The short version is that I live in my hometown of Westbrook, Maine, with my husband, musician/carpenter Tom Jacques, two cats, and about 47 instruments (the hazards of marrying another musician). I teach from my home studio and perform with various projects, including Bess Jacques & The Strays, and The Hello Josephines.
The long version is that I grew up in Westbrook, starting classical piano lessons at age six with Linda Russell in Portland. I studied with Linda for twelve years and am so grateful to her for the thorough and fantastic background – technical, theoretical, and expressive – that she challenged me to achieve.
From the beginning I loved writing my own songs, and I competed in and won competitions for youth composition. Through high school I auditioned for and won various competitions for performance, including the Bay Chamber Concerts Classical Prize, the Portland Rossini Club Annual Award for Youth in Music, and the Arcady Music Festival. I also enjoyed playing as an accompanist for musicals and choirs, and played alto saxophone in the high school marching and jazz bands.
At Williams College in Massachusetts I branched out from classical piano. I studied jazz piano with Andy Jaffe for four years, performed on piano and saxophone in various small jazz combos as well as with the college jazz band, and sang in the chamber choir, community choir, and the Ephlats, an a cappella group. I also worked as an accompanist for the music department. Though I did coursework in music theory, I made a conscious decision not to be a music major and majored in mathematics instead.
During spring of 2000 I studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and (because pianos do not travel well) there I bought my first fiddle and took fiddle lessons from Brendan Larrisey. I won a Wilmers Fellowship allowing me to stay in Galway through the summer learning Irish fiddle. That was an amazing summer!
I graduated magna cum laude from Williams in 2001 and was honored to receive the William W. Kleinhandler Prize for Excellence in Music.
In 2003 I received a fellowship to attend graduate school in computer sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I completed my master's degree, but continued to play music in various small groups and bands, including Bessie & The Boys of Genius (jazz), Tango Incognito (tango), Fancyboy (sophisticated garage rock), Toadkiller Dog (Americana), the Twin Oaks String Band (fiddle music), and the Black Velvet Ensemble (improvised and experimental music).
At the beginning of 2010 I began volunteering as a piano teacher at the non-profit Community Music School, teaching several students of low-income families through the MusicLink program. By 2011, my studio was growing and I knew that I loved teaching, and my studio partner Angela McJunkin and I established our own studio location, Red Door Studios, on Madison's east side. In June of 2012 I decided that the choice between a cushy, high-income desk job versus a life of music was a clear one, and I left behind my work in computer sciences to begin teaching and performing full time. I've never looked back and will be forever grateful to the loving support I got in this transition, especially from my Madison friends who were there for me through it all.
Two years later, in June of 2014, I answered the call to be back in my home state closer to family and moved back to Westbrook, Maine to open a beautiful new studio on Main Street. As I connected to the local music scene, new bands were born: Bess Jacques & The Strays, playing out every Sunday night at MJ's Wine Bar in Portland, and The Hello Josephines, with a residency at Westbrook's The Frog & Turtle.
I also began performing regularly for many senior communities in the area and up and down the coast in the summer. I find these performances incredibly meaningful, sharing old songs with people who in turn share their memories. It lets me connect with so many Maine-rooted communities.
In 2017, I married Tom (co-founder of Portland's beloved Jerks of Grass, and bassman for the incredible Cajun Aces) and we bought our house on Haskell Street in Westbrook. My studio moved with us to Haskell Street and I am blessed with many eager and talented students of all ages. In our spare time Tom and I tend our backyard unicorns, and students who complete their lessons properly are allowed their choice of a unicorn ride or a free kitten to take home.