Boone native, award winning violinist and fiddle champ – Maura Shawn Scanlin – returns to the High Country!
Acclaimed violinist and Scottish Fiddle Champion, Maura Shawn Scanlin, returns to her hometown of Boone to make an appearance at Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music this Saturday, August 10th. She will be joined by her musical partner, Conor Hearn, on guitar. Their duet, Rakish, will present an evening of classical inspired violin and Celtic fiddle music at the Harvest House Performing Arts Venue in Boone at 7:30pm.
The pair gets their name, Rakish, from the traditional Irish tune Rakish Paddy, an origin that aptly suits the duo and their shared background in traditional Irish and Scottish music. Yet “rakish” itself also suggests something strikingly unconventional in its appearance, and Scanlin and Hearn knowingly embrace this wealth of connotation in their music, drawing on the music they grew up with and performing it with their own slant. In a performance that is something more akin to concert music, Rakish explores tunes and songs from Irish and American folk traditions in a way that reflects their shared interest in and love for chamber music and jazz. Sanlin, a two-time U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Champion and a winner of the Glenfiddich Fiddle Competition in Scotland, wields the technical range of an accomplished classical violinist and the deep sensitivity of a traditional musician. Hearn, a native to the Irish music communities of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD, makes his home in Boston playing guitar for a number of traditional music acts and bands. As a duo they have performed on Front Row Boston, Brian O’Donovan’s Burren Backroom Series, and they can be heard on broadcasts of WGBH’s “A Celtic Sojourn.”
“Maura Shawn has a long history of performing on the Mountain Home Music concerts. She appeared with the trio, The Forget-Me-Nots” as far back as 2003”, said JSMHM’s director, Rodney Sutton. “I never had the opportunity to witness their shows over the years, but I was well aware of what favorites they were of both Joe Shannon and his MHM audiences”. Sutton added, “I engaged in an on-line interview with Maura Shawn to find out the role that MHM has played in her career”.
When asked about her earliest memories of MHM – Scanlin replied, “We (the Forget-Me-Nots) were so young when we first met Joe that it is hard to remember exactly when that was! I was reading through some press and Joe said in an interview: ‘I gave them coloring books the first time they were on the show, and their fiddles were about as big as your hand.’ We must have been really little, maybe around 7 years old when we first played on the show, so that would be approximately 2002 or 2003…”.
She continued, “The Forget-Me-Nots was a fiddle band comprised of Ledah and Willa Finck and their father David, plus me! Our fathers actually knew each other before both families settled in Boone. Ledah, Willa and I have been the closest of friends since birth, and we still are today. We began playing violin at the same time, and our band together was one of the best musical experiences I could have asked for growing up. We encouraged each other to practice, and we loved playing fiddle together. Joe gave us some wonderful performance opportunities as part of his show, which helped keep us motivated, and we were always inspired by the other musicians who would perform on the show. What I loved most about MHM were the musical collaborations that were always a big part of the concerts. The more experienced musicians including Joe would sometimes invite us up as guests for a tune or song during one of their sets; we learned so much from those early collaborative experiences,” she added.
“I will always remember Joe’s love of story telling and poetry. He had a beautiful way with words and I loved hearing him read stories on the show, and tell stories backstage. He always made people laugh. He was always so kind to us, and provided us with many valuable musical experiences. I am grateful to have known Joe, and am honored to have been invited back to be a part of JSMHM again this summer”, Scanlin concluded.
Scanlin began her violin studies at the age of three, studying classical violin, learning the Suzuki method, a popular training program for beginners with Nan Stricklen of Banner Elk. She later became a student of Dr. Nancy Bargerstock at the Hayes School of Music at ASU where she also played in the ASU Symphony and Chamber Orchestras. She attended high school at The UNC School of the Arts studying with Sarah Johnson. She studied violin with Lucy Chapman while completing her Bachelors Degree at the New England Conservatory, where she was a member of several ensembles in both the classical and contemporary improvisation departments. Scanlin, currently makes her home in Boston, MA. She recently completed her Masters Degree in Violin Performance at the Yale School of Music, where she studied with Ani Kavafian. Maura’s classical collaborations with various ensembles have led her to the Fischoff International Chamber Music Competition and the Banff Chamber Music Residency. Maura has studied with renowned chamber musicians such as the Borromeo String Quartet, the Brentano String Quartet, Kim Kashkashian, Roger Tapping.
During high school, Scanlin focused less on fiddle music, yet her affinity for the traditional Celtic genre rekindled when she moved to Boston for her undergraduate studies at the New England Conservatory. According to Scanlin, Boston is an ideal city for playing and performing traditional Irish and Scottish music. While in Boston, Scanlin started playing in “sessions” — informal folk jams held in bars or restaurants. Through these sessions, Scanlin met peers from other universities also well-versed in the genre. They developed strong friendships that ultimately resulted in Scanlin’s two current folk music projects – Rakish and her five person band Pumpkin Bread.
When asked about Rakish, Hearn said, “I initially bonded with Scanlin over our mutual affinity for slow tunes, which undermine the stereotype that fiddle music is rowdy. I’ve learned that Maura Shawn has this distinct sense of melodic variation. There are certain things that she plays that when you hear them, you just know it’s her playing, which can be a hard thing to achieve in a musical community where a lot of stylistic development comes from listening to these older recordings of players from a generation or two ago.”
Scanlin’s personal style and approach are informed by her extensive classical training. Scanlin said that she enjoys delving into traditional tunes and coming up with intricate arrangements, sometimes by drawing parallels between folk tunes and music she learned from her classical training.
An example appears in a track called “Inion Ni Scannlain,” a song on Rakish’s self-titled extended play, which was released last year. “Inion Ni Scannlain” incorporates a traditional minuet movement from one of Bach’s partitas for solo violin, which Scanlin and Hearn arranged for guitar and fiddle. Scanlin added that playing classical chamber music has also informed her approach to playing as a unified group in her folk bands.
“I think that the wonderful thing about classical music and classical pedagogy is that it teaches you how to practice,” Scanlin said, “Through studying classical music, I’ve figured out what it means to really have a good tone and have a good sound — that is fundamental instrumental playing and can transfer to any style of music.”
This concert is supported by the following business sponsors; LifeStore Bank, Mast General Store, Stick Boy Kitchen, Mountain Time Publishing and the High Country Press. Additional support is provided by Watauga County Arts Council and Grassroots Funds from the NC Arts Council. JSMHM is also proud to be included as a site on the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina (BlueRidgeMusicNC.com).
Tickets cost $18 in advance and $20 at the door. Student tickets are $5. Children 12 and younger are admitted free. Advance tickets may be purchased online or at Stick Boy Bread Company (345 Hardin St, Boone), and Footsloggers on Main Street in downtown Blowing Rock.
Directions and more info can be found at the JSMHM website –