Schnaufer was born in Hearne, Texas, and grew up in La Marque, Texas. Schnaufer was an award-winning dulcimer player and session musician. He moved to Nashville, Tennessee, during the 1980s, and in 1995, accepted a position at Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music, where he taught dulcimer as an associate adjunct professor. He 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. One of his earliest recordings was on Mark O'Connor's 1988 album Elysian Forest. O'Connor had initially sought out Schnaufer after hearing him play an instrumental version of the Joni Mitchell song "Both Sides Now". Schnaufer also released several solo albums of dulcimer music. The British rock band Deep Purple recorded his composition Pictures of Home on their seminal album release Machine Head in 1972 . He had many students, one of whom was the singer Cyndi Lauper.
Schnaufer died at Alive Hospice in Nashville after a battle with lung cancer.
- Elysian Forest (Mark O'Connor, 1988)
- Dulcimer Player Deluxe (SFL, 1989)
- Dulcimer sessions (SFL, 1992)
- The Cactus Brothers (Liberty, 1993)
- Tennessee music box (Rivertime Records, 1996)
- Delcimore (The Orchard, 2000)
- Uncle Dulcimer (Delcimore Recordings, 2001)
- Appalachian Mandolin and Dulcimer:Music (Soundart Recordings, 2006), recorded with Butch Baldassari
- Obituaries | Death Notices | Newspaper Obituaries | Online Obituaries | Newspaper Death Notices | Online Death Notices
- Jessica Howard (April 1, 2002). "Texas-born virtuoso finds harmony, sophistication in Appalachian instrument". Vanderbilt Register. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
- John Nova Lomax (August 24, 2006). "Starry Lullabye". Houston Press. Obituary.
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