Tags Posts tagged with "Folk"


Kirsten Maxwell recently won a singer-songwriter competition in Florida. Photo by Ken Farrell

Huntington High School graduate Kirsten Maxwell, 23, was like all other high school students at the end of her senior year. When she graduated in 2010, the singer-songwriter didn’t know what she’d pursue at SUNY Potsdam in the fall.

“Both of my parents majored in music, but it didn’t occur to me that that was a path,” Maxwell said in a phone interview.

Her high school music teacher, Jason Giachetti, encouraged Maxwell to capitalize on her musical talent for a career.

She said Giachetti helped her put together a repertoire of songs and gave her music theory lessons every day at 7 a.m.

The hard work put into her foundation has paid off. After graduating from SUNY Geneseo in 2014 with a creative writing degree, she was a winner at the annual South Florida Folk Festival Singer-Songwriter competition in Fort Lauderdale in January.

That win may not come as a surprise to those familiar with her abilities. Giachetti, who is in his 16th year at Huntington High School, said he heard Maxwell sing for the first time during a vocal contest. Maxwell was in the chorus, but he said he didn’t know how talented she was until then, and told her she had to pursue a career in music.

“I’m just unbelievably proud of her,” Giachetti said in a phone interview. “For an educator of any sort, seeing one of their students really follow their dreams, it’s a dream come true.”

Maxwell’s path to a music career began long before high school, however. Her mother was an opera singer and her father was a conductor, and Maxwell said she grew up singing. When she was 12, she learned how to play the guitar and started writing some of her own songs.

“I’ve been writing ever since,” Maxwell said. She released her first album, entitled “Crimson,” independently in 2015. The album was part of a “healing process” following a particular relationship, she said, and its tone has a distinctive contemporary folk sound.

She is touted on her website as the “love child” of “Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot … raised with the help of godmothers Judy Collins and Maria Muldaur.” In her quest to make a living out of music, Maxwell said she’ll define her success by being not only financially stable, but also by being mentioned in the same breath as some of the iconic 1960s folksinging women.

“Things have changed, but I’d love to have the kind of career and image and respect that they’ve gained over the years,” she said.

Those who have heard her don’t hesitate to heap praise on the up-and-coming artist and her talent.

Jon Stein, who hosts a folk music-focused podcast called “The Hootenanny Cafe,” is a fan of Maxwell, according to her website.

“I never thought I’d ever hear a voice as angelic and mesmerizing as I did when I first listened to Joan Baez some 50 years ago, but then I heard the voice, songs and melodies of Kirsten Maxwell,” Stein said.

Maxwell credits her upbringing in Huntington as building a foundation for her music career, and now she will get to perform for the community that raised her. She is slated to perform a live show at the Huntington Public Library on March 25.

“It’s definitely significant in the fact that I have sort of a hometown pride and connection, growing up [and] being in the area,” she said.

‘Dance of the Haymakers’ by William Sydney Mount, 1845

By Erin Dueñas

The sounds of bluegrass, blues, acoustic and folk music are coming to East Setauket as the fourth annual Fiddle & Folk Festival returns to Benner’s Farm on Sept. 13.

According to Amy Tuttle, program director of the Greater Port Jefferson-North Brookhaven Arts Council, a festival sponsor, the festival is a celebration of acoustic music. “The formula we have found to be successful is to bring in a national act, a well-known blues based act and a Long Island band,” Tuttle said.

Headline acts this year include The Kennedy’s, Brooks Williams and Buddy Merriam with his band, Back Roads. During the festival, Merriam will be given the Long Island Sound Award honoring him for bringing bluegrass music to Long Island for 35 years, presented by the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.

The festival will feature a main stage where the headliners will perform, as well as a smaller stage that will include workshops and question-and-answer segments with the musicians. Another stage will host a jam session where not only will headliners play together to conclude the concert, but festivalgoers can play their own instruments. A kid’s corner will be set up offering story time and music, and the night will conclude with a contra dance, complete with a live band and caller. The farm will also be open where guests can check out organic gardens, barns and farm animals.

“This is an all-ages, family friendly event that people can either sit back to watch or participate in,” Tuttle said.

Charlie Backfish, who hosts the acoustic music show Sunday Street on WUSB 90.1, the radio station on the campus of SUNY Stony Brook, another festival sponsor, said Benner’s Farm is a good location for the event.

“This is the kind of music you probably could’ve heard at a farm at some point in history,” he said. “It really makes sense to have it there.” Backfish will host the question-and-answer session of the festival.

Bob Benner, who lives and works on the 15-acre farm, said the festival is a celebration of not only music but farm life. Benner referred to a painting at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook by famed local artist William Sydney Mount of a fiddler playing at a barn dance on a farm. “What we are trying to do at the festival is to show what people would do way back when,” he said. “Everyone lived on a farm here on Long Island up until the 1900s.”

The festival is also sponsored by Homestead Arts, the nonprofit educational arm of Benner’s Farm that works toward keeping what Benner called “old time arts and processes” from fading into history. “Homestead arts are all the different things that people had to know how to do away from our modern sensibilities — things like meat processing and vegetable canning,” he said. Music is a big part of that.

“Way back when there were no phonographs, no forms of playing music. The festival has the kind of music you would hear when neighbors got together for haying or working in the fields,” Benner said. “This really is the perfect place for the festival.”

The fourth annual Fiddle & Folk Festival will be held on Sept. 13 at Benner’s Farm, 56 Gnarled Hollow Road, Setauket, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 adults, $11 children and seniors. The event will be held rain or shine. Bring a lawn chair or blanket for seating. Food and drink will be available for purchase. For more information, call 631-689-8172 or visit www.fiddleandfolk.com.