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Jim Fownes

As a kid, Jim listened to classical music without being forced by adults. His interest led to singing in school and church choirs, piano lessons, and church bell-ringing and organ-playing. He was fortunate to take excellent music theory and appreciation classes in high school. After you’ve dug Stravinsky, your musical doors are pretty wide open. In college he listened to just about everything from baroque to folk, jazz, rock, and free improvisation.

After college, Jim met his best friend and life partner Robin Harrington, and among their shared loves was traditional music. Eschewing television, they played guitar and piano and sang together when they weren’t studying hard to become scientists. Their daughters Jen and Kathleen were born into a household resonant with singing, jam sessions, band rehearsals, and contra dances. Jim called dances for the girls’ preschools and elementary schools and the family danced and sang at Family Week camps and many other events.

Jim has been calling contra dances since the 1980s. He has performed at Guiding Star Grange and the Concord Scout House as well as hundreds of smaller contra, family, gender-role-free, and private dances. Jim teaches new dancers by choosing straightforward dances that keep them in the “stretching zone” without lengthy lecturing. His instructions are clear, helpful, and often humorous.

Jim’s delighted that Kathleen plays music with him. He plans to confound expectations about old dogs like himself by continuing to learn new tricks. His piano interests remain diverse, ranging from Quebecois to New Orleans to Afro-Cuban.

Kathleen Fownes

Kathleen, unsurprisingly, is a contra dancer and musician born and raised. She spent her toddler years falling asleep on stages and at jam sessions of her parents’ band in Hawai‘i. When her family moved to Western Massachusetts, her fate was sealed. She grew up dancing at local contra dances and going to CDSS Family Week at Ogontz.

Kathleen studied classical violin from elementary through high school with Van Kaynor and Philipp Naegele. She also played in a Jazz ensemble for two years in high school. However, her real passion is dance music, and she loves taking all she learns in any genre and applying it to the contra dance tradition. She learned her first fiddle tunes from Van, and went on to study French Canadian and Irish fiddle with Becky Tracy. Kathleen currently attends Northeastern University in Boston, which lets her take advantage of the music and dance opportunities in and around the city. She is enrolled in the Dual Certificate in Music program with New England Conservatory and Northeastern, concentrating in contemporary improvisation. She currently studies violin, ranging from Bach to the blues, with Eden MacAdam-Somer.

Kathleen has become increasingly involved with traditional song, having fun finding little-known material in her family’s innumerable recording collection. She can be found playing fiddle and mandolin and singing at small events and festivals, as well as playing for contra dances with her dad and many other superb musicians.