In Memory of Tom Scanlan


by Dinah Ansley
on behalf of the Blue Ridge Mountain Dulcimer Players Club

​ One day, about 15 years ago, two people took note of an instrument they heard played on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The moment changed mountain dulcimer history in Central Virginia and beyond.

​   With extraordinary dedication and enthusiasm, Tom and Jan Scanlan became this area’s strongest advocates for an instrument that barely anybody could identify.  They studied, researched, and took lessons so they could play the mountain dulcimer.

​ Tom and Jan went to workshops in North Carolina and hosted house concerts in Harrisonburg.  They attended out-of-state dulcimer gatherings and instituted local dulcimer jams.  They volunteered time and skills to put on local workshops and a three-day festival.  Their efforts contributed significantly to the formation of the Blue Ridge Mountain Dulcimer Players Club.  Their leadership and support  are substantial factors in the growth and well-being of today’s ongoing dulcimer Club.

​ Tom and Jan played mountain dulcimer for church groups and ladies luncheons; for civic organizations and classrooms of children.  They played on freezing mornings at a far-flung sugar camp during Maple Festival time and on blistering afternoons at Humpback Farm on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  They played on t.v. and on radio.  They played with others in cities and farms and for themselves in their precious Highland cabin.

​ Being a woodworker, Tom took up building mountain dulcimers.  Initially he taught himself from kits and then began experimenting with his own designs and ideas.  Tom made and sold hundreds of  dulcimers, as well as occasionally gifting a lucky recipient with one of his creations.

​ Tom Scanlan, in partnership with his beloved Jan, was the strongest, most enthusiastic advocate of and promoter  for the mountain dulcimer in all of Central Virginia.  Tom’s physical presence departed this world on Monday, August 31, 2020.

​ Today the dulcimer world is both impoverished with Tom’s passing and enriched with the memories and ongoing realities of his dulcimer generosity. 

​  We miss you Tom and give thanks for you and all you gave us. Our hearts and love go to Jan and the Scanlan family.