2012-10-04 / Neighbors

Musician spreads talent any way he can

By Marc Filippino
Staff Writer

Rob Duquette Rob Duquette A local musician performs and lives by one principle: listening to his heart.

Saco resident Rob Duquette, a professor of World Music, American Music and African Drumming at the University of New England, has had a pulse on the local, national and international music scene for the last 20 years.

Duquette, who graduated from the University of New Hampshire with an undergraduate degree in performance and a master’s in jazz performance, said he fell in love with music when he was young, first playing piano and guitar. But over the course of his life Duquette found one of his true loves to be percussion and pursued drumming and other percussion instruments.

“I try and teach for the person and the class,” Duquette said. “For me it’s about learning what each person’s style and learning preference is and cater to it individually. If one person wants to learn a different part of world music from the rest of the class, that’s alright with me.”

Duquette, who is fascinated by the world of jazz music, said musicians such as John Coltrane and Felonious Monk, inspired him. Duquette said jazz is a rare breed of music that is still popular in today’s world, but struggles to find a niche.

“When jazz was popular, it really embodied a movement,” Duquette said. “Then it was the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Today it’s still trying to find a home where it is popular again.”

Before settling in Saco, Duquette and his wife, Andrea, toured the country in his band Cactus Highway which, he said, took a new look at jazz. Duquette said he performed in California, Boston, Chicago, Seattle and Portland before staying local to spend time with his two kids.

Along with teaching jazz to college students, Duquette goes to several children’s day care centers in southern Maine and also teaches music lessons from his house. Stepping into his basement, a student would immediately notice several percussion instruments –tambourines, drums and a xylophone – along with a number of guitars and a recording studio.

Karen Genest, who owns and operates Little Ducklings Family Child Care in Saco has Duquette perform once a month in Saco and says it is a “phenomenal experience” for everyone involved.

“It doesn’t matter if it is the 10-month-olds or the kids who are about to go off into kindergarten, Rob helps them participate as a group,” Genest said. “They really enjoy the different instruments and he shows them how to use each one.”

Duquette also plays in several assisted living homes and libraries in the area for both the young and old.

“It’s really a great experience for children to learn music when they’re young, to be creative to learn through music,” Duquette said. “I like to think that my music appeals to kids and parents without making it sound too corny.”

“It’s silly, since I use silly words, but I find there’s an overall message of kindness,” Duquette said. “It’s really a hoot playing for the kids.”

Duquette is now venturing into a new realm with his own band named Duquette, which will perform its second concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7 at Union Church in Biddeford Pool.

Duquette said the concert would explore his cohesiveness as a musician. Through a “laid back” feel, Duquette said his band takes a combination of composition and improvisation

Neighbors is a weekly profile that features a community member in Biddeford, Saco or Old Orchard Beach. Know someone you would like to see featured in the Courier? Contact David Arenstam at david.arenstam@gmail.com. that provides a blend of saxophone, vocals, keyboard and rhythm.

While he admits he loves performing live, Duquette said he and his managers want to get more songs on the radio and would like to have more professional recordings done.

Duquette said one of the bigger problems he’s faced is trying to find a bass player, but accepts the challenge with a smile. His solution is to substitute the rhythm usually provided by the bass with a keyboardist.

“It’s going to have a really Doors feel to it,” Duquette said. “I think it’s going to sound really great.”

While he’s not sure what the future will bring for his band, Duquette said he will still try to teach.

“I always tell my kids to follow their heart,” Duquette said. “Everyone in life is going to try to tell you what to do or what to play. Do and play what you want.”

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