Sean Heely Submitted photo

Owen Kennedy Submitted photo

The YMCA’s Outdoor Learning & Education Center in Auburn will celebrate autumn with a special family-friendly event billed as Fiddlers-in-the-Forest from 4-7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 8, in the wooded sanctuary at the center. The event features two dynamic young musicians who have both won the title of U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Champion: Owen Kennedy from Maine and Seán Heely from Virginia.

The program, which is open to the public free of charge, will begin with a concert of spirited reels, jaunty strathspeys, and haunting slow airs as well as heartwarming Gaelic songs. Those who bring musical instruments will then have a chance to learn a Scottish tune or two and can join in on a jam session with Heely and Kennedy. Everyone is invited to linger around the campfire and indulge in hot chocolate, coffee, and cookies while listening to the music.

Attendees should provide their own camp chairs for seating and are invited to also bring picnic suppers to dine on at the picnic tables provided on site.

Kennedy, who is 16, first met Seán Heely two years ago at the Acadia Traditional School of Music in Bar Harbor, where he had a chance to participate in a fiddle workshop with Heely, an expert in Celtic musical traditions who, in 2016, was named U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Champion. Kennedy became inspired to learn more about the music of his own Scottish/Irish ancestry and asked if Heely would serve as his mentor. Heely agreed and for the past year has tutored Kennedy through weekly fiddle lessons online. Impressed with his ability and passion for the music, Heely encouraged his young protege to audition for the 2021 U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Competition, and last month Kennedy was selected as this year’s Junior Level Champion. Heely’s upcoming visit to Maine will provide an opportunity for the two champions to join their talents on stage for the first time.

Heely, who himself is only 28 years old, has been widely lauded as “one powerhouse of a fiddler.” He holds a degree in classical violin performance but since college has devoted himself to traditional music. In addition to his renown as a Scottish fiddler, he is also an award-winning Irish fiddler and a folksinger specializing in the Gaelic traditions of both Scotland and Ireland. He has performed in each of those countries, and his appearances in the U.S. include such notable venues as the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Kennedy started playing violin at the age of four with the Pineland Suzuki School, and before long was invited to join the Pineland Fiddlers with whom he had the opportunity to travel to the Shetland Islands in 2019. He also is active with the Maine Folque Co-op and the Vermont-based Young Tradition Touring Group. He recently won the Glenn Jenks “Future in Music” Prize from Bay Chamber Music School and placed third in the highly competitive Young Tradition Festival Contest.

Steve Wallace, CEO of the YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston, stated: “Ever since the Y started developing our Outdoor Learning and Education Center, we’ve envisioned having outdoor concerts. To have Owen and Seán play at this inaugural event is more than we could ever have hoped for.”

While admission to the Fiddlers-in-the-Forest event is free, donations to the musicians’ “tip jar” will be gratefully accepted. Due to the event’s outdoor setting, masks are optional for attendees. Space for parking is limited so carpooling is encouraged, and to ensure admittance, people can pre-register by calling 207-795-4095 or register online at More information – including inclement weather contingencies – is available through that number or via the YMCA’s Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, or Website. The YMCA’s Outdoor Learning & Education Center is located at 151 Stetson Rd., Auburn.

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