guitar, thus beginning a personal musical journey starting with the Beatles and the Byrds, through a re-discovery of the music of his youth (Peter, Paul & Mary, Simon & Garfunkel, et al), to discoveries of the English Folk scene (Sandy Denny, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Richard Thompson, the Albion Band, Ashley Hutchings et al), to the more acoustic traditions that hinted at older musics (John Renbourn, Pentangle, the Incredible String Band, Martin Carthy, Amazing Blondel, Shirley Collins).  Finding an old LP on his parents shelf featuring the legendary Russell Oberlin singing lute songs by John Dowland helped determine Stefan’s musical destiny.

Stefan jamming with pipe & tabor legend Dick Bagwell.  In his 20s, Stefan used Bagwell's book "The Pipe and Tabor Tutor" to greatly improve his playing.  20 years later, they met for the first time!

Stefan jamming with pipe & tabor legend Dick Bagwell. In his 20s, Stefan used Bagwell’s book “The Pipe and Tabor Tutor” to greatly improve his playing. 20 years later, they met for the first time!

Through classical guitar studies with Barry Eisner (a student of Christopher Parkening, who himself was a student of Andres Segovia), voice lessons with Joe Szostak, and Collegium Musicum with the gambist and composer Roland Hutchinson (one of the world’s few players of the baryton), Stefan began a process of inquiry and practice leading him to take up unusual old instruments, starting with the mandolin, the penny-whistle, and the recorder, and then to the pipe & tabor, the hurdy-gurdy, the bladder-pipe, and other arcane instruments.  During this process, Stefan had to re-learn how to read music after stopping piano lessons some years earlier.  Due to this process of ‘re-learning,’ Stefan became aware of the difficulties involved in learning to read music, and incorporates this sensitivity into his teaching method.

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Stefan’s approach to presentation uses aspects of his theatrical and performance experience, combined with his sense of comic timing and zeal for discovery and enlightenment.  The challenge is to get the audience to realize that, even though they may be hearing this music (or instrument) for the very first time, they actually have loved this music all their lives.  This manipulation of time and space is common to all great music,  and so the spoken elements of Stefan’s early music presentations are typically on equal footing with the performances.  Thus, the experience of learning is as important as the subject being learned.

Stefan supplements his music literacy with improvisation and expressive interpretation, thus giving music from centuries past a new and immediate impact on his audience, while attractively communicating otherworldy, ancient qualities.

Stefan Dollak plays the following instruments:

lute, guitar, mandolin, mandora, psaltery, Appalachian dulcimer

recorders (SATB), feadog (Irish whistle), low whistle, ocarinas (various sizes), gemshorn, capped reeds (crumhorn, cornemuse, kortholt, rauschpfeife), bladder-pipe

pipe & tabor, pipe & string drum, symfoniae (medieval hurdy-gurdies)

various medieval percussion (tabors, nakers, tamburello, etc)

Published on April 15, 2010 at 7:57 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Congrats! Keep up the momentum. Love what you are doing.

  2. I love your YouTube page and videos. Recently I have developed a serious interest is historical instruments. I’d love to learn where to look for mandora or Lute”kulele” music. Are there old tablatures to find like there are for other lutes?

    Thanks for your great videos!

    • Hi Gregory! Thanks for writing.
      Yes, there are old tabs that date to the mid-16th century for the four-course guitar, which was tuned similarly to the ukulele (G-c-e-a, low to high). Adrien Le Roy published a notable collection of guitar music, and I think there may be some other publishers and manuscript sources. There were also publishers of tablature music for the mandore (which in the 16th and 17th century was a small lute, not unlike the one I play in my YT vids), but the tuning is a bit different. Also, there was a significant amount of tablature music for the 4-course cittern, printed around 1600, which is certainly playable on the “lute-kulele,” but again, the tuning is a bit different.
      If you’re like me, you enjoy reading facsimiles of these editions, and there are some library sites that have made them available. There are also lots of lute society sites that have links to treasure troves of facsimiles and modern editions in tablature as well as modern notation.
      As for me, I usually devise my own edition, using single-line melody sources (like Playford or Orchesographie) which end up as ‘head arrangements’ or very minimal lead sheets. Perhaps someday I’ll put them all down in tab!

      And thanks! I’m glad you enjoy the videos… I hope to make more soon!


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