Fiddler finds fame out west

5 mins read
Lydia Veilleux, with Devitt Feeley (left) and Craig Ferguson (right), make up Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band with Andrew Paddock (not pictured).
Lydia Veilleux, with Devitt Feeley (left) and Craig Ferguson (right), make up Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band.

LOS ANGELES, California – A rising bluegrass star from Farmington, Maine, attributes her success to a local fiddling group.

Lydia Veilleux, a Mt. Blue High School graduate  first discovered her love of fiddle music as a student in a summer program offered at Berklee College of Music in Boston. After seeing a showcase of bluegrass music she was hooked and pursued her new-found passion as a member of the high school’s Franklin County Fiddlers.

“I wasn’t getting along with classical music teachings, bluegrass opened doors for me,” Veilleux said. Thanks to guidance from Fiddlers’ director Steve Muise, Veilleux, the daughter of Tom and Sandy Veilleux of Farmington, decided to pursue fiddle music wholeheartedly.

As a junior in high school, Veilleux auditioned for and received a scholarship with Berklee College, the very same place that ignited her passion for bluegrass. “I didn’t apply anywhere else,” she said. “Berklee was the only school with a music program that studied fiddle music.” She graduated in 2004 summa cum laude in Violin Performance and went on to study Contemporary Improvisation in the New England Conservatory’s Masters Program.

After a year-and-a-half, nationwide tour with The 3 Redneck Tenors, a musical based in Dallas, Texas, Veilleux ended up moving to Los Angeles with her husband, a film composer. Veilleux was able to build contacts in the L.A. area and insists that the bluegrass vibe is not lost in the big city. “The bluegrass scene is a small group so it feels like a smaller community.” Moreover, Veilleux offers a unique sound to the west coast.  Her music is largely influenced by places in the northeast such as Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, which is a, “more Celtic, kind of Civil War [fiddle] sound.”

Once settled in L.A., opportunity presented itself for her in the form of fellow Berklee graduates Devitt Feeley and Craig Ferguson who, along with Veilleux, formed the group “Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band.” Together they have drawn upon folk, country, and bluegrass music in their songs and, in 2009, won the competitive Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Band Contest. The group continues to build popularity in the L.A. area, accruing awards and releasing compilations to receptive audiences. Their first album, self-titled, was just recently released.

Today, Veilleux, 28, is kept busy with the Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band’s steady schedule of gigs and teaching lessons. When asked what advice she would have for current members in the talented Franklin County Fiddlers, she has three points of guidance. “First, to be successful you have to be versatile.” While Veilleux clearly favored fiddling music, she says she forced herself to master classical music as well. “You’ll get more work,” she explained.

Along the same vein she urges hopeful musicians to, “practice things you’re bad at.” Veilleux cites her own struggles with sight-reading sheet music. Fiddle music lends itself to learning by ear but Veilleux says it was imperative that she put in years emphasizing sight-reading.

Lastly, Veilleux said to, “take a business class. Most musicians are bad at business. You want to make sure you get paid.” Studying business helped stressed the importance of written contracts and now she often draws them up and negotiates payment for her own gigs. “People will take you much more seriously,” she said.

Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band’s website (www.rockyneckbluegrass.com) offers several sound bites as well as information about the band. You can also follow them on facebook or go to Veilleux’s personal website at lydiaveilleux.com.

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