A Musical Wall Takes Center Stage in Vashon Island, WA

by Tara Woodbury on April 19, 2016

Joe and Shelby

Here at My Wonderful Walls, we certainly appreciate a unique wall of art when we see one. Our customers often share photos of their wall murals created in their homes, businesses and schools. But a different kind of wonderful wall recently grabbed our attention all the way from Vashon Island, WA. This musical wall was created by Joe Schonbok for his daughter, Shelby’s classroom where Joe volunteers weekly. Joe is the owner of Strum Shop on Etsy where he builds and sells stick dulcimers, a three stringed instrument you play similar to an ukulele. These instruments are designed to be super easy to play and loads of fun because you simply can’t play a bad note. Read on to find out more about Strum Shop and stick dulcimers.

Joe Schonbok has played musical instruments almost all of his life, starting with a trombone in elementary school. He found it somewhat frustrating and eventually stopped playing but picked up string instruments as an adult and fell in love with music. Wanting his daughter to have the opportunity to grow up learning how to play a stringed instrument, he discovered stick dulcimers or “strumsticks” and set about learning how to make his own. Inspired by the story of Andy Mackie and his “Mackie Music Sticks”, Joe had the idea to create a classroom set for daughter, Shelby’s school.

Strumbolina String DulcimerWhat is a “Strumbolina” stick dulcimer? A stick dulcimer is a three-stringed instrument you play like a guitar or ukulele but it is fretted and tuned like an Appalachian Dulcimer. It is tuned to a single key. Since it is a single-key instrument, all of the notes sound good together. No stress, all fun! They are a close cousin to the cigar box guitar. Joe came up with the name Strumbolina for his stick dulcimers to set them apart. Made from sustainably harvested logs right from Vashon Island, these instruments are made with very little waste and are high quality handmade instruments.

At the Chautauquah Elementary School, the reaction has been very positive to the classroom Strumbolinas. The kids in Shelby’s classroom got to see the very first Strumbolina stick dulcimer Joe built and try it out. They were thrilled to be “in the know” about such a unique instrument. Now they have their very own musical wall where the dulcimers are stored and get to experience the joy of creating music for themselves. With so many schools not having art and music as an integral part of the curriculum, any opportunity to inspire a love of music is priceless. Kids as young as six can easily play a Strumbolina as it is perfect for their size and finger dexterity at that age. And parents will love getting involved with this frustration free musical instrument as well.

Joe plans to eventually add additional handcrafted instruments to his store on Etsy. He is currently working on a few ukulele designs. If you would like to learn more about the Strumbolinas and how you can get one for yourself, check out Strum Shop on Etsy or the Strumbolina Facebook page.

Musical Wall of Strumbolinas