Susan Ramsey: Earning a Musician’s Living in Rural Maine

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Susan Ramsey with students. Photo courtesy of Susan Ramsey

SKF NOTE: I write a weekly column for the Piscataquis Observer, sometimes about music and musicians, such as musician/teacher Susan Ramsey.

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A Musician Can Make a Big Difference in a Community
Scott K Fish, Special to the Piscataquis Observer – Sept. 11, 2017

When I first started writing for this newspaper, I browsed the internet for Piscataquis County music teachers, wondering, “Are musicians making a living in Piscataquis? If so, how?”

Turns out, the musician I was looking for is Susan Ramsey. While I discovered, and was impressed with, Foxcroft Academy’s (FA) music programs, I did not connect with Ms. Ramsey until last week. She directs the FA String Program among her several other musical endeavors. And if not for down time needed to mend a knee, Susan and I may have never met.

“Honestly, I run from gig to gig, and this is the longest I’ve been home for, like, two years. I never spend this much time in my house,” she tells me.

I first heard and saw Susan perform on her violin several years ago with Dave Mallett’s band at the Gracie Theater in Bangor. There were moments where she was improvising short melodies in call-and-response fashion to Mr. Mallett’s singing. This is a common interaction with musicians. What stuck with me was that Susan was uncommonly good at inventing memorable music lines.

“David asked me to do some recording on his album, Artist in Me, in 2003, and I reluctantly agreed to it,” Susan said. The recording was fun, but when Mallett asked her to “play a few songs” with him onstage — Susan’s reluctance returned. Her extensive classical music education had not prepared Susan to wing it onstage with a folksinger.

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