- Associated Press - Saturday, September 10, 2016

GOSHEN, Ind. (AP) - When Ted Yoder went live on Facebook Aug. 24, he never fathomed that millions of people would watch it.

“It’s just a silly pop song,” Yoder, 44, said in his backyard orchard Thursday, just steps from where he had gone viral on the internet a week earlier after playing the 1980s pop hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears on his hammered dulcimer.

The dulcimer is an ancient instrument considered an ancestor to the piano.

According to Yoder’s wife, Donna, 41, when she turned on the livestream that evening, 12 people tuned in. Just over 24 hours later, it had been viewed 1 million times.

The video now has over 60 million views.

Not bad for an “average dad,” as Ted describes himself. In fact, he says he wasn’t even sure he wanted to do a live video that night. Donna had the idea to do a Facebook Live video a week earlier after learning about Facebook’s analytics through an online course.

“I realized Facebook is going to push videos right now because they want to become popular for it,” Donna said.

On Aug. 17, Ted took his hammered dulcimer and set it up in the backyard of their Goshen home, gathered their seven children and Donna fired up Facebook Live, a live-streaming video service from the social media giant and a grand total of a dozen people tuned in to watch Ted play one of his original songs.

The first “Ted Yoder Live from the Orchard” was born. After the live performance, the video sat on Ted’s Facebook page where it gathered out around 1,000 views, much more than any of his previous video uploads to YouTube, according to Donna.

“I think this hit 1,000 views and we thought that was incredible,” Donna said.

So the couple decided to make it a weekly Wednesday night performance. One week later Ted was having second thoughts about the show.

“Wednesday comes around and I hadn’t done anything and I wasn’t thinking of doing anything,” Ted said. “I’m thinking, ‘Why am I even doing this. Only like 12 people are going to watch anyway.’”

Ted, with the help of Donna, has been trying to make it as a professional musician for the past six years. He bought his first dulcimer in 1997 in Arkansas, having been fascinated by the instrument since he first heard it played in 1987.

Ted, who grew up in Middlebury, started out as a pianist, heavily influenced by rock piano players such as Elton John and Billy Joel. Ted said he wanted to bring that upbeat, pop-rock style to the dulcimer.

“People are always smashing the glass ceiling on other instruments, so why not this one,” he said.

The instrument is most typically used in Eastern Europe and American folk and bluegrass. Ted and Donna said that their attempts at the music industry were always part-time until a car accident in 2007 really made them reflect on what they wanted out of life.

“What’s my legacy going to be to my kids? Do I want to leave them a father who pursued his dreams and showed them that anything is possible?” he said.

The couple finally moved to music full-time in 2010 and said that the past six years have been a struggle to make ends meet while Ted occasionally toured and recorded CDs. While Ted writes his own original compositions, arranging pop songs to play on the dulcimer is something he’s done as well.

“I’m a child of the ‘80s. I just love it, it’s fun music,” he said.

But Ted and Donna are unsure why his Tears for Fears cover went viral online. Ted said that others in the dulcimer community have asked him the same question.

“Out of all of your beautiful original compositions, why this?” he said. “I don’t know, just the right format, right song.”

“It sparks something in people, we’re all connected to music,” Donna said.

After struggling for years, the Yoders said that they have been inundated with CD orders, shipping over 650 in the last week and still having hundreds more orders to fill and that this will be the first time they’ve paid all of their bills with just income from Ted’s music.

“We’ve gained this audience and there’s nobody in between us and them, there’s no middleman, there’s no agent or label telling us how we have to do it,” Donna said.

“There’s a bunch of people that like my page, that like what I do and finally I just get to be myself,” Ted said.

Even with his Facebook page exploding from around 1,000 likes on August 24 to over 190,000 on Friday, Ted said he won’t let himself believe he’s “made it.”

“Honestly, I’m 44, I don’t have an 18-year-old’s dream anymore so I think I’m pretty grounded,” he said. “Creating the CD and getting the crowd is the first step and then you go to work.”

As offers for gigs come pouring in from around the U.S., Ted said they are going to take it slow, keep filling the CD orders and interacting with their Facebook fans, whom Ted refers to as “family.”

“It just feels like I have a bigger family,” he said.

The couple tries their hardest to respond to nearly every comment and personal story that their fans share on their page. Ted said typically December is a heavy tour month for him and he sees that this year will be no different, but perhaps with even more gigs.

“Until then we are going to do what we have always done which is play to the one person,” he said.

That means that every Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., Ted will be in the orchard, with the children watching and Donna holding the cellphone and clicking “go live” on Facebook. For his next show he said he’s preparing Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way it Is.” He has to be there for his new fans, he said.

“If I’m not here on Wednesdays, not a good thing,” Ted said.

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Source: The Elkhart Truth, https://bit.ly/2csNk1j

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Information from: The Elkhart Truth, https://www.elkharttruth.com

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