Ruth Barrett


Ruth Barrett is a pioneering 1970s West Coast mountain dulcimer player, and award-winning recording artist. Her 20-year musical collaboration with mountain dulcimer player Cyntia Smith produced six critically acclaimed recordings during the early mountain dulcimer revival of the 1980s. Ruth is a “natural” musician (an ear player) with twelve recordings to date that feature Ruth’s classical finger picking style of dulcimer playing, combined with a powerful and beautiful voice that has continued to enchant listeners for over five decades. Ruth is a singer of traditional and original tunes, chants, and songs, best known for her specialized genre of music – songs that focus on women and magically themed traditional folk songs and ballads inspired by folklore, mythology, the embodied spirituality of the natural world. She is also known for her arrangements of Celtic, Renaissance, and English folk music. In addition to offering workshops on the mountain dulcimer, Ruth brings her female and goddess-centered witch-ways to women of WPI with focus on chants for Mother Earth and the seasonal holy days.

Over the years, Ruth performed with women’s music pioneers including Kay Gardner, opening for Meg Christian and folk legends including Malvina Reynolds, Jean Redpath, Frankie Armstrong, and Jean Ritchie. Ruth was the director of the Candlelight Concert at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival every August since 1991 until the festival closed in 2015. For over fifty years, Ruth’s accessible and supportive teaching style, plus her enthusiasm, has successfully taught thousands of people to play the fretted dulcimer, from private instruction to national folk festivals and music retreats. She also taught dulcimer for many years at the famous McCabes Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California, and through the University of Wisconsin Madison adult continuing education. In 2022 & 2023, Ruth taught beginning and intermediate classes at Kentucky Music week, and in 2022 at Fun Fest (Old Dulcimer Players Club) in Evart, MI. Collaborating with dulcimer builder and player, Joellen Lapidus, Ruth transcribed Joni Mitchell’s dulcimer arrangements for the songbooks, Hits and Misses  (Warner Bros. Pub.).  She has recorded dulcimer lessons for Kentucky Music Institute, and her book of arrangements, DULCIMER MUSE – Tunes & Songs From Far-flung Times & Places was published by Mel Bay Publishing in 2022.

Workshop Offerings

LEARN TO PLAY THE MOUNTAIN DULCIMER (1-hour lessons for 4 days)

With Ruth Barrett

This class will start beginner players off with support for playing no matter where their musical tastes take them. Learn to play with pleasure! Students will learn to read dulcimer tablature and be introduced to expedient right and left-hand techniques for fingerpicking, strumming and ornamentation for Celtic, Renaissance, and American folk songs. Reading musical notation is not required.


With Ruth Barrett

This singing workshop focuses on chants that honor and celebrate Mother Earth and the elemental powers of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. Learn some and share a favorite. Percussion toys welcome.


With Ruth Barrett

This singing workshop focusses on chants for the seasonal holy days that celebrates the cycles of the year as they mirror the cycles of women’s lives. Percussion toys welcome.