David Schnaufer was an award winning dulcimer player and session musician. He moved to Nashville during the 1980s and starting teaching dulcimer here at the Blair School of Music as an associate adjunct professor in 1995. David was one of the first teachers in the Blair School’s folk music program, along with Mark O’Connor and Butch Baldassari. David established himself as one of the country's premier dulcimer players. He played the dulcimer on recordings with The Judds, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, and Chet Atkins, among others. He had many students, one of whom was the singer Cyndi Lauper who mentioned him at her most recent concert at the Ryman Auditorium on May 9. Schnaufer died at Alive Hospice in Nashville after a battle with lung cancer.
Throughout his career, Schnaufer researched the history and culture of the Appalachian dulcimer, traveling around Tennessee collecting instruments, oral histories, and music. In the late 1980s, he began researching and performing with a unique Tennessee dulcimer which was called a "music box" by its creators over 100 years ago. The Appalachian Dulcimer Archive was launched in 2012 by the Music Library. Initially conceived by David Schnaufer, the database was designed as a "sound museum," exhibiting playable song clips played on historic handmade dulcimers alongside his research and documentation (gathered with Sandy Conaster) of historical dulcimers including photos, dimensions, dates where known, and other provenance information. The instruments themselves are housed at the Tennessee State Museum.