Susan and Mary Ramsey are really sisters, not just a super talented duo. They share the same family and a love of music. Both girls started playing the violin early; Susan was 7 years old and Mary was 5-year-old. Susan was inspired to pick up the violin when she heard about a Suzuki method lesson that was happening in her school. Her mother learned with her and the rest is history. The family moved to Fredonia N.Y. when their father was hired as an English Professor. The girls were still in elementary school. They graduated from Fredonia High School and benefited from the strong music programming that comes naturally to a public school so close to a nationally recognized teaching University. Both women studied privately as young musicians and played in the Erie Philharmonic. As teens they managed their own studio complete with recitals. Music has been and is their life, literally. Susan, possibly the lesser known sister, is the eldest and has resided in Maine since 1990. She is a graduate of Smith College where she concentrated on performance and Baroque era music. She says, “I am deeply affected by music. We grew up listening to folk, classical, and sacred music. There was also a little Duke Ellington mixed in too. I consider myself a musician and an outdoorswoman, engaging in recreational and inspirational activities such as snowshoeing, canoeing, fly-fishing, and hiking. I feel humbled and grounded by nature. Who doesn’t feel an affinity for the natural landscape when it is so beautiful and inspiring?” When asked what she would be doing if it wasn’t performing, she answered botanical science. “I minored in botany at college.” One can see why she lives and works in the Highlands Regions of Northern Maine.
In addition to the violin, Susan plays the viola, guitar and sings. She is very busy teaching and performing. Miss Ramsey is the Foxcroft Academy String Program Director, her church choir director and has run the North Country Strings Music Studio where she is a private lesson teacher. She performs regularly around the state of Maine and parts of New England with singer/songwriter David Mallett. Needless to say, if there is an opportunity to play, she is there.
While Mary Ramsey was not interviewed for this article, Susan told this writer, “we perform and record on average about once a year, and that doesn’t count family gatherings…Ken Hardley (of the Rolling Hills Radio Show) has been great about facilitating our ‘sister act’”. They are kindred spirits. Both are busy in their own performing spheres; however, they will be together on November 25 for the Rolling Hills Radio Show at Shawbucks. She says, “we are like twins. We improvise the same parts, our voices are similar, it’s so easy playing with Mary. It will be fun!” Both have played with Ken Hardley at the Reg Lenna on the Rolling Hills Radio Show and are looking forward to returning to town.
Miss Ramsey follows the golden rule; be good to each other, be a good steward of the resources around you, and take the high road when making choices. She is currently working on combining nature-based poetry readings with music to heighten the understanding and emotional connections to both the poetry and the music. Surprisingly, when Susan told her sister about the project, Mary told her she was working on accompanying Yeats poetry. I think they could finish each other’s sentences if they were in the same room long enough!
When asked about what is next, the accomplished musician answered, “I plan to stay flexible to be able to take on other opportunities.” One of those opportunities is forming now. She would like to take a collection of her most memorable live performance material and create a high-quality recording for herself and her fans, of which there will be more very soon.
She ended our conversation with an invitation; Come to Maine! It is relaxing, beautiful and has a great music scene. In turn I told her we are looking forward to meeting her very soon. Welcome back to Jamestown Miss Ramsey.