Friends of the Acadia Trad Festival

Board of Trustees:

David Wasserman, Chair
Chuck Donnelly, Vice-Chair
Kerstin Gilg, Treasurer
Shelley Keimach, Secretary
Ellen Mahoney, Trustee at Large

Lead Festival Staff

Festival Director: April Verch

Image credit: Mark Leet

April Verch, a native of the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, Canada and now a resident of Horse Shoe, NC has been thrilling audiences around the world with her fiddling, step dancing, singing and composing for over two decades. In 2010 she was one of six Canadian fiddlers who represented the Canadian fiddle tradition to the world in the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. She’s released 14 albums, an instructional step dance DVD, a book of original fiddle tunes, and co-authored a method book on Canadian Fiddle Styles for Mel Bay Publications. She’s also a passionate and experienced educator at music camps, master classes and workshops.

Even now, after countless awards and nominations, Verch never forgets the roots of her music, that connection to the people out there in the audience or on the dance floor, to the community sparked by a good song. 
“It’s about joining together to celebrate everyday life, through music. We’re all in this together.” And so she presses onward: diving deep into musical tradition, bringing people together and forging connections, and sharing her insight and genuine love for the music she plays so well.

As a past faculty member, I know firsthand just how special this event was and is to our beloved music and dance community both near and far, young and ‘more experienced!’ I am thrilled to be part of this team, and excited for the opportunity to contribute to the redevelopment of a festival that plays such an important role in celebrating, preserving and evolving these invaluable traditions.  I can’t wait to see you for that magical week in June!

Music Director: Mari Black

Image credit: Subbu’s Clicks

Called “one of the brightest fiddlers around today” (Brian O’Donovan, WGBH radio), multistyle violinist Mari Black’s passion for sharing joyous fiddling has led her around the globe in an effort to preserve and celebrate traditional music.  Raised on a rich blend of traditional musical styles, Mari burst onto the international stage when she became Scotland’s Glenfiddich Fiddle Champion, 2-time U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Champion, and 2-time Canadian Maritime Fiddle Champion, all within a three-year period. 

Ever since then, she has been spreading her love for dance-based music, performing at Celtic festivals, celebrated folk venues, world music concert series, and acclaimed classical venues including Carnegie Hall. Mari’s ear-catching original compositions draw on a broad range of stylistic influences, and her two CD recordings – Flight and Unscripted – reflect her playful explorations through a diverse range of music: Celtic, Americana, jazz, klezmer, tango, and more.  

Mari’s dedication to traditional music extends beyond the concert stage, as reflected in her work as a teacher, composer, dancer, competition judge, and musical ambassador committed to connecting people through music.  She teaches regularly at prestigious camps and workshops around the country, and is committed to instilling passion, curiosity, and joy in her students of all ages.  No matter where she’s playing, Mari’s favorite thing to do is sweep audiences away on a spirited musical adventure, celebrating tradition and exploring possibility in the dance-driven musics of the world!

“I have always felt the Acadia Trad School to be a beautiful and especially unique haven for making music, and I am thrilled to be a part of this outstanding new artistic team!  This place speaks to my soul, with the powerful camaraderie present amongst students and faculty as we immerse in the traditional music we dearly love.  The shared passion and joy of music-making that permeate our time together always recreate for me my very best early experiences as a young fiddler.  To be able to carry on this tradition and vision now as a director is a dream come true, and the greatest honor for me.  I’m already counting down the months until we’re all together again next summer!

Dance Director: Kieran Jordan

Image credit: Dylan Ladds

Kieran Jordan, based in Boston, is a performer, teacher, director, choreographer, and community leader in Irish dance. Regarded as “one of America’s premier dancers and instructors” (Irish Echo), she is known especially for her creative collaborations in sean-nós and old-style step dancing. Her non-competitive Irish dance programs for adults have been inspiring students in these traditions for more than two decades.

Born in Philadelphia in an Irish American family, Kieran started Irish step dancing when she was just five years old. A passion for music and movement and a quest for wholeness, connection, and joyful self-expression have guided her unique career. With a performance style described as “playfully theatrical” (The Boston Globe) and “wonderfully expressive” (The Living Tradition), Kieran draws from contemporary dance, somatic practices, and more than 40 years of immersion in traditional Irish music and dance.

Kieran has an M.A. from the University of Limerick and a B.A. from Boston College. Winner of two Massachusetts Artist Fellowships, she also holds the TCRG certification for teaching Irish dance. With a deepening focus at the intersections of dance, movement, and healing arts, Kieran also practices energy healing, with certifications in Reiki and Polarity Therapy.

It is my great pleasure to return to the Acadia Trad Festival, in the role of Dance Director! I look forward to working with the new leadership team to design a dance program that is varied, inclusive, inspiring, and engaging, for dancers at all levels. Can’t wait to experience the beauty and energy of this festival again — and let it weave its magic into my dancing and our community.

Administrative Director: Heather McAslan

Heather is a technology professional who found her way into data management via physics doctoral school, including working at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland and presenting her research at international conferences in the US and Europe. More recently she has lectured for the Institute of Physics’ industry technology series and appeared on Escalla’s “Women in Tech” Panel. She currently leads the data science team at a UK tech start-up. 

From Glasgow, Scotland, Heather grew up playing piano and learned social folk dance from a young age. This instilled a love of traditional music and dance which she has pursued in dance bands up and down the country, playing mandolin, piano and calling.

Heather is known for her creative piano playing, which never fails to get dancers up onto the floor. She is a caller of ceilidh, contra and balfolk dancing. Her engaging and dynamic calling style welcomes first-time dancers and seasoned festival-goers alike. She is devoted to creating an environment in which all participants can join, and is a strong proponent of gender neutral dance calling. She is a co-founder and organiser of the Brighton Ceilidh Collective’s Rant series – a monthly community dance now entering its tenth year. 

“The Acadia Festival is a magical community which altered the musical trajectory of my life, and is so much more than a week-long experience! I count myself incredibly lucky to be working with this new artistic team, who are at once joyfully exuberant and thoughtfully dedicated. I am so looking forward to us all meeting together again in Bar Harbor, and sharing our love for these traditions.”

Organizational Note

Acadia Festival of Traditional Music & Dance is overseen by Friends of the Acadia Trad Festival, a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Corporation. The Festival’s Board of Trustees is responsible for setting the mission, vision and student/attendee pricing of the Festival and hiring lead staff (including Festival Director, Administrative Director, Music Director and Dance Director). The Board of Trustees is responsible for setting the festival’s overall budget, with input from the Festival Director. In turn, the Festival Director, Music Director and Dance Director are responsible for selecting Festival faculty and curating artistic programming consistent with that vision and budget. The Festival Director reports to the Board of Trustees, with the Board Chair acting as liaison. The Festival Director, Administrative Director, Music Director and Dance Director do not have sole decision-making power over the Festival’s direction and do not have decision-making power in regards to the Festival’s overall budget.

The Acadia Festival of Traditional Music & Dance is governed by Friends of the Acadia Trad Festival, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) Maine nonprofit corporation. Website art by Anabelle Keimach and Annelise Papinsick.