By Natasha Anderson
Joshua Messick was four years old when he first heard the hammered dulcimer on a cassette tape. He loved the sound of the instrument so much that he promised his mother he would learn to play it. Five years later, when he finally encountered one, he fulfilled that promise. “I saw a hammered dulcimer at a music teacher’s home,” says Messick. “She asked if I wanted to take lessons. There wasn’t a significant educational infrastructure for the instrument, so I was blessed to have Peggy Carter as my private instructor.”
Within a year Messick was performing in public in his hometown of Houston, TX. He continued to do so throughout his youth, playing primarily at community centers, churches, weddings and corporate events. Though he never stopped performing, Messick began receiving pay for web development as a teenager and went on to work in information technology. Despite composing music in high school, releasing his first album at age 15 and winning the National Hammered Dulcimer Championship at age 18, it wasn’t until his late twenties that Messick found the courage to become a full-time musician.
“I had difficulty believing art could provide for me financially,” he says. “When I experienced the healing of music in my life, I learned to value it. I think I have a responsibility to share it with people.”
He has taken that responsibility seriously, releasing seven albums, performing in concerts throughout the nation and, most recently, recording as featured instrumentalist on 20 of the 26 tracks for the Japanese animated film Mary and the Witch’s Flower. The film, created by Studio Ghibli successor Studio Ponoc, will release in 155 countries and territories. The English language version, starring Kate Winslet as a voice actress, will release in January.
Messick’s work is atmospheric, with diverse textures and cinematic soundscapes that are often influenced by his surroundings. His newest album, Woodland Dance, is an instrumental outlook of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he has lived since a visit nearly five years ago that became permanent. “Asheville was the last city I was scheduled to play on tour,” he says. “When I arrived, I felt at home in the mountains and I also felt my music was appreciated and valued in a way I had never experienced. Instead of returning to Texas for my belongings, I opted to have them shipped to me.”
Fans of Messick’s music, or those interested in experiencing it for the first time, can attend performances at various venues in WNC and beyond. On Friday, December 1, at 8 p.m., he will perform his fourth annual Christmas concert at White Horse Black Mountain, in Black Mountain.
“I appreciate it when people are emotionally involved with my live performances,” says Messick. “It influences how I phrase the music, and it fills my heart when I can feel a positive impact in listeners.”
Learn more about Messick’s music, including upcoming performances, at joshuamessick.com, or by following him on Facebook@JoshuaMessick, twitter@JoshMessick, youtube.com/JoshuaMessick and on Instagram@ JoshMessick. For tickets to Christmas at White Horse Black Mountain, visit whitehorseblackmountain.com or call 828.669.0816.