For festival organizers, promoters, event planners, etc., here are photos and biographical information in short and long versions. For more information and pictures see the Profile page. Another version of the Profile appears in a feature article at the Mel Bay web magazine at Dulcimer Sessions. The first paragraph of the short bio below can be used as a minimal bio.
SAM RIZZETTA – Biographical Information (short bio)
Sam Rizzetta is a musician and instrument maker whose many design innovations have helped to define the contemporary hammered dulcimer. The tone of Sam’s dulcimers and his heartfelt and ornamented playing style have been called “resonantly sensual magic,” and “awe inspiring.” His performance credits include The Kennedy Center and The National Cathedral, as well as TV and radio appearances. Rizzetta recordings include 15 CDs featuring dulcimers, and there are four book collections of his original compositions.
Sam has been nominated for a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship for lifetime achievement in the arts. In 1975 Sam formed the renowned hammer dulcimer quartet, TRAPEZOID. Shortly later he started the dulcimer program at the Augusta Heritage Center and taught there for over 25 years. For many years he also wrote the Technical Column for the Dulcimer Players News. Rizzetta dulcimers have been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Folk Festival, and featured in Fine Woodworking Magazine. Sam pioneered features that have become essential to the modern dulcimer and are enjoyed by almost all of today’s players, performers, and builders. Many top performers play Rizzetta instruments or instruments of his design.
SAM RIZZETTA – CRAFTSMAN & MUSICIAN (long bio)
Over the years Sam Rizzetta’s performances, recordings, and craftsmanship have introduced many people to both hammer dulcimer and fretted or “Appalachian” mountain dulcimer, and his joyful and versatile music leave good feelings wherever he plays. Sam’s playing has been heard at numerous festivals as well as at the National Cathedral, the Kennedy Center, on National Public Radio’s A Prarie Home Companion and Mountain Stage, and on public television. And his many design innovations have helped to define the contemporary hammer dulcimer.
Onstage, the tone of Sam’s dulcimers combine with his heartfelt and ornamented playing style for music that has been called “resonantly sensual magic.” Reviewers say his music defies attempts at categorization. A Rizzetta concert may blend classical, folk, gospel, new age, oldtime tunes, ragtime, original music, and other surprises. Of his performance, the National Dulcimer Symposium Journal says, “Sam Rizzetta was just plain awe inspiring! We were privileged to be watching a master player in peak form.” Frets Magazine wrote, “He builds instruments of awesome power and puts them to good use.” “Probably the best dulcimer I’ve heard,” says West Virginia’s Tamarack Center. The New York Times concurs; “songs and reels played with lively charm. …delightful.”
In 1975 Sam created the influential group Trapezoid as a hammer dulcimer quartet, and they made some highly acclaimed, landmark recordings. Since 1978 Sam has performed solo, made 13 solo recordings, and written four books of original music for dulcimer.
Sam has designed and handcrafted musical instruments since childhood, and his dulcimers have long been prized by musicians. Rizzetta dulcimers have been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Folk Festival and featured in Fine Woodworking Magazine. Starting in 1974, Sam taught for many years at the Augusta Heritage Center and was coordinator for dulcimer programs. He has been featured at countless festivals and workshops, and for many years he wrote the Technical Column for the Dulcimer Players News. Sam designs dulcimers for the Dusty Strings Company, and, along with friend and collaborator Nicholas Blanton, continues to build custom and experimental instruments. Many of Sam’s design innovations have become essential to the modern dulcimer and are enjoyed by almost all of today’s players, performers, and builders. He is a pioneer in the use of carbon composite technology for musical instruments.
Sam has been nominated for a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship for lifetime achievement in the arts.
Sam’s father, Pasquale, played violin and accordian, and his uncle Earl Nott was a great banjo player. So, Sam fell in love with traditional music and stringed instruments at an early age. He experimented with building banjos and guitars as soon as he could use tools. Chet Parker of Grand Rapids, MI was an early hammer dulcimer inspiration. In 1968 Sam met West Virginia hammer dulcimer player Russell Fluharty, Kentucky mountain dulcimer player Jean Ritchie, and dulcimer innovator Howie Mitchell. Later Sam moved to Randolph County, WV and was influenced by his neighbors like guitarist Blackie Cool and fiddler Woody Simmons, as well as by traditional musicians and instrument customers who visited from distant parts of the world.