An Overland Park resident who delighted hundreds of Shawnee Mission school children over the years with her performances on the hammerer dulcimer will soon be inducted into the Missouri Music Hall of Fame.
Esther Kreek, 88, will be recognized Nov. 24 at the St. Joseph Museum for her musical talent and dedication to the instrument, which features strings stretched over a trapezoidal sound board.
The other two musicians who will be inducted this year are Gene Clark, who was one of the original members of The Byrds, and an artist who became director of the New York Metropolitan Opera.
“The company I’m in, it’s overwhelming,” Kreek said. “I was overjoyed. I was saying to myself, ‘I think they made a mistake and they will call me back.’
“When you do things, you don’t think of them in those terms. You just love what you’re doing.”
Charlie Pinzino, a fellow dulcimer musician who recorded albums alongside Kreek, nominated her for the hall of fame.
Born and raised in Baltimore, Kreek settled in northwest Missouri in 1965 with her husband, Al Kreek. She first took dulcimer lessons in Overland Park — a 200-mile round trip from her home in Oregon, Missouri.
“I jokingly say I gave up dusting, vacuuming and laundry and sat and played the dulcimer all day,” Kreek said.
She said she has always had wonderful support from her husband, now deceased, and three sons. But why the dulcimer? Kreek said she was simply “drawn to the sound” of the instrument.
“I didn’t read music for five years; I played by ear,” she said. “But I could hear a song and hum it to myself, and if I could find the note to start it on, then I could make out the rest of it.”
After taking theory coursework at then Missouri Western College, Kreek started teaching others to play both by ear and from sheet music. She performed at dulcimer festivals in 16 states and led the Heartland Dulcimer Camp.
Kreek played with the Prairie Dulcimer Club as well, and recorded nine albums, including “Touch the Past” for the St. Joseph Museum.
“We’ve always been very proud of her, and this is kind of the capstone,” said her son John Scheuch. “She has really done a lot, between the recordings and the traveling and the camps. And she introduced my entire family to a whole world of not just music and life experiences, but some of the best friends we all have through the connections that she’s made.”
She performed at the Alexander Majors House and the Shawnee Indian Mission, as well as local festivals and at many Shawnee Mission schools.
Kreek played for about 35 years before she sold her beloved instrument, because her hands developed arthritis and she can no longer play. But it doesn’t bother her one bit.
“My favorite expression is, ‘It is what it is,’” she said. “I have nothing but good memories, so I don’t sit and think of the things I can’t do anymore. I think of the wonderful things I did and the people I met and the places (where) I played.”