The Monadnock Folklore Society is the steward of New Hampshire’s musical and dance heritage. Samuel Foucher, who is 17, received a scholarship from the Society to study with legendary contra dance piano and accordion player Bob McQuillen. McQuillen, who died in February, 2014 at the age of 90.
Foucher began attending contra dances at the age of eight, and first heard McQuillen play at the Nelson contra dance. “I went to Nelson on and off for a couple of years, then in the last several years I started going every week.”
He was immediately impressed by McQuillen, “he was the contra dance piano player, he was at the center of it for a long time.” McQuillen wrote more than 1,000 dance tunes and received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2002, he helped establish a scholarship fund to encourage young musicians interested in traditional New England dance music, and help them further hone their craft. McQuillen suggested the scholarship honor the legacy of one of his teachers, Johnny Trombley.
Foucher was the recipient (along with his sister Sarah) of the Johnny Trombley Scholarship. “I used it to take piano lessons with Bob McQuillen for about two-and-a-half years up until the week before he died.”
Learning musical traditions, is about more than just learning the melody to a song. Just as important is the phrasing and emotion, the intent the drives the song; the sort of thing that can only be passed from teacher to student. Foucher said, “when Bob taught me thing, he would say, “that was exactly as Johnny Trombley taught it to me.”
“McQuillen said that being paid to play music is like being paid to eat ice cream. I imagine I’ll be playing and dancing for the rest of my life. I really like it.”