Andrew deValpine

Contributed Profile

When I was a college student in San Jose, Costa Rica, I met a wooden bowl making expatriate named Barry Biesanz who loved cowboy and jug band music and who had been making wooden bones. He gave me a set of two pairs, made of some local wood, and he showed me how to hold them. I held on to those bones for another three years before I tried learning to play them. The breakthrough was on a two-hour drive from where I was living in northeastern Kansas to my parents in Kansas City; I just decided to start trying while listening to the radio, and at the end of the trip I was in time and making musical sense. After learning that trick I practiced whenever I drove anywhere. Sometime around then I saw an alternate way of holding the bones and started practicing that method with my left hand. I’ve been playing ever since to any style I can, but mostly to Irish and old-time music. Dogs chewed the old wooden bones — I still have a portion of two of them — and now I use commercially made bone bones picked up from Lark in the Morning. For a number of years I had some home-made cow-rib bones but they, too, fell prey to the jaws of mutts. One more thing, a comment a friend made once about the bones I find to be true every time I pull them out. “People can be playing the most unusual, exotic and sophisticated instruments, and playing them well, but as soon as you start playing the bones observers forget all about those other instruments.