Making community a priority

Grassroots Tehachapi


August 18, 2018

Julianna Crisalli

There are so many things in Tehachapi that remind me of my dad. The wildflowers, the people, the open and endless sky at dusk. But nothing quite brings him back to me like the gentle hum of a mountain dulcimer.

I woke up to a lovely surprise a couple of weeks ago. Fiddlers Crossing, Tehachapi's local gathering place for beautiful concerts and art, posted on Facebook a preview of their upcoming mountain dulcimer concert with Steve Eulberg and Erin Mae Lewis. I already planned on attending the concert with some friends before I noticed Deborah Hand-Cutler had dedicated the concert to my dad, Al Crisalli. My dad was a dulcimer teacher in Tehachapi for many years before he passed away in 2013. When I moved back to town a few years ago, I started teaching beginning mountain dulcimer in his place.

Life has been hectic for me lately, and I've become distracted from playing and teaching the instrument I love so much. I let the worry and rush of life take a higher priority. Thanks to people in this community, Fiddlers Crossing and the beautiful music of Steve and Erin Mae, I've been inspired again. I've practiced every day since the Aug. 4 concert and look forward to resuming lessons soon. (If you haven't been to Fiddlers Crossing yet, I recommend checking out their performance schedule online. The setting is intimate and every performance feels personal in the cozy space.)

One of the things that makes Tehachapi such a special place is the way its community remembers the people who made it great. Whether through our local museums, the murals around town or a heartfelt dedication at a music concert, people here make preserving memories a priority. Many thanks to Deborah for keeping the spirit of my dad alive through his favorite music.

Deborah, Erin Mae, Steve and the dear friends I attended the show with, helped remind me that community doesn't happen without effort. So many people in Tehachapi have recently helped me remember what matters most. A strong community rekindles hope, joy and love, and sometimes that is done after the tragedies of life and the loss of generations. Sharing in heartache and memories is the core of a community, and building those connections can help us build anew.

One year during Mountain Festival, my dad and I were asked by Mountain Music and Fiddlers Crossing to play dulcimer. I had been away at college in Orange County and hadn't kept up with my dulcimer playing. But over a glass (or five) of wine, my dad and I prepared a set I was comfortable with performing. I was nervous (ok, terrified) to play in public, but he was such a natural. He made the nerve-racking experience so much fun for me. In the end, we put on a great show. He even promised to have a few great one-liners prepared if (when) I messed up. The jokes worked and even made me look good through the mistakes.

Photo provided

I don't know if I'll ever be the teacher he was or have near the amount of charm. In my own way I will keep trying, but most importantly, I won't forget his lesson to simply try.

Whether it is the sound of a twanging mountain dulcimer or the scraping of chalk on Tehachapi Boulevard, these moments we sometimes stress about - putting ourselves out in front of our community to be tested - turn out to be some of the most important memories we can make.

Do you know an inspirational group, individual or program that should be featured in an upcoming Grassroots Tehachapi? Email me at

See you next time and be kind to one another!


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