Often Ensemble is a great traditional music band for your event.

Off'n Ensemble

eclectic traditional music

The Band

Off'n Ensemble plays the traditional music of New England, Appalachia and Ireland for dances, parties, weddings, civic events and festivals along the Mid-Atlantic region from Washington to Boston. The lineup is:

Heidi Hammel - hammered dulcimer and English concertina
Bob Yarbrough - wooden flute, penny whistle, banjo, bodhran
Steve Smith - guitar and saxophones
Elliott Schmuckler - upright bass

Heidi, Bob and Steve have been performing together since 1991.  Murray and Elliott are recent and welcome additions to the band.  Off'n Ensemble was formerly known as Often Ensemble.

Heidi discovered the hammered dulcimer shortly after returning from a year spent teaching English in China in 1979. She has been a hammered dulcimer performer and teacher for many years.

Bob's principal instrument is the wooden flute, which is linked with the folk music of Ireland. Bob discovered Irish music from the record rack in his local bookstore in a small town in Kentucky.

Steve was an early member of the ‘Spuds’ contradance orchestra. He has returned to the saxophone after a long absence. In addition to his work with Off’n Ensemble, Steve enjoys playing in jazz and big bands.

Elliott is a classically-trained bassist and an avid hammered dulcimer player. He provides the heartbeat of the Off’n Ensemble sound.

The members of Off’n Ensemble are based in Media and Havertown, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, which are suburbs of Philadelphia.

Follow this link to a sample of our recent and upcoming performances.

Follow this link to a demo recording of our music in MP3 format.

The Instruments

The most striking (pun intended) instrument in the Off'n Ensemble lineup is Heidi Hammel's hammered dulcimer. The hammered dulcimer has many strings stretched across a trapezoid-shaped body. Heidi holds small hammers and hits the strings with the hammers to make the haunting sounds of the instrument. “The hammered dulcimer is the grandmother of the piano,” says Heidi. The origins of the hammered dulcimer are murky, but most believe that the instrument originated in the Middle East in the early part of the last millennium. Hammered dulcimers under various names are part of the folk music traditions of many places, including China, the Middle East, Europe and the United States.  Heidi's hammered dulcimer was constructed by Nick Blanton and is his 'compact' model.  Heidi's English concertina is a Wheatstone Aeola tenor-treble.

Also of interest are Bob’s bodhran and flute. The bodhran (pronounced 'boron,' like the element) is an Irish drum – a wooden frame covered by a goat skin. Bob plays the bodhran with a two-ended ‘tipper’ or beater. Bob says: “the best thing about the bodhran is the opportunity for expression. By pressing on the back of the drum head, the player can draw a wide range of sounds from the instrument.” Bob's bodhran was constructed by Alberto Alfonso.  Bob’s flute is a ‘simple system’ wooden flute based on the wooden concert flutes of the early 19th century. Bob says: “Irish flute music developed using the older style flutes, before the modern silver flute was developed. The simple system flutes achieve sounds that are very difficult, if not impossible to obtain on a modern flute.” Bob plays a flute that he built himself from grenadilla wood and silver fittings.  Bob also plays an Ome Jubilee banjo and a Copeland whistle.

Area Served

If you are in search of music for a wedding, party, festival, civic event or memorial service anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic region, please contact us.

The following list is provided to assist persons performing geographic searches to find us.  Call or e-mail even if the location of your event is not on the list.

Off'n Ensemble is based in Media and Havertown, Pennsylvania.  The Pennsylvania counties served include Delaware County, Montgomery County, Chester County, Bucks County and Philadelphia County.  The Pennsylvania communities served include Media, Swarthmore, Springfield, Broomall, Ridley Park, Drexel Hill, Havertown, Bala Cynwyd, Penn Wynne, Ardmore, Villanova, Wayne, Paoli, Malvern, West Chester, Kennett Square, Phoenixville, Collegeville, Hatboro, Horsham, Ambler, Blue Bell, Montgomeryville, and Doylestown.  The New Jersey counties served include Burlington County, Camden County, Atlantic County and Gloucester County.  The New Jersey communities served include Cherry Hill, Moorestown, Haddonfield, Marlton, Somerdale, Lindenwold, Sicklerville, Pitman, and Berlin.  The State of Delaware counties served include New Castle County and Smyrna County.  The Delaware communities served include Wilmington, Claymont and Newark.

Off'n Ensemble, image of Heidi Hammel and her hammered dulcimer

Heidi Hammel plays hammered dulcimer and English concertina.

 Off'n Ensemble, image of Steve Smith on guitar and sax

Steve Smith on guitar and saxophones.

Off'n Ensemble, image of Bob Yarbrough and flute and banjo

Bob Yarbrough on wooden flute, banjo, whistle and bodhran

Off'n Ensemble, image of Elliott Schmuckler on upright bass Elliott Schmuckler on upright bass