|I played a violin for lots of
years before I found that it could be a fiddle, and that I enjoyed playing it that way.
I grew up in New England, but didn't discover contra dancing and the wealth of music for it until I moved to North Carolina and started going to contra dances in the
early 1990s. I like dancing, but I really prefer playing for the dancers!
One of my favorite things about playing for dancers is making the music fit the shape and feeling of the dance.
Besides contra, I also like playing for English and Scottish country dances. I regularly play for Sun Assembly, the English country dance community in Durham, North Carolina; for many Regency / Jane Austen-era English dances and weekends;
and for many Scottish country dances across the the U.S. and Canada.
I don't think of myself as very competitive, but I learned a lot from participating in Scottish fiddle competitions. In 1999 and 2000 I won the Loch Norman
Scottish fiddle Open competition, and in 1999 I won the Grandfather Mountain Scottish fiddle Open competition.
I much prefer playing for dances rather than competitions, but I've learned a lot from competing.
For Scottish music, I have been on staff at many weekends and workshops: Pinewoods, Ramblewood, Scottish Weekend (in West Virginia), and as a staff musician for the Teachers Association of Canada (TAC) Summer School in Waterloo, Ontario. As part of an ensemble called Highland Oasis, I play for Scottish Weekend at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York each year.
Teaching and mentoring are a big part of my life. In 2014, for a marvelous weekend, I helped lead a musicians' workshop in Lisbon, Portugal with Dean Herington, and that led to the formation of a new group of musicians there who now are beginning to play for the Lisbon Scottish country dances.
At John C. Campbell Folk School, in Brasstown, North Carolina, I very much enjoyed leading a week-long Scottish fiddle workshop, and then returning for another week to teach an intermediate fiddle class. Brasstown is an inspiring place to teach and learn. I also play for the English Country Dance Weekend in May each year, which is a joyous occasion, as it coincides with May Day and all the colorful celebrations and Morris dancing there.
Since 2003, I have been a regular member of The MacRowdies (Pete Campbell, accordion, and Dean Herington, piano), playing at the Loch Norman Highland Games, Stone Mountain,
and many other Scottish weekends. I also team up with pianist extraordinaire Dave Wiesler, to play mostly Scottish country dances, but some contra and English country dance, too.
In 2009 Dave and I released a recording of Scottish country dance music, Heather Hills, which is available through cdbaby.com.
For my online calendar, and more information about the music I play, see more about Mara...