Owen Kennedy is a seventeen year old fiddler from Maine whose love of traditional music and enthusiasm for performing has captivated audiences from San Diego to the Shetland Islands and all over New England. He enjoys tunes from traditions beyond Maine, especially Scotland & Shetland, Cape Breton, Quebec & the Maritimes, and appreciates the challenge of playing true to the authentic style of a place and culture.
Owen is the 2022 New England Regional Open Scottish Fiddle Champion, the 2021 Junior US National Scottish Fiddle Champion, and won the 2021 Young Stars of Maine "Glenn Jenks Future in Music” prize. He was selected for Best of All Things Irish from the Maine Irish Heritage Center and received a Passim Iguana Music Fund Grant for work on his debut album, Oh When: Now, which will be out in April 2023.
Oh When: Now is an all-Maine project, recorded with Owen Marshall & Noah Fishman, mastered by Lincoln Clapp, with album design by Elsie Gawler and duplication from Crooked Cove. Owen's teacher (honorary Mainer!) Seán Heely adds fiddle to a track that includes his original tune, Beinn Hòb.
Owen is also wrapping up a solo project, 50 Fiddlers from 50 States, before heading up to Cape Breton to attend the Beinn Mhàbu Gaelic Foundations: Living Cultures program for his first year of university in the fall of 2023.
Owen performs in duos with both Seán Heely and Ethan Tischler and in various groups including the Pineland Fiddlers, the Young Tradition Youth Commission, and as a Youth Artist Leader in Vermont’s Young Tradition Touring Group. Owen has shared the stage with Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy, Genticorum, Claude Méthé, Pete Sutherland & Oliver Scanlon, Andrea Beaton & Troy MacGillivray, and Owen Marshall.
Also a seasoned solo performer, Owen frequently playing at local markets & festivals, kicking off the Boys & Girls Club National Conference in San Diego with an audience of several thousand, and performing at The Big Gig, the final Shetland Folk Frenzy concert at The Mareel. During the pandemic, he was part of livestream events from Club Passim's Campfire Festival to Make Music Portland, Virtual New England Folk Festival to BCMFest 2022.
Recent performances include the Young Stars of Maine Prizewinners Concert, the New World Festival, Waldo Fiddle Fest, Maine Celtic Celebration, and the Flurry Festival; opening sets for Còig in Maine and Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas in Vermont; house concerts in Cherryfield, for the Brownington Ceilidh Club in Vermont and a notloB Parlour Concert in Massachusetts; as well as several Maine tours with Seán Heely, including joining the Seán Heely Band at The Dance Hall in Kittery and for the Maine Highland Games.
As an emerging musician deeply rooted in the Maine Maritime tradition and immersed in his growing passion for Scottish music, Owen’s powerful playing charms listeners whether capturing the melancholy of a Scottish air, mimicking the sound of pipes in a march, or driving a good ol’ New England contradance tune.
Owen's musicality and commitment to traditional music has been recognized by several awards:
2022 New England Regional Open Scottish Fiddle Champion
Owen won the 2022 New England Regional Open Scottish Fiddle Championship, held at the New Hampshire Highland Games, his first time competing against adults. He also won "Best March," "Best Strathspey," and "Best Air." He played Mo rùn geal òg also known as My Fair Young Love or Lament for William Chisholm, written by Christina Fergusson for her husband, William Chisholm who was killed at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. His MSR was Sprig of Ivy; Craigellachie Bridge, and Barbara's Welcome Home. Most of these tunes were learned from Seán Heely, except for Sprig of Ivy which Alasdair White taught him at the Piper's Gathering in 2021. His winning set is available on Youtube.
After placing in the top ten three years in a row, Owen won 2nd place in Young Tradition Vermont's Festival Contest. The competition accepted submissions from all over the United States as well as internationally.
Owen is thrilled & honored to be an Iguana Fund recipient for his debut album Oh When: Now!
The Iguana Music Fund is an annual grant program predominantly funded by generous anonymous donors, plus the help of Passim, sponsorships, and community donations. Each year the Iguana Music Fund gives approximately $40,000 in grants to individual artists in amounts from $500 to $2,000 each. Grants are used for projects and expenses to aid in artists' career growth, and range from recording projects to community programs to specialized equipment or instruments.
2021 Junior US National Scottish Fiddle Champion
After placing first in the Ohio Scottish Games and with a recommendation from the Scottish FIRE Qualifier judges in June, Owen competed in the September 11th, 2021 US National Scottish Fiddle Championships. He placed first, winning the Junior US National Scottish Fiddle Champion title. He played Sitting on the Stern of the Boat (air) and The Conundrum, The Iron Man, and The Gladstone (MSR). A video of his competition set is available on YouTube.
Owen's achievement was officially recognized by the State of Maine Senate and House of Representatives on September 27th, 2021, sponsored by Senator Craig Hickman and co-sponsored by Representative Tavis Hasenfus.
Owen is the inaugural winner of the "Glenn Jenks Future in Music Prize".
2021 Best of All Things Irish in Maine
Owen was selected for Best of All Things Irish in Maine by the Maine Irish Heritage Center.
2020 Young Artist Scholarship from Acadia Traditional School of Music & Arts
Owen was awarded scholarship funds for lessons with the Acadia Trad instructor of his choice, Seán Heely.
Owen began playing the violin at four years old as a Pineland Suzuki School student, learning music by ear; his first violin was a box with ruler stuck in it “played” with a wooden dowel rod. He studied with Betsy Kobayashi for ten years, and continues participate in several chamber & orchestral ensembles including Mozart Mentors Orchestra, Maine All State Orchestra (2020), and Mid-Maine Youth Orchestra (2021).
Although he enjoys the challenge and intricate harmonies of classical music, Owen's true love is fiddling, which he began at the age of seven, performing with Ellen Gawler and the Pineland Fiddlers. From his very first fiddle performance at the beloved Skye Theatre, pictured below, it became clear that Owen has a gift: his infectious joy in sharing traditional music.
At sixteen, Owen fiddled all around central & Southern Maine: on stage at Hannaford Hall for the Maine Acoustic Festival; at the Waterville Opera House for the REM Awards; twice for the Alfond Youth Center Talent Show; at both Bates and Colby Colleges; and at Sugerloaf for the Celebrity Chefs Gala. You may have seen him at the Boothbay Harbor Fest, the Gardiner River Fest, the Winthrop Sidewalk Art Festival, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, a Gardiner Artwalk or two, any number of farmers market or jam sessions from Wayne to Portland to Farmington to Boston to Cape Breton and the Shetland Islands. One of his favorite Maine performances was an impromptu invite to get on stage with Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy at The Strand in Rockland.
In addition to performing with the Pineland Fiddlers, Owen has played with the Maine Folque Co-op since 2015, when the group performed at the American Folk Festival in Bangor. Led by Cindy Larock and based in the Lewiston/Auburn area, the Maine Folque Co-op provides music for contradances and various special events like St. Patrick’s Day, the Great Falls Balloon Festival, and Maine Maple Sunday. Most recently, Owen joined the Young Tradition Vermont Touring Group, an auditioned trad band of teen musicians, singers, and dancers who focus on learning traditional music and dance repertoire, performing throughout the season in Vermont.
Owen enjoys playing hymns at church, entertaining at schools & retirement communities, and offering music for weddings and non-profit events. In the summer, Owen attends Maine Fiddle Camp and other camps & festivals, and travels as much as possible year-round. Owen loves being outside hiking, swimming, kayaking, biking, skiing, and fishing as well as being in the kitchen cooking.