Musicians play at the 2019 Acadia Festival of Traditional Music & Dance held at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor. PHOTO COURTESY OF ACADIA TRAD FESTIVAL

Acadia Trad festival is back for 2023



PHOTO COURTESY OF ACADIA TRAD FESTIVAL

BAR HARBOR — The Acadia Festival of Traditional Music & Dance will return to College of the Atlantic in the summer of 2023 after a four-year hiatus. 

For seven summers, the Acadia Trad Festival, also known as Acadia Trad School, brought world-class musicians and dancers to Mount Desert Island for a week-long festival and residential camp. 

Acadia Trad Festival, founded by Chuck Donnelly in 2012, brought roughly 25 performers, 120 students and the public to nightly concerts as well as daily workshops and classes. The organization also hosted year-round Celtic sessions, school programs and more.  

The nonprofit organization disbanded in 2020 and the festival planned for that summer had to be canceled due to the pandemic.  

A group of past participants and volunteers launched an initiative last year to bring the festival back. By seeking input from community members, forming a working advisory committee and hiring a professional artistic leadership team, the group was able to revive the festival for June 26 to July 2, 2023. 

Past fiddle student and new AFTMD advisory committee chair Dave Wasserman said that many conversations not only proved how important the festival was to trad music students and enthusiasts all over the U.S. and Canada, but to the local community.  

“For centuries, Downeast Maine has flourished as a crossroads for many styles of music and dance: Acadian, Cape Breton, Irish, Scottish and Quebecois, just to name a few,” he said. “Our hope is that by keeping this festival going, the ‘magic that happens when we bring it all together’ will inspire future generations of students to carry these traditions forward. 

“We’re so grateful to our new artistic Dream Team, as well as to College of the Atlantic for their willingness to renew this partnership and bring the festival back to Mount Desert Island.”  

Along with the group’s plans to revive the festival, three new directors have been hired in leadership roles – all of whom happen to be veterans of the event. 

Festival Director April Verch, of Horse Shoe, N.C., is excited to be a part of the festival. The award-winning musician will never forget the roots of her career, some of which originated during her time as a festival instructor and performer.  

“I’m very excited for all of us former AFTMD instructors to return to the festival as directors in an even bigger way and revive it,” said Verch, who added that she cannot wait for 2023. 

PHOTO COURTESY OF ACADIA TRAD FESTIVAL

Fiddler Mari Black is the festival’s new music director and she said to be able to carry on this tradition and vision in that role is a dream come true and the greatest honor. She says she’s already counting down the months until the festival.  

Three-time Acadia Trad veteran Kieran Jordan is the festival’s dance director. Boston-based Jordan is a teacher, director, choreographer and Irish step dancer, who started step dancing when she was just 5 years old. 

“I can’t wait to experience the beauty and energy of this festival again,” said Jordan, “and let it weave its magic into my dancing and our community.” 

The revamped festival’s program, Acadia Trad School, will be a week-long, rigorous program offering fiddle, dance, piano, guitar, flute/whistle and other discipline courses. Adults and children over 12 years of age of all skill levels are welcome to sign up for classes.  

Although Verch said the organizers just recently released the news of the festival’s return, they have already received plenty of positive feedback from those who are excited for the festival. “A lot of people have really missed this event. It was a highlight of the summer for a lot of musicians to learn, network and showcase their talent,” she said.  

Since the event is going to be held at College of the Atlantic, there are limited dorms available for visiting musicians. “Because it’s part camp… people can stay at the COA campus, they can stay off campus or they can camp locally,” Verch said. She thinks the event’s turnout is going to be great despite there being limited capacity. 

Over the next few months, the festival will release a faculty lineup of international artists as well as launch a student registration website and ticket sales. For updates and information, visit www.acadiatradfestival.org. 

Ninah Rein

Ninah Rein

Writer at Mount Desert Islander
Ninah Rein, an MDI native, covers news and features in the Bar Harbor area. She is glad to be back in Maine after earning a bachelor's degree in San Diego from the University of California.
Ninah Rein

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