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Joshua Messick sees himself foremost as a composer who uses hammered dulcimer as his sound palette, drawing on Celtic, Indian, Japanese and New Age influences. Since moving to Asheville, he’s established a strong following as a virtuosic innovator on the ancient multi-stringed instrument.

Messick will perform at the White Horse Black Mountain at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 26 with his new band Acoustic Storm, composed of some of the area’s most versatile and creative players - River Guerguerian on percussion, Max Dyer on cello and James Kylen on vibraphone and percussion. The ensemble translates the symphonic sweep of Messick’s musical vision into vibrant reality.

Upon hearing the sound of the hammered dulcimer at age 4, Messick promised his mother he would learn to play the instrument. He more than made good on his promise, becoming the 2003 National Hammered Dulcimer Champion at Winfield, Kansas at age 18. The hammered dulcimer, a forerunner of the piano, has its roots in the ancient Middle East, but travelers introduced it into many parts of Asia and Europe, and Europeans brought it to America. Unlike the unrelated Appalachian dulcimer, the trapezoidal body carries many pairs of strings which are struck by small hammers, producing percussive sounds that can range from powerful to ethereal.

Messick’s dulcimer was made by Black Mountain master luthier Jerry Read Smith, who also helped convince Messick that the Asheville area was the place for him.

“I’ve put my entire life into this music,” says Messick. “Music is the sound of the human spirit and for me is prayer without words.”

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