Rachel Spear, 14, of Farmington, left, and Steve Muise, orchestra, violin and fiddle teacher in RSU 9 in the Farmington area, will take part in the three-day Maine Acoustic Festival in Yarmouth, which begins Friday, March 31.

FARMINGTON — Steve Muise, a professional fiddler and orchestra teacher, comes from a long line of musicians. 

“I grew up being a fiddler and classical violinist, but my true passion was playing traditional fiddle music, jazz and improvisation,” Muise said.

He was born in Massachusetts and is 100 percent Acadian-American. At the advice of his high school orchestra teacher, he trained in music and music education. He performed with his father, Paul, in his band, while he was in high school.

The 1990 graduate of Berklee College of Music has opened for some of country music’s greats, including Willie Nelson, Charlie Daniels, Waylon Jennings and Tammy Wynette when they performed in the Boston area.

“I had some incredible opportunities to perform,” he said. “I realized that it’s incredibly fun to have those opportunities, but the life of a traveling musician certainly has its challenges and that is even if you make it to that level. But at the same time, you gain more music education. I really liked the experience.”

“By the time I graduated from Berklee, I knew I wanted to be an orchestra teacher first and a performer second,” he said.

Muise teaches orchestra, fiddling and violin in Regional School Unit 9 in the Farmington area. He is in his 26th year in the district and created the Franklin County Fiddlers about 22 years ago at Mt. Blue High School.

He will share his vast knowledge with student musicians from around the state during the three-day Maine Music Festival that begins Friday, March 31, in Yarmouth. He will join four other teaching artists.

“It is just a natural match for me to be involved,” he said. “I am honored to be a coach. This year, I have students excelling in the Franklin County Fiddlers and also in the Maine Acoustic Festival. I accepted this year because I was very interested in what I have been able to accomplish with these students. When these particular students graduate, I am going to miss them and I want to take every opportunity to work with them.”

He commended the district’s entire music program for the instruction that students receive and the success of fiddlers and orchestra. More than 360 students  in grades four through 12 participate in the orchestra program.

Eight students from Mt. Blue high and middle schools were selected by audition to participate in the festival.

Middle school eighth-grader Rachel Spear of Farmington started playing guitar when she was 6. She took lessons for about six years. She plays guitar and bass. The 14-year-old has already opened for a band and composes her own songs.

“This will be my first year at the Maine Acoustic Festival,” she said.
She was originally going to try out for the chorus but sent in a video of her performing one of her own songs.

“They liked it,” she said.

She will participate in the Old Time sessions.

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Maine Acoustic Festival

The festival will take place from Friday, March 31, through Sunday, April 2, in Yarmouth.

Five teaching artists will act as coaches to 43 students from 18 schools chosen by auditions to participate.

“All the participants distinguished themselves in traditional acoustic music styles, including bluegrass, Irish, Quebecois, folk, Old Time and American harmony music,” according to a news release.

The festival includes workshops, rehearsals and performances. 

Two concerts will be open to the public. A faculty concert will be be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 1, at First Parish Church at 116 Main St. in Yarmouth. Tickets can be bought at the door or online. 

A student showcase performance will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the University of Southern Maine’s Hannaford Hall in Portland.

The festival is presented jointly by 317 Main Community Music Center in Yarmouth and the North Yarmouth Academy. Tickets can be purchased online for $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors.

To learn more about the festival or to purchase tickets, go to www.maineacousticfestival.com.

Rachel Spear, 14, of Farmington, left, and Steve Muise, orchestra, violin and fiddle teacher in Regional School Unit 9 in the Farmington area, will take part in the three-day Maine Acoustic Festival in Yarmouth beginning Friday, March 31.


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