Performances by John Sheckler on mountain dulcimer are in the interactive style of street musicians and always include a few surprises. There are mountain standards like “Old Joe Clark” or “Little Liza Jane” to liven up the audience, but then John takes the dulcimer to unexpected places. His performances include rock, country and jazz classics that vary from St. James Infirmary to Pink Floyd. He has also written several songs for children, dreamers, and lovers. John will stop to tell tales about the origin of the instrument and music. He will take time to let audience members play his dulcimer or give a quick lesson. It is not uncommon for members of the audience to join John as he performs.
Music is joy . . . There is joy in learning and performing, but also joy in sharing the music. Many of my performances focus on children. I get a special joy when I can get them to sing along or play with the odd collection of percussion toys that I carry to performances. My greatest feeling of accomplishment is when I can share or be joined in my music with someone less likely to be able to go to performances. On more than one occasion, a parent has returned to where I was playing as a street musician and said:
“My child is autistic, and we have never seen him open up the way he did when he was joining you on percussion.”
I first came to Madison in the 1970s when I lived in southern Ohio, and have crossed paths with the town many times in the years since that first visit.
River towns have captured my heart since childhood when I lived near the river in Louisville. The love continued for decades when I was part of the brochure photography team for the Delta Queen Steamboat Company. When it was time to retire, Madison was the perfect place, not just for photography, but because it is a haven for musicians.
My life has been spent as a photojournalist. I earned many awards for my work including a first place in the portrait category of the National Press Photographers Association Photographer of the Year competition. I was also part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 1974 tornado. Photography was my work, but I always had a second love, music. I built my own mountain dulcimer, and have produced two CDs of my work.