Yonah Pickers bring the sweet sounds of music with their dulcimers

The Mountain Traveler - Summer 2018

The sweet sound of music can be heard throughout the halls of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Clarkesville on a Friday afternoon.

Following the melody will lead to a room where the Yonah Pickers are practicing. The group is known for its performances featuring the mountain dulcimer, a stringed instrument with long ties to the Appalachian Mountains, said Lynn McCollum, the leader of the Yonah Pickers.

When some Scots-Irish people migrated to the United States, they couldn’t bring a lot with them, including their instruments, she explained. But, they remembered what the instruments looked like, so they could rebuild them once they arrived.

McCollum said the group enjoys the dulcimer’s soft sound and its cultural connection to the mountains and White County area.

The dulcimer gets its name from dulce melos, which is Latin for sweet melody, McCollum said. And no two dulcimers are the same. The instruments are all made of different types of wood and have varying shapes for sound holes. Some of the members made their own dulcimers by hand.

The Yonah Pickers started in 2008 after a couple of years on a brief hiatus, McCollum said. The club is comprised mostly of residents from White, Habersham and Stephens counties. In 2009, the Yonah Pickers merged with the Nacoochee Strummers, another local dulcimer club.

The Yonah Pickers perform throughout the region at nursing homes, senior centers, state parks, festivals, churches, schools, the Cleveland farmers market and more. The group plays at these difference venues because they love to spread music and local culture.

“We spread the joy of music every chance we get,” McCollum said. “We love it when we are performing and someone says ‘I've got one of those in my attic, or my grandparents have that hanging on their wall.’ We are very eager to have people come up and play our instruments. It is so much fun. We also love audience participation. We encourage singing, dancing, foot stomping, clapping, etc.”

The group currently has around 25 members. They meet the first and third Friday of the month at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Clarkesville and are always looking for new members. They offer a beginner group that meets from 1-1:45 p.m. and the regular group meets from 2- 4 p.m. and everyone, with any instrument and any ability level, is invited to attend.

Those interested in finding out more information can contact McCollum at 706-499-3212 or find them on Facebook under Yonah Pickers.

This story comes from our free publication, Mountain Traveler magazine

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