Don Roy ‘s music is deeply rooted in the Franco-American tradition. From an early age, he absorbed the music that was played and enjoyed by his family. Don’s grandparents immigrated to southern Maine during the first half of the twentieth century, as did many other Quebecois families, in order to find work in local industries. Here, they formed a close-knit community that was bound by shared language, experience, faith, and music. Don evinced an interest in music at an early age; his uncle Norman Mathieu began teaching him the guitar at age six, and soon Don was playing along with other musicians at his family’s house parties.
Another uncle, Lucien (Lou) Mathieu, introduced Don to the fiddle when he was 15, and became Don’s musical mentor. Lou, a well-known fiddler in Franco-American circles, introduced Don to influential recordings which helped to shape his personal style. Only one year after picking up the fiddle, Don won his first fiddle competition. He has since been named winner of numerous fiddle contests, including the Massachusetts and Maine State Championships. He was also named one of the top three fiddlers in New England.
Don met his future wife and musical partner Cindy LaBrecque in 1980; they were married in 1981. Cindy is also a musician who grew up immersed in the melodies and rhythms of Franco-American music; her grandparents came to Maine from Prince Edward Island. She has been a highly skilled stepdancer in the Franco-American tradition since her early years. Although she – like Don – began to play music on the guitar, she quickly turned to piano. Her accompaniment is fluid and rhythmic and provides a perfect foil to Don’s virtuosic fiddling.
In 1988, Don gathered Cindy and other family members and friends to form the Maine French Fiddlers. This band took the distinctive Franco-American sound to a national audience. It was featured in a number of notable venues, including the Maine Festival, the National Folk Festival, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Wolf Trap. The band appeared on “Prairie Home Companion” radio shows that were broadcast from Portland, Maine, and Mansfield, Massachusetts. Don led the Maine French Fiddlers on two successful “French Connections” tours through New England and Louisiana.
In addition to the Maine French Fiddlers, Don and Cindy have lent their talents to a diverse collection of musical groups, including Al Hawkes and the Night Hawkes (bluegrass fusion), The House Island Band (Irish-French), and Fiddle Box (a distinctive combination of fiddle, accordion, piano, guitar, and voice.) Since 1994, Don and Cindy have appeared with their close friend Jay Young (bass) as the Don Roy Ensemble. The Ensemble has appeared widely in Maine (National Folk Festival, American Folk Festival, One Longfellow Place, Saco River Theatre, Portland Public Library, The Skye Theatre, and the Festival of Cultural Exchange, as well as many smaller venues); New England (Champlain Valley Festival, Lowell Folk Festival, New Bedford Summerfest, Franco Festival); nationally (Richmond Folk Festival, Library of Congress, Kennedy Center, Montana Folk Festival); and internationally (Celtic Colours, Nova Scotia.)
Don’s musicianship has earned him three Individual Artist Fellowship Awards (1994, 2001, 2008) from the Maine Arts Commission. These fellowships are awarded for excellence in traditional arts and are highly prized. They are given a maximum of 3 times to any one participant. He was also presented with the Harold Carter Memorial award for country fiddling. In 2018 Don and Cindy received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. This is the highest honor given in the United States to traditional artist.
In addition to his musical performances, Don is a sought-after teacher of fiddle tunes and technique. He frequently instructs at fiddle camps, including Fiddle Tunes (Washington) and Fiddle Hell (Massachusetts), as well as Maine Fiddle Camp. He also actively fosters community music-making and appreciation of traditional music through his unique fiddle orchestra, Fiddle-icious. The orchestra grew from a series of group lessons Don offered in Portland, Maine, beginning in 2000. Participants in these lessons became the core of what has now become an orchestra of over 150 musicians, who play fiddle as well as accordion, mandolin, flute, guitar, banjo, saxophone, cello, and bass. Orchestra members can also learn stepdancing, and hone their singing and harmony skills in addition to working through an impressive syllabus of tunes each season. Each October, Fiddle-icious delights audiences across Maine with its infectious musicianship and good humor.
Don performs and records using his own violins. He has recorded and released four solo CDs, and is currently working on a fifth. His compositions, as well as a selection of traditional melodies, have been released in his first tune collection, Notes From My Mind.
- Don Roy, “Headed for a Hoedown” 1994
- Don Roy, “Thanks for the Lift” 2000
- Don Roy, “Too Many Tunes” 2008
- Don Roy, “Franco American Fiddler” 2016