Northern Lights Hammered Dulcimer Retreat

Northern Lights Hammered Dulcimer Retreat is a unique opportunity to enjoy a week of intimate, individualized hammered dulcimer instruction with Steve Schneider in the setting of a peaceful vacation environment. As one of a maximum of six students, you will experience a highly focused five-day schedule of intensive instruction, with lots of individualized attention mixed with group learning. At the same time, the seclusion and the natural setting create a restful, rejuvenating experience.

Northern Lights Hammered Dulcimer Retreat is held on a private island in the North Channel, where Lake Superior meets Lake Huron. The six-acre wooded island is dedicated exclusively to Northern Lights during your stay. The spacious main house, tucked amid the pines, has many niches and corners in which to practice or relax. A fireplace in the living room can chase away any lingering northern chill, and an immense deck provides plenty of space to socialize and to watch the setting sun, shooting stars, and--when fortunate--northern lights. Each of the three bedrooms has 2 single beds and a private full bath. Meals are home-cooked, and we can accommodate many dietary restrictions.

The schedule at Northern Lights is designed with both work and play in mind. Between the Sunday night orientation and the Saturday morning leave-taking are five days of instruction influenced by the needs of the students, both individually and as a group. Possible topics to be covered include musicality, arranging, theory and harmony, accompaniment, hand independence, practice, issues of performing and more. On Friday afternoon, students perform in a recital for which they have prepared all week long. This is followed by the farewell dinner and wrap-up in preparation for the next day’s departure.

Northern Lights participants should expect nontraditional repertoire and exercises (including juggling!) to improve musicality, rhythm, eye-hand coordination, confidence, and accuracy. With only 6 students, everyone's musical challenges can be addressed through the schedule of group sessions, master classes, and private lessons. There will be time for relaxation as well. There are many books on the island for perusing, and paths to explore. Fishing, canoeing, kayaking, or swimming in Lake Huron, are some of the activities available right from the island.

Northern Lights Hammered Dulcimer Retreat is geared for the intermediate/advanced player. For the Retreat, this is defined as students who can play pieces at the appropriate tempo, are fairly comfortable reading notated music and/or are adept at learning new music by ear, and have a burning desire to enhance their music skills and understanding. Students should also have some familiarity with principles of theory and harmony, and be able to play at least basic major and minor scales, arpeggios, and chords. Your musical level is measured more by your ability to understand and utilize music concepts than by how long you've been playing.

You are expected to bring your own instrument with a minimum range of a 15/14, preferably chromatic, with a case to protect it. A five-minute boat ride in a 15-foot open motorboat is required for all students and equipment to get to the island. Please make sure that your instrument has a case or covering for this transport.

Traveling by car, Northern Lights is about forty minutes from Sault Ste. Marie ("Soo-Saint-Marie"), Ontario; about one-and-a-half hours from Mackinaw City, Michigan; about six hours from Detroit; about seven hours from Niagara Falls; or about seven-and-a-half hours from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Driving directions are available upon request. For those traveling by plane, there are two airports—one in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and one in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The Ontario airport is about 45 minutes away, and is the preferred choice. We can help you make arrangements for you to be met at either airport; the current local cost for this is around $50.

The weather is generally agreeable, with warm, sunny days and cool, crisp nights. However, Ontario's weather is wonderfully unpredictable, and it can range from either quite hot and humid to chilly and stormy. To help make your stay with us comfortable, you will be sent a suggested packing list once your application is accepted.

If you are interested in applying to Northern Lights Hammered Dulcimer Retreat, please either print out and return the return the application form to the address below, or contact us and we’ll send you an application. Once your application is reviewed and accepted, you will receive an acceptance contract. In order to create a friendly, stimulating, and successful learning environment, we aim to achieve the right mix of participants. With only 6 available spaces, some are sure to be turned away. If you are not selected to participate in this year’s Retreat, we strongly encourage you to apply to future Retreats which may be more suitable to your level of playing and your musical goals. We are considering a Retreat for advanced beginner/intermediate players in the future. Please contact us to let us know if you are interested in this.

To help us meet your needs, we ask that you also submit a short written description of your goals for this retreat, and a recording of your playing of 2 contrasting pieces. This does not need to be professionally produced or a perfect recording, as it will simply be used to help ensure that you will be musically comfortable at Northern Lights. Your application will not be considered complete until it is received. (Returning students do not need to send a recording.) All application materials, including your recording, are strictly confidential. Your application, along with your recording, will be reviewed and considered with great care.


Steve uses your application to determine if your skill and interest level are appropriate for Northern Lights. If your application is approved, you will be asked to return a contract along with a deposit to secure your place at the Retreat.

Northern Lights fees are in US currency and are based upon your accommodations. All meals, linens, dulcimer instruction, and transportation to and from the mainland to the island are included. Accommodation costs are as follows:

  • the inner room, a cozy, pleasant room shaded by the pines, with a full bathroom: $800 per person.
  • the middle room, bright and cheerful with western views, a full bathroom, and a door opening onto the deck: $850 per person.
  • the outer room, an airy, spacious room with its own separate entrance, has large windows, a built-in writing desk, a full bathroom with bath and separate shower stall: $900 per person.

Unless you specify a particular roommate, we will match you with another student.

Cancellation policy: You need to contact us by telephone if you need to cancel. If you cancel before May 15th, we will refund half your deposit. Students canceling after May 15th due to unavoidable circumstances should also send a written explanation requesting a partial refund. These requests will be considered individually after the conclusion of the retreat. Northern Lights reserves the right to cancel the Retreat due to low registration.

Those with allergies to animals should be aware that dogs and cats will be present during the Retreat. Students may not bring their own pets to Northern Lights. Please note that smoking is not permitted at Northern Lights. Students must be comfortable in open boats.


Northern Lights Hammered Dulcimer Retreat
180 Woodedge Drive, Bloomfield, MI 48304
email: NorthernLights@steveschneider.com
Please contact us with any questions you might have.



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