Welcome to Zither US

Here you will find information pertaining to the concert zither, an instrument with Alpine origins commonly associated with the German-speaking lands of Europe. The concert zither has an incredibly rich history here in the US. By providing a venue to share its history and music, it's hoped that interest will be renewed and new players will be encouraged to take up this wonderful instrument.

To grow as a resource, Zither US is seeking your contributions. Did you have an ancestor who played the concert zither? Do you play, or have you attended a recent performance? If so, consider sharing your experiences and knowledge with the community. For more information on how to become a contributor, contact us.

For the enjoyment of the zither community, hundreds of vintage zither arrangements and compositions have been digitized and published. Visit the page of the Vintage Zither Music Project to browse the current collection.

Zithering in Charm City

The zither, first widely introduced to the American public by Tyrolean minstrels in the late 1840s, was initially regarded as a curiosity. Over the next several decades, however, it emerged to become a part of America’s cultural heritage. Domestically, zithers, sheet music and zither methods were produced to meet the demands of a zither-playing public. By the 1870s, players began to convene with the idea of forming clubs.

The Baltimore Zither Club, circa 1935

The Zither Crosses the Pond

From its humble beginnings as the diatonic scheitholt played in the Alpine regions of Europe, to the fully chromatic instrument played today, it is likely that the zither has sounded in the United States as long as Germans have been coming to these shores. Along the way, however, there have been key figures who have helped to popularize the zither here in the US. Among the earliest, was Tyrolean, Joseph Hauser.

and they came with their music...

Born in Gotha, Thuringia, Germany, Paul von Nordeck immigrated to the US, travelled extensively, and eventually settled in Salt Lake City, Utah. In this article, Boyd Humpherys remembers his grandfather, Paul von Nordeck, a talented musician who enjoyed entertaining friends and family with selected songs played on his favorite instrument, the concert zither.

The Philadelphia Zither Club, Its History

In the 1870s, zither players in the United States began to assemble with the goal of promoting and fostering the art of zither playing. In this article, Maurice Jacobi details the early challenges of establishing a zither club in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Originally published in the Jan. 1, 1885 issue of Franz Waldecker's The Zitherplayer, this article has been kindly provided by Janet Stessl.

Zither in Film

Although most commonly associated with 'The Third Man,' the zither has made appearances in other films. In this photograph, actress Annabella receives zither lessons from Charles P. Burton for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's 'Bridal Suite.'

Charles P. Burton instructs Annabella on the zither, 1939

Adam Kaiser: A Biography

In this article we explore the life of Adam Kaiser, a zitherist from the Sudetenland. Severely wounded during the Allied invasion of Europe, he was taken as a prisoner of war and sent to Scotland. After the war he was relocated to North Owersby, England, where he married a local girl and provided zither lessons to ten-year old Alan Hankins.

About the care of your Zither

Keeping your zither in top shape will increase your enjoyment when practicing and performing and will ensure that your instrument is preserved for years of use. At the 1993 FIGA Convention in Schaumburg, Illinois, Leonard Zapf Sr. presented words of advice to the zitherists in attendance, gained from years of experience as a zitherist and instrument repairman at Zapf's Music Store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Zithers of the Pennsylvania Germans

The scheitholt, whose form is the predecessor to the modern alpine zither, was constructed and played in the US by early German immigrants in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1923, Dr. Henry Mercer presented his research of numerous zithers, then museum pieces, to members of the Bucks Country Historical Society.

Zithering in Buffalo

Thank you to Anna Mayerhofer for sharing this photo of her grandfather, Josef Mayerhofer Sr., and father, Josef. In this 1925 photo, father and son are enjoying some quality time together with zither music at their home in Buffalo, New York. Anna writes, “Both my grandfather and father enjoyed playing together with my grandmother, Anna. My grandfather played with the Buffalo Zither Club, too.”

Josef Mayerhofer Sr. and son Josef, Buffalo, NY, 1925

Zitherist Tony Godetz

Beer, pretzels and zither music by Tony Godetz fuel the celebration in this 1933 photo, taken at Chicago's Bismarck Hotel. Born in Austria in 1876, Tony Godetz came to America in 1904 and lived in Chicago where he worked as a music teacher, performer and instrument maker. His large model zithers were made by Franz Schwarzer in Washington, Missouri, and sold as the "Concert Grand" model. The Bismarck Hotel was closed in 1996 and, after extensive renovations, was reopened as Hotel Allegro.

Zitherist Tony Godetz at Chicago's Bismarck Hotel, 1933


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