To rule the world

YouTube’s “Dulcimer Dad” Ted Yoder
plays Dublin Pub

National Hammer Dulcimer Champion Ted Yoder

By Sarah Monroe

“My wife basically said ‘Let’s just go down there, compete, forget about the job and act like we’re on vacation. We’ll worry about the job when we get back.’” That’s how Ted Yoder describes his wife Donna’s reaction to him getting fired from a sales job just seven days before he would compete in the National Hammer Dulcimer Championship at the Walnut Valley Festival back in 2010. When Ted won the national championship, “she said ‘Okay, now you’re going full-time,’” he told me with a laugh.

You might have heard of him after he catapulted to internet fame, heralded as the “Dulcimer Dad” after a Facebook Live Stream of him playing Tears For Fears’ 1985 hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” in August of 2016. Speaking with Ted, he told me that while his musical success is going well, it was a long road to get there, especially the years between winning the national championship and his internet fame. Ted said that it was a good five years of traveling and gig-to-gig work, so he could make a career out of the hammered dulcimer. “We struggled through many years, just eating beans and rice and potatoes,” he says.

First, a history lesson: The hammered dulcimer is a centuries old instrument that has its roots in the Middle East, with the earliest mention of it in about 900 A.D. It made its way to northern Africa before spreading to Europe via the Spanish Moors in the 12th century and eventually sailed to the Americas. It is not certain when it first appeared here, but the earliest reference is in 1717. A predecessor to the piano, the hammered dulcimer is wooden and shaped like a “flat-top” triangle that has multi-lengthed strings running vertically over the face. The user holds two small mallets and strikes the strings, each one producing a different note.

The first time Ted saw a hammered dulcimer in use was at a Rich Mullins concert, a Christian music singer and songwriter. Ted was instantly captivated by the instrument and told me he instantly thought, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to get one of these things.” Over a decade later and recently married, he and his wife moved down to Arkansas for a short stint to make music with some friends, as Ted has a musical background in piano as well. “We found this little shop up in the mountains that had a hammered dulcimer for sale,” he said, and in all the years since he had seen the instrument played live, Ted had not been able to find one for sale. His wife Donna spent some of their newlywed money to purchase the dulcimer for Ted, and the makings of a national champion were born.

Originally from Indiana, Ted and Donna eventually settled back down in Goshen, Indiana, where they raise their seven kids. Ted found a hammered dulcimer teacher in Detroit, Michigan, and made the trip up a few times but, the driving got old fast, so Ted decided to charge forward on his own and taught himself from there on out. Although Ted describes his technique as “not typical” of classical dulcimer players, he has certainly found a fan base in his laid-back style and welcoming attitude.

When Ted decided to do the Facebook Live Stream in 2016, the service had only just been launched a few days before. Previously, he would record his performances and then upload the content onto social media outlets, but living in the country with poor signals meant that sometimes a five minute video would take 24 hours to load. This new avenue of video streaming allowed Ted, alongside his family and their pet racoon Gidget, to play a song that Ted had only performed live one other time. You can see in the start of the video that he is nervous, knowing that this performance would be “mistakes and all” as he told me, because there would be no editing like his other content would allow. The live stream video exploded with popularity, much to his surprise, and has been viewed over 103 million times and counting.

Ted has released five critically acclaimed albums with both original and cover songs, the most recent one “Songs from the Orchard” features his own vocals for the first time. He has performed all over the U.S., and his family has attended almost all of his live performances, especially in the first five years of becoming a professional musician, to the point that fans are disappointed when they do not show up at the gigs with him.

I asked him at the end of our interview if there was anything else that he would like to touch on and Ted answered without skipping a beat, telling me that “I have to give props to my wife and family…I would not have been able to plow through without
their support.”

Dublin Pub presents Ted Yoder with special guests Pendra Lee Snyder, Amanda Roberts, and Viva La Strings on Sunday, Apr. 15. Two seatings at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
For more information visit, or call 937.224.7822. Tickets also available via

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Sarah Monroe, a native to the Gem City, is currently writing her first novel. Reach DCP writer Sarah Monroe at

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