- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - If you arrive to the home of Tim and Gayle Ryberg on a Friday night and hear music, don’t bother knocking on the door. Just come inside.

Now that may sound odd, but both Tim and his wife Gayle have been members of the Hoosier String Players - a string instrument ensemble that plays folk and Mountain Music - for nearly 16 years now. And every Friday the group comes together at the Ryberg’s residence for fellowship and to play their instruments.

“Just come in because we can’t hear you ring,” Tim Ryberg said lightheartedly. That’s what he tells people interested in joining the group.

Tim plays the autoharp and banjo, while his wife Gayle plays the hammered dulcimer, a large wooden instrument that requires small hammers to play the strings.

They joined the group years ago after spotting an ad in the local newspaper.

“I’d been playing the autoharp for probably 30 to 35 years, mostly in my living room,” Ryberg said. “I didn’t know anybody else played one. I found out about this group and joined them and been here ever since.”

The original ad was put in the newspaper by Vera Boyd in March 2000. At that time, so many people responded to the ad that she can’t recount the number now. But only those truly interested in playing folk and gospel tunes chose to stay.

“I put it in the paper where we were going to meet and welcomed everybody that wanted to come and play the mountain music and gospel music,” Boyd said.

The group originally met once a month on Sunday evenings, but now practices weekly on Friday.

What prompted Boyd to place the ad in the first place was her love of music. She had also recently moved to Kokomo at the time and no longer had her friends to play music with, so she decided to seek out those who shared the same love of music.

“Music has always been in my life,” Boyd said. “I played the piano and organ at church with my sister. Then when we moved out to the country, I needed someone to play with. So I met a friend who played the lap dulcimer and we thought we’d just start a group.”

Since that time, the Hoosier String Players have played at parks, churches, at birthday parties and event at the farmer’s market in town.

And the instruments used range from simple spoons to the marimbula - a plucked box musical instrument that originated in the Caribbean Islands.

“There are several of us that play the autoharp,” Boyd said. “Then there are several that play the mountain dulcimer and then Gayle plays the hammer dulcimer.”

And when the group of 14 comes together, an average practice night consists of jokes, laughter and songs from a variety of genres.

“Have you seen these notebooks,” Boyd said about the thick binders each member has filled with hundreds of pages of sheet music.

There are nearly 8,200 songs in their repertoire, Boyd said. And each member gets a chance to choose a song to practice.

“We just kind of go in a circle just picking out songs that we want to sing or play and we just share our music with one another,” Boyd said.

But aside from skillfully playing unique instruments, and preparing to perform for the community at numerous events, one of the best benefits of being in the group is the friendships that have been developed.

“The main thing is we’ve gained a lot of friends,” Ryberg said. “All these people here are not just members of our group, but they’re good friends of ours.”

And the hope is that the group continues just the way it is.

“I just hope it stays like it is,” Boyd said. “Because we’re just a group that loves each other, loves the music and we just want to share it with those who enjoy it.”

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Source: Kokomo Tribune, https://bit.ly/1SvPPfp

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Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com

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