90 years old has a passion for building musical instruments


Tony Maksymetz built his first hammer dulcimer at the age of 19 alongside his father and grandfather. The third-generation instrument maker turns 91 on August 26 and has already started work on its 25th dulcimer.

“Well that’s how it is, if I get rid of this one, I’ll do one more,” Maksymetz said. “I’ll keep going as long as I can, but here’s another thing too, my hands aren’t as flexible as they used to be.”

Maksymetz says that there are very few people who make the 105-string instrument. They usually have 110 channels, but Maksymetz deleted the top row because he says no one uses them.

He retired in 1996 after a career in homebuilding in Calgary. Originally from Manitoba, Maksymetz built instruments for his family and people all over Western Canada and still takes orders.

“Not that long ago I got calls and a guy wanted eight. Said I’m sorry I’m too old I can’t build (that many)”, a- he declared.


Maksymetz is of Ukrainian descent and says the dulcimer is used by people across Eastern Europe. The first hammerhead dulcimer probably originated in the Middle East around 900 AD.

Ken Vanberg met Maksymetz at a community function a few years ago.

“What happened was I brought my accordion to play at Mount Pleasant (community association) and Tony grabbed me when I walked past him,” Vanberg said. “And he said I had a dulcimer and didn’t know anything about dulcimers.”

Vanberg visited Maksymetz regularly and documented the construction of his 24th dulcimer. He was inspired by the passion and skill of his friend and wrote a book about him.

“He’s got a chisel there, he’s got a jigsaw to work on the bridges, and he’s got a few other little tools,” Vanberg said. “I find it very intriguing that people can make all of this with such a small amount of tools. “

Maksymetz likes to use oak or birch wood or a combination of the two to make his instruments. He says no two are the same because he changes things as they go.

“It takes me three months,” he said. “A little here, a little there, I’m not putting in five or six hours straight, an hour or two here and I’m going to do something different.”

He says it takes a whole month to tune the instrument. The strings should be stretched slowly so that the wood does not break. But the skill will likely end with Maksymetz. He has no one to whom to transmit the art.

“I’ve talked to my family and (they say) grandpa, daddy, I don’t want to do this,” Maksymetz said. “Well, I’m not going to force them.”

And that’s a shame because he’s starting to see more demand for the dulcimer with fewer people making them.

“The younger generation, the baby boomers are starting to go back to old music because that modern music is already failing,” he said.

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