WCCC to Feature Award-winning Musical Duo

October 5, 2015

The halls of Washington County Community College will soon be thrumming with the assorted folk gospel bluegrass melodies of classic country thanks to the impending arrival of former Calais High School graduates Ken and Jane Brooks. The Brooks will be holding their seventh annual fundraising performance at the college on Saturday, October 24th at 7p.m.

This year, the Brooks will be joined by Phillip and Ellen LaClaire, a duet that has previously accompanied them at earlier concerts. “We like to bring different people so that it’s a different show each time,” Ken Brooks said. Phil plays the banjo and guitar and Ellen plays the bass and mandolin, giving the promise of a lively string quartet.

While the purpose of the concert is to raise scholarship funds for WCCC students, the Brooks have made it abundantly clear that their goal is to encourage musical appreciation in the community at large. For the past three years, the Brooks have been coming to Calais High School on the Friday before the performance to give an hour long music workshop to band, chorus, and jazz students. The workshop has been very well received by students, who are given the opportunity to understand the responsibilities of being a performer and of playing and maintaining instruments as well as musical techniques. Brooks says the receptivity of the students is a true pleasure. “They’re motivated to learn all they can about music.” Though Mrs. Alison Brennan has retired from the music program, the pair have been in contact with the new music teacher to see if the workshop will happen again this year. Either way, the Brooks plan to continue raising funds for contributions to the high school music program.

Brooks himself was not a member of the high school band when he was a student at CHS, but he was already a paid performer by his senior year. Brooks was recruited by a friend to play in Jonesport at the Jonesport Opry House, where he and said friend were rapidly enlisted to return as the house band as a result of their evident talent.

Despite having a long history as a performer, Brooks said performing was never his goal. “I love the sound of the guitar. I love the skill it takes to play it properly.” His affection for the instrument certainly helped to propel him through the heights of the folk and bluegrass music world, which is where he found himself after graduating from CHS.

After playing professionally for a few decades, Ken returned home to Calais for his 20th class reunion. It was there that he became reacquainted with his former classmate Jane, and the two immediately discovered a newfound connection. Soon the two were wed, and Jane began following Ken’s tours all over the country. From Florida to Nashville to Canada, few noteworthy venues on the East coast went uncovered.

Years later, having played with several nationally acclaimed bluegrass bands, Ken felt that he was burned out. He stopped performing for a year, a decision that Jane found heartrending. Being a great fan of his musical talent herself, she felt it was only proper to continue sharing it with people. She asked Ken: “If I learned an instrument, would you play again?” He replied that he would, and he recommended that she learn the acoustic bass. She promptly set about doing so, and the two were soon performing as a solid duet. Since that time, the Brooks have garnered numerous awards including the 2012 Vocal Duo of the Year from the Maine Country Music Association, and the 2014 Vocal Duo of the year from the Maine Academy of Country Music. Ken was inducted into the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame in 2012.

Duet performances by both the Brookes and the LaClaires will be demonstrated at Saturday’s concert, in addition to vocal-accompanied quartets featuring all four performers.

$5 tickets on “Mr. Goodwin’s Fiddle” print have helped raise money for the WCCC scholarship, and the winning ticket will be drawn the night of the concert. The print is Ken’s donated art work and the double matting is donated by School Street Picture Framing of Brewer. The Brookes wish to thank their sponsors, WCCC, International Motel and the Wickachee Dining room.

Tickets are $15 at the door or $12 in advance with students and children for $10. For advance tickets call: Tess 726-4776/454-2130 or Irene 454-3027.