Music of Maine

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The State of Maine is located in the Northeast region of the United States and is also referred to as one of the New England States. Its musical traditions extend back thousands of years to the music of the First Peoples of Maine, the Penobscot[1] Passamaquoddy,[2] Wabanaki[3] and other related indigenous[4] cultures.

In the colonial era, the talented composer, singer, and compiler of tune books and Maine resident Supply Belcher (1751–1836) was known in his time as "the Handel of Maine." Belcher organized the first choir in Maine.[citation needed]

Popular Music[edit]

Maine is home to many talented singers, songwriters, band leaders, and composers. Rudy Vallee was from Westbrook, Maine. His career started as a saxophone player and singer, later becoming a band leader. He is ranked along the likes of Bing Crosby[5] and Russ Columbo.[6] He also helped Alice Faye[7] and Frances Langford[8] start their careers, and he appeared on Broadway for a time, with some of his well known songs appearing, such as "Good Night Sweetheart," "As time Goes By," and "Would You Like To Take A Walk," among others. Vallee was also a graduate of the University of Maine.

Bill Chinock[9] was considered by many as being the first Bruce Springsteen,[10] and was from Portland, Maine. Some of his band mates consisted of a later band called "The E Street Band." After his death in 2007, one of his many hit songs, such as "Dime Store Heroes," produced in 1980, evokes an eerie similarity, not only with his voice, but also with the style of his band playing the music, long before The E Street band became famous.

Born in Fort Fairfield, Maine, country music legend Dick Curless[11] was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. His biggest hit, "A Tomestone Every Mile," was a song about a stretch of road in Northern Maine. He was an inaugural member of the "Maine Country Music Hall Of Fame,[12] located in Mechanic Falls. The Dick Curless Memorial Scholarship Fund[11] has been established to help the young Maine musicians of tomorrow follow their dreams.

Donald Doane Sr[13] is another Maine Country Music Hall of Famer, born in Kennebunk, Maine in 1907. His band called "The Kahtadin Mountaineers," was formed in the early 50's, and still performs regularly today. The band currently performs at county fairs, fiddler's contests, and for many charities. The Windham Community Church was built from proceeds from the charities the group performed at. The group has also played with Kate Smith,[14] and American singer best known for her rendition of "God Bless America," written by Irving Berlin.[15] Howie Day- "Collide" in 2004.

Music venues and institutions[edit]

Major music venues in Maine include the University of Southern Maine, Corthell Hall, Gorham, Maine, Portland's Merrill Auditorium, State Theatre, One Longfellow Square, Port City Music Hall, Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland, Bar Harbor Music Festival, American Folk Festival in Bangor, Bay Chambers Summer Music Festival in Rockport, Bowdin International Music Festival, Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival, Portland Chamber Music Festival, Salt Bay Chamberfest in Damariscotta, Sebago - Long Lake Music Festival in Harrison, Saltwater Celtic Music Festival, Ossipee Valley Music Festival in South Hiram, East Benton Fiddlers Festival and Contest, Sweet Chariot Music Festival on Swan's Island, Saddleback Mountain Bluegrass Festival, Frantasia at the University of Maine at Farmington, and Treat Memorial Library in Livermore Falls, American Folk Festival in Bangor, Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival in Brunswick, the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music in Bowdin, and the Sebago - Long Lake Festival Players.

The State of Maine is home to several prominent, professional organizations, including the Portland Symphony Orchestra, the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, Maine Country Music Association Hall of Fame, Down East Country Musical Association and the Maine Academy of Country Music ( Musical institutions include the Maine State Music Theater in Brunswick, which has been in operation since 1959 and is one of Three professional music theaters in the state; the others are Northport Music Theater in Northport which opened in 2007 and Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunguit which opened in 1933.

Portland is also home to the Portland Choral Arts Society and the Portland String Quartet. The DaPonte String Quartet is the only other professional string quartet in Maine.[citation needed] The Portland Opera Repertory Theatre and Opera Maine are the main outlets for opera in the state.

Outside of Portland, there are pockets of people who keep the traditional musical styles of their ancestors, including the Swedish music of Stockholm and New Sweden, the French-Maine community across the state, especially in Upper St. John Valley, home to the Acadian Festival, and the ethnic Russian music of the Kennebec River community in Richmond, Maine.

Maine's musical heritage also include the long-standing men's a cappella group, the Meddiebempsters, at Bowdoin College, and Bates College's all-male Manic Optimists.

Original compositions about Maine and by Maine composers are stored in the Maine Collection at the Bagaduce Music Lending Library in Blue Hill. With over 225,000 separate titles, this library houses the largest publicly available sheet music collection in North America.

Folk music[edit]

Maine has had a long folk fiddling tradition, which has helped inspire many modern bluegrass musicians. Maine's bluegrass and fiddling tradition celebrated at the Eastern Maine Music Festival; there is also a Bluegrass Music Association of Maine. Maine's contributions to bluegrass include Clarence and Roland White of the Kentucky Colonels and Jimmy Cox.

Many prominent singer-songwriters grew up in Maine, Patty Griffin, Ellis Paul, Slaid Cleaves, and Rod Picott. Slaid Cleaves and Rod Picott were childhood friends in South Berwick. Randy Browning of the Late Bloomer moved to South Berwick.

The Freewill Folk Society at Bates College also continues the folk tradition. There are also more traditional folk acts like Schooner Fare, Maine's best-known folk trio-turned-duo following the death of Tom Rowe in 2004, and the Dave Rowe Trio founded by the late Tom's son. Newer, Progressive folk artists in Maine have been emerging since the 1990s, including artists such as Heather Caston and Nancy Cartonio.

Maine's religious music includes the well-known church choirs of St. Luke's Episcopal Cathedral and two Bangor-area churches both named after St. John (one Catholic and one Episcopal).

One Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine is a popular folk music venue.

Contradances abound throughout the state of Maine keeping a tradition vital. Live bands often include fiddle, guitar, piano, banjo, mandolin, bass & more. Contra & other folk dance events may be found at the website

Maine's folk tradition is celebrated and kept alive in summer camps as well. Maine Fiddle Camp is a camp for all lovers of folk music, modern and traditional alike. The summer camp is located in Montville, Maine. There are many opportunities to take workshops, participate in different jam sessions, and relax in a beautiful Maine campground.

Maine's musicians play a variety of different styles of folk music. Irish, Scottish, Quebec, and even southern styles were influential on Maine's folk tradition. French-Canadian music is popular in Northern Maine on the border of Canada. The traditional fiddle tunes extended into Maine and became very prominent in all of New England.


The southern coastal region both in, and near Portland, Maine is home to many jazz instrumentalists, composers, singers, songwriters, and arrangers. The University of Southern Maine at Gorham[16] campus offers many jazz concerts throughout the academic year, providing the public with some of the finest jazz available.

Lenny Breau[17][18] was, and still is, considered the most gifted jazz guitarist of all time. He was also a very well versed classical guitar player. Breau was born in Auburn, Maine, on August 5, 1941, and died in Los Angeles on August 12, 1984. He was able to incorporate two-note comping, harmonics, quartal harmony, and three-against-two rhythms in anything he played. His jazz finger style technique is unequaled, and no one has, or most likely ever will, produce the same sound as he did. He was also known for the blending of jazz, flamenco, classical, and country together within numerous tunes. If you ask any guitarist, whether novice or professional, the name Lenny Breau would bring out words like phenomenal, insane, unbelievable, crazy. During his lifetime, Lenny recorded albums such as "The Hallmark Sessions," "Swingin' On A Seven," and "Guitar Sounds." Some of his most memorable tunes are "Bouree," "The Claw," and "Emily," performed in Brunswick, Maine on August 2, 1980. Professional musicians such as Pat Metheny and George Benson were amazed at what he could do on a guitar. Metheny said in an interview on his harmonics style: "that only the very best musicians could play harmonically for just a few seconds, yet Breau could continue the harmonics for days on end. Metheny also said that technically, no one had, or ever would, play as well as Breau, then, now, and possibly never.

One of the many talented jazz players from Maine is Don Doane,[19] jazz trombonist and music teacher within the Maine school system, and has played with both Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson, also well known American musicians. In Doane's session with his band called the "Super Senior Sextet," are tracks called, "If Only I had A Brain," (from "Over The Rainbow") "Blues Up And Down," and "Ill Never Be The Same."

Dave Bowler,[20] a professional jazz drummer born in 1957 in Portland Maine, helped found the jazz/rock band called "The Franklin Street Arterial," and recorded an album called "Blue Hills." He has played with other well known musicians such as Willie Nelson,[21] Willie Dixon,[22] and Kilimandjaro.[23] Dave also became a member of the "Ahmad Jamal Trio,"[24] and went on several world tours, recording six CD's.[20]



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