On a Monday evening at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, you can hear music long before seeing the musicians.
These students are part of a group that's pretty much one of a kind in Maine, and it's not surprising it came out of this school system.
In 2010, we did a story on a program in the district that put a violin in the hands of every third grader. The aim of the program - to get students started playing music... but just just as important, to keep them playing from elementary school to middle to high school.
Teacher Steve Muise brought an enthusiasm that was infectious.
The seeds planted by the program in the third grade have helped create The Franklin County Fiddlers. They play more than fiddle music, featuring piano, accordion, bagpipes, bass and cello. The fiddlers play with freewheeling energy. And they operate under the guidance of the irrepresible Steve Muise.
Muise started teaching Anna Glass, who is now a senior, when she was in third grade. "What's Mr. Muise like? Oh my goodness, he is wonderful," she beams, "So much zeal. You cannot be in the same room with him and not feel as joyful and energetic as he is."
The group has been around for 23 years, always made up of Mt. Blue students and has played where fiddlers are royalty: New Orleans, Nashville, the Maritime provinces and Quebec.
And Muise's constant advice: Don't be afraid to be awesome.
"What I mean by that is certainly not bragging or saying 'look at us, we're awesome!'" Muise explains, "But it's just to say to the kids, don't be afraid to step up and do something different. And don't be afraid of stepping away from the crowd and being yourself and taking a risk."
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