Ray and Shirley Jacobs

Rocky Mountain dulcimer

Eureka, MT

Since 1976, Ray Jacobs has made more than 3,000 stringed instruments including dulcimers, banjos, dobros, and guitars.  His wife Shirley has been his partner and she decorates the instruments as well as plays music with Ray with the Eureka Folk Music Society which they helped to found in 1991.

"Music is a big part of the arts and crafts which attract people to our area," said Ray who helped found the Society to help foster and promote a rural culture of the Tobacco Valley and enhanced tourism to the area.

Ray grew up in Minnesota.  His father was a forester and he grew up in ranger stations in a small town near Lake Superior.  "I grew up to like roaming in the woods, music, and mechanical things."  He may have received that from his grandfather who built his own reflector telescope and was always learning and questioning.  "He was a master storyteller and was always my hero," said Ray.

Ray and Shirley  Jacobs live in a log house they built themselves  on Black Butte near Eureka that is powered by generators and solar panels and their goal is to be respectful of nature in crafting his instruments, seeking out eco-friendly products and found objects such as scrap wood and cardboard which he has used to build his instruments.  
"The fact that I can make a simple instrument that is easy to play makes it fun for me and fun for other people, said Ray. 

He is renowned for his kid-sized dulcimers that he designed for his students.  He was a teacher for 20 years in Eureka and he noticed that when he sought to give after school guitar lessons the instruments were too big for the children. In 2013 he published an instructional book based on his instrument crafting titled Making a Ray Jacobs Rocky Mountain Dulcimer. 


* Image courtesy of the Tobacco Valley News

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