Patty playing dulcimer
photo by David Fattaleh

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About Patty: The Reason For PATTYFEST

Contributed by Darlene Fox

One cold day in Mannington, West Virginia, Edith and Arden Dale (Dutch) Looman became the proud parents of a baby girl. The date was Feb. 7, 1925. They named her Patty. Little did they know the impact Patty would have on the lives of so many. Or just maybe they did.

Patty was around music all her life. She grew up hearing Russell Fluharty play the dulcimer all around Mannington. Her father played piano, sometimes substituting at the local movie theatre. Her mother tried to play, but was restricted because of arthritis. Edith collected all kinds of instruments, sometimes trading goods for used instruments at the local feed store she and Dutch ran.

At the age of six, Patty was taking piano lessons from Miss Baker, who slapped her hands with a ruler for not holding her hands correctly. By the time Patty got to high school, she went to "All State Band" for two years on trumpet and "All State Orchestra" two years on cello. During her Junior and Senior years, she was excused from class on Wednesdays to travel by train to Wheeling to study organ to be the church's organ player's assistant.

After high school Patty attended Fairmont State for two years and went to Michigan to study music. Once there, she decided on a different college to study theater. After graduating, Patty had the opportunity to help start a new high school in the Waterford District and set up a speech program. Patty's teaching career of thirty-five years was spent teaching here and being the general chairman for the three local high schools.

Patty came back to West Virginia for vacations and summers. Having heard Russell play all her life and then hearing Worley Gardner on the dulcimer, she decided this was the instrument for her. Old time music became her choice in music. Admitting to loving other styles of music too, old time is her passion. Patty had the privilege of learning from Russell and Worley. You can hear both of their styles of playing mingled with her own when you listen to her play.

After retiring and moving back to West Virginia, Patty's mother would volunteer her to play at various places and also to show others how to play. Of course, Patty did. Getting together with friends to play and showing others how to play became commonplace. It was only natural that others would start coming to Patty to learn.

After Russell's death, Patty took over as chairman of the semi-annual dulcimer convention. This attracts dulcimer players and old time music enthusiasts from far and wide. Patty is also an integral part of the annual Worley Gardner Festival held every February. She is also the "master musician" on hammered dulcimer at Augusta in Elkins. Patty travels all over teaching and playing. Wherever old time music is, you can find Patty. If unable to attend, there are usually some of her students and friends there.

Patty is the largest advocate for Old Time music in the area. She has many, many students from all over under her wing. Patty says she has never found a person she couldn't teach and loves to have people learning or playing with her as much as possible. She will admit to never tiring of playing. Her love of the instruments and the music shows whenever she is playing, teaching or talking about it.

Because of Patty Looman, old time music and both mountain dulcimer and hammered dulcimer music is alive in West Virginia and way beyond. It will continue to be alive for many, many generations through her many students who will keep the tradition of "PASSING IT ON" alive.

For this reason, PattyFest was born. To Honor you, Patty Looman, for all you have done and all you have meant to all of us.

Thank you, Patty!

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