Music of Maine
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Music of Maine

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.

Indigenous Music

Classical Music

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.[]

Neoclassical composer Walter Piston (1894-1976) was born and grew up in Rockland before moving to Boston at age ten.[5]

Popular Music

Maine is home to many talented singers, songwriters, band leaders, and composers. Composers from Maine include Charles Whitney Coombs, John Knowles Paine, Frank Churchill, Aaron Robinson, Claude Demetrius, Peter Garland, Maverick Ashley Lenartson and Harold J. Crosby.

Rudy Vallée grew up in Westbrook. His career started as a saxophone player and singer, later becoming a band leader. He also helped Alice Faye and Frances Langford start their careers and appeared on Broadway for a time. Vallée was a graduate of the University of Maine.

Bill Chinnock[6] was born in New Jersey but settled in Portland, Maine. Some of his early band mates went on to The E Street Band.

Born in Fort Fairfield, country music legend Dick Curless[7] was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. His biggest hit, "A Tombstone 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,[8] located in Mechanic Falls. The Dick Curless Memorial Scholarship Fund[7] has been established to help the young Maine musicians of tomorrow follow their dreams.

Donald Doane Sr.[9] is another Maine Country Music Hall of Famer, born in Kennebunk in 1907. His band 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 charity proceeds. The group has also played with singer Kate Smith, best known for her rendition of "God Bless America" written by Irving Berlin.

Howie Day, from Bangor, had a hit with his song "Collide" in 2004.

Music venues and institutions

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, Bowdoin 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.[] 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

Maine has had a long folk fiddling tradition, including fiddler Mellie Dunham, 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 including Patty Griffin, Ellis Paul, Slaid Cleaves, David Mallett, 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. The Maritime and Celtic inspired folk duo Castlebay ( continues these traditions by researching archives for songs and ballads sung in Maine and performing them. In addition, members Julia Lane & Fred Gosbee write and perform songs about Maine's people and history. 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.

Contra dances abound throughout the state of Maine keeping a tradition vital. Live bands often include fiddle, guitar, piano, banjo, mandolin, bass, and more.[10]

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. The Acadia School of Traditional Music and Arts (the Acadia Trad School) operates a week-long festival in June that attracts serious music and dance students of all ages from all across the US, Canada and beyond.

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.


Blues pianist Bob Page was from Damariscotta. Harmonica player and singer Jason Ricci is from Portland.


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[11] campus offers many jazz concerts throughout the academic year, providing the public with some of the finest jazz available.

Lenny Breau[12][13] 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. During his lifetime, Lenny recorded albums such as The Hallmark Sessions, Swingin' On A Seven String, and Guitar Sounds. Some of his most memorable tunes are "Bouree", "The Claw", and "Emily", performed in Brunswick, Maine on August 2, 1980.

Another talented player from Maine is Don Doane,[14] jazz trombonist and music teacher within the Maine school system, and has played with Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson.

Dave Bowler,[15] 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, Willie Dixon, and Kilimandjaro.[16] Dave also became a member of The Ahmad Jamal Trio.[17][15]

Pianist, arranger, and composer John Benson Brooks was born in Houlton.


Punk rock band Pinkerton Thugs formed in Kennebunk.

Alternative rock band As Fast As, indie rock bands Rustic Overtones, Paranoid Social Club, Phantom Buffalo, and hardcore punk band Cruel Hand are from Portland.

Oak signed to Mercury/Polygram Records had 4-5 songs that made Billboard hot 100 charts, and one ("King of the Hill") that made it to the 30s and was on Casey Kasem in the early 80's. Rick Pinette (vocals, piano, guitar) Dave Stone (keys) Danny Caron (drums), George Borden (bass), Scott Grover Weatherspoon (guitar). Oak had many members. John Foster replaced George Borden, playing bass on the 2nd album. Carl Crosen (guitar), Bruce Noell (bass), played in the band during the time the demos for the record label were recorded. Oak did national college concert tours, and played all over the Northeast and Eastern Canada. The bands was known for great theatrics, high energy, excellent vocals and musicianship.

Hip hop

Hip hop artist Alias, from Hollis, formed the label Anticon.

Spose was born in Portland and grew up in Wells.

Trails Is a hip hop group from the Portland area who've won local album awards and have collaborated with members of the Wu Tang Clan, Kool G Rap, and others.


  1. ^ Penobscot. "Penobscot Nation Cultural & Historic Preservation Department". Retrieved 2013.
  2. ^ Passamaquoddy. "Passamaquoddy Tribe @ Indian Township - A source for Information and Resources". Retrieved 2013.
  3. ^ Wabanaki. "Wabanaki Confederacy (Wabenaki, Wobanaki, Wabanakis, Wobenaki, Wapanahki)". Retrieved 2013.Maliseet,
  4. ^ Indigenous. "Definition of INDIGENOUS". Retrieved 2013.
  5. ^ "Walter Piston- Bio, Albums, Pictures - Naxos Classical Music". Retrieved .
  6. ^ Chinock, Bill. "Bill Chinnock, 1947-2007". Retrieved 2013.
  7. ^ a b Curless, Dick. "Dick Curless - A Maine Legend - Memorial Scholarship Fund Info - The Baron". Retrieved 2013.
  8. ^ Maine CMHF. "Annual Maine Country Music Hall of Fame Ceremonies & Show May 21". Retrieved 2013.
  9. ^ Doane, Donald Roy. "MacKenzie Traditional-Yodeling Ken MacKenzie-Master Yodeler". Retrieved 2013.
  10. ^ "The Down East Friends of the Folk Arts". DEFFA. Retrieved .
  11. ^ USM, Gorham. "Map and Directions to the Gorham Campus". Retrieved 2013.
  12. ^ "The Legendary Lenny Breau". Retrieved 2013.
  13. ^ "The Lenny Breau Videography". Retrieved 2013.
  14. ^ Doane, Don. "Don Doane and The Super Senior Sextet". Retrieved 2013.
  15. ^ a b Bowler, Dave. "Musicians - Addi Münster's Old Merrytale Jazzband". Retrieved 2013.
  16. ^ Kilimanjaro. "Kilimanjaro - West Coast Music with a touch of funky crunch". Retrieved 2013.
  17. ^ Jamal, Ahmad. "Ahmad Jamal - Pianist - Composer - Official Web Site - Jazz Musician". Retrieved 2013.

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