Opinion

Susan Ramsey sends music ‘through my body to the audience’

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Musician and teacher, Susan Ramsey, has said more than once, directly and indirectly, how much she loves living in Piscataquis County. Piscataquis County — the whole State of Maine — is fortunate to have Susan Ramsey as one of its own.

I have written before about Ramsey’s local musical contributions: directing the String Program at Foxcroft Academy, teaching kids and adults private violin lessons from her North Country Strings Music Studio; her live performing and studio recording with Piscataquis County musician David Mallett, and more.

Susan Ramsey has an endearing professionalism, dedication and enthusiasm for live music performance; for playing many styles of quality music, and bringing it to community audiences. My gourmet chef friends have the same enthusiasm for spending hours creating feasts, mostly for the joy of seeing people enjoying their culinary bullseyes.

Currently, Ramsey is violinist with five other musicians as the Highlands Classical Chamber Music Ensemble (HCCME): Margery Aumann (pianist), Deb Maynard (saxophonist), Ellen Dickenson (bassoonist), Kathy Hunter (flutist), Ruth Fogg (cellist). Ramsey, Maynard, Aumann, and Fogg are Foxcroft Academy teachers. The Ensemble started in 2013 when pianist Aumann and Ramsey “connected via the Academy,” adding members along the way, Susan said.

“All of the people in this group are interesting people, renaissance people. They wear many hats and have done many things,” Ramsey continued. “We get together nine months ahead of [our concerts] and prepare new material,” to perform in four venues. Two of the Ensemble’s 2019 venues are new, ”so we can expand our fan base,” Ramsey chuckled.

HCCME performs at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 10, at Dover-Foxcroft Congregational Church 828 West Main St. Dover-Foxcroft. The program is designed for “classical music lovers” and “people who don’t normally go to classical concerts,” Susan explained. Theirs is a program she describes as “a buffet of different sounds from the classical period.”

According to the group bio, the Ensemble’s mission “is to promote live classical music in the communities of Central Maine.”

Ramsey said, “We feel like there are people who want to hear this [music] who don’t want to drive all the way to Bangor. It’s a chance for them to hear classical music locally.

Having made a living as a working musician for seven years, I was curious about some of the important offstage work of the HCCME. What are rehearsals like? Among the six accomplished musicians, who decides what music to play, and how to play it?

Susan starts with, “We come together and we have conversations about this music.” She laughs a bit and adds, “These practices are pretty intense. We don’t get into fist fights. Nobody leaves with blood on their instruments,” Susan says, then sums up her answer with, “We’re very passionate about what we’re doing and [very passionate about] playing this music in a way that best honor[s] the piece, the composer, the genre, and our audience.”

At each concert venue, moments before showtime, Susan describes the mood backstage as contemplative. Each Ensemble member has her own way of collecting their thoughts, centering themselves before going onstage.

The rehearsals, the thinking, the technical mastering of tough music — hopefully all that ends when the concert starts and the heart kicks in.

“There’s something magical about an audience,” Susan said. And when she raises her violin bow to start playing, she says her ideal frame of mind for the music at hand is to feel, “I’ve put my time in. I’ve invested in this. I’ve studied this. But hopefully I’ve incorporated it enough so that I’m not thinking about what I’m doing, so that the music just comes through my body, into the instrument, and out there to the audience.”

Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited AsMaineGoes.com and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.

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