BROOKSVILLE — Having originated in the Appalachian Mountains, the dulcimer is often heard at folk and bluegrass music festivals. With just three or four strings, is part of the zither family of musical instruments.
"The dulcimer is an unusual instrument," said Sherry Pedonesi, a director with the Hernando Performing Arts Guild. "It's the only truly American instrument. ... I like the sitar, violin and cello, but the dulcimer was made and introduced in the United States. That's pretty cool."
Pedonesi admits that many folks might think the dulcimer is used only in bluegrass music. But that is not the case.
Locals will be in for a treat when Aaron O'Rourke brings his alternative folk sound to the stage Saturday. The Aaron O'Rourke Trio will perform at the Hernando High School Performing Arts Center, a concert presented by the Hernando Performing Arts Guild.
O'Rourke began performing on the dulcimer in 2003 while still in high school. He was named the 2010 National Mountain Dulcimer Champion. In 2009, Tampa Bay Times columnist Jan Glidewell, who watched the young man perform at a folk festival, wrote: "And I saw a young man named Aaron O'Rourke make a mountain dulcimer do things it shouldn't be able to do."
Now 25, O'Rourke has composed two solo CDs. Most recently, he and his band released Syzygy, its second CD.
On Saturday, the group, which includes Irish fiddle player Katie Geringer and upright bassist Erik Alvar, will perform a stew of classically influenced original compositions and old-time classics.
"It should be a musical treat," Pedonesi said. "And for those who haven't heard a dulcimer, this is great way to introduce them to the instrument."
The group's fast-paced sounds will be just half the fun. The second part of the show will feature an onslaught of one-liners and jokes by singer-comedian Johnny Roberts.
Roberts offers "clean" comedy that appeals to audiences of all ages, Pedonesi said. He has appeared on numerous TV shows and performed with the Platters, Sinbad, Jo Dee Messina, and Joey Dee and the Starlighters.
After Saturday's show, two more concerts will wrap up the Hernando Performing Arts Guild's 2012-13 season.
On Feb. 9, Spittin' Image, a musical comedy duo featuring identical twins Blain and Brian Swabb, will play a variety of instruments and do comedy, impressions and parodies.
On March 9, popular Irish musician-singer Cahal Dunne and Irish comedian George Casey arrive.
Proceeds from the concert series go toward Hernando Performing Arts Guild scholarships, which are awarded annually to outstanding Hernando County high school students. Last year, the guild awarded five scholarships totaling $4,000.
While sales of season tickets this year were quite good — nearly 300, filling about half of the auditorium — Pedonesi said individual ticket sales have been slow.
"It hasn't been as much as I would have liked," she said. "Especially since it is all for scholarships. … It is very important to us."