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.
Like many musicians, Owen made the best of the Covid challenges with various video projects including the ongoing 50 Fiddlers from 50 States Project and sharing music online on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. He performed for many livestream events from Club Passim's Campfire Festival to Cabot Arts' Celtic Equinox celebration to Make Music Portland and for the Virtual New England Folk Festival.
Now fully vaccinated, Owen is enjoying sharing music live & in person again! Recent in-person performances include the Young Stars of Maine Prizewinners Concert, the Down East Singers American Music Concert, the New World Festival and Waldo Fiddle Fest, and opening sets for Còig in Maine and Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas in Vermont. Owen joined his mentor/teacher Seán Heely for a Maine Tour in October 2021 and virtually for the 2022 Boston Celtic Music Festival.
Owen's musicality and commitment to traditional music has been recognized by several awards:
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.
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.
After placing in the top ten two years in a row, Owen won 3rd place in Young Tradition Vermont's Festival Contest. The competition accepted submissions from all over the United States as well as internationally.
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.
Now sixteen, Owen has 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 monthly 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.