Lissa Schneckenburger: New England fiddler and folk singer


"What Is New England Fiddling?"

The best way to understand this style of music is to go out and do some listening and hear for yourself what it?s all about. Words can only go so far when describing the intangible beautiful, ever changing force that is music. But hopefully the following paragraphs will be helpful to those that want to learn more about the traditional New England style.


New England has its own style of traditional music just like any other region in the world. Today, New England fiddling refers to a synthesis of other music styles (many Celtic based) brought to New England by immigrant musicians from the 1600?s to the present day. Throughout the years, its influences have been as varied as the immigrant population. Families came originally from overseas, and then later from other parts of the US and Canada. People came hoping to find better jobs and a new life, and always brought their music and their culture with them. Once here, they settled down and joined the melting pot that was, and still is, the United States of America. Immigrant cultures to the New England region have included Ireland, Scandinavia, France, England, Scotland, Quebec, Acadia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Southern Appalachia. Music and dancing from all of those cultures have played a part in shaping the musical style of New England.


"Traditional New England Folk Music" is currently the most popular and best way to describe the style in question, however you might also hear a few other terms once in a while.

At one time there was a great deal of travel up and down the coast along commercial fishing routes. For this reason the areas of coastal New England, New Brunswick, and Novia Scotia are all closely linked culturally. The term New England fiddling is sometimes synonymous with the term "Maritime Fiddling" or "Music of the Maritimes", in which case the speaker is talking about the region in a broader cultural sense, including coastal New England and Canada.

Coastal Maine is also sometimes referred to as "Down East" Maine, and likewise the fiddling is sometimes described as the "Down East" style. See other FAQ's for the full definition of the term Down East.


Here are a few names that make a traditional New England music enthusiasts? eyes light up. Some of these gems were well known professional musicians in their day, others live(d) out quiet lives only to be discovered by a lucky few. If you ever run across an LP or reissued CD of these players, buy it RIGHT AWAY!

Because the New England music tradition is so closely linked to social dancing, there are several dance teachers and callers who have also been extremely influential in carrying on and passing down the tradition.


-At many contra dances and square dances around New England. (See the FAQ's for more about what contra dancing is) There are currently regular scheduled contra dances in every state. You can find listings of these events at web sites like

- Music camps! There are three music and dance camps that either specialize in, or offer instruction from New England style fiddle players:

-Concerts! There aren?t quite as many New England style fiddlers who are out giving concerts and touring full time, but here are a few people that I highly recommend listening to, if you ever get the chance. This is a list of folks who are all still recording, gigging, and teaching. Some have "day jobs" or other things they do for a living, while some are full time musicians.

- CDs! Buying discs is a great way to bring your favorite music home. They can be a great learning tool if you?re interested in pursuing this music further, and they support a group of (for the most part) independent, under-appreciated artists. Many of the fiddlers on the above list have several CDs of their own to choose from, but if you?re looking for a more general selection these web sites are a great place to browse.

- If you're interested in hearing this music past what the above lists can offer, you might want to check out some libraries and folk archives. The North East Folklife Center at the University Maine, and the Milne Special Collections Library at UNH both have an extensive library with oodles of cool old field recordings, books, transcriptions, etc. They're more than happy to help people dig up old recordings to listen to.

*if you?re interested in finding out more information, or in further discussion you can e mail

Waterville, Maine
August 1, 2006

A G FIDDLER, by Dudley Laufman

That's what he did nighttimes
played for them house dances
down the peninsula
Tunes like White Cockade
Larry O'Gaff 'n like that
Folks would walk on broken glass
to have a bow arm like his
Well that's what he did nights
Had real work daylight hours
what the hippies call a Day Job
Had his own boat and a mate help 'im
So he's pulling pots one morning
and a rope snagged caught
pulled his hand right through
cutting off the tip of a finger
He says to his mate
'Dere goes B flat

2008 :: Lissa Schneckenburger | website :: irislines, LLC