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Marcille Wallis & Friends in Brooksville

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By Jessica Williams 

On Feb. 7 and 8 (Friday and Saturday evenings), The Celtic Band Jamboree will be held at The Sertoma Youth Ranch. Several Celtic Bands will be performing, including Marcille Wallis  and Friends. 

We asked Marcille Wallis and Matt Miller (fellow band member) a few questions to learn more about them, their music careers and their upcoming performance in Brooksville! 

Marcille Wallis

Marcille, you were born in Brooksville. Can you tell us more about your childhood in Central Florida?

My parents and I moved a little south, to Arcadia, when I was about a year old. Brooksville and Arcadia were very similar: both small towns that were primarily agricultural. For the first eight or so years of my life we lived on a cattle ranch and I remember it as a pretty great life, with lots of fresh air and outdoor play. Indoor time was spent reading and playing games. Visits back to Brooksville were more of the same, as my grandparents lived out on the Croom Reservation.

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Can you tell us when you picked up your very first instrument?

I started taking piano lessons when I was six years old. (Funny story: I’m told that when I was born, my grandfather noticed my long fingers and said, “That child is a natural-born pianist.” He made my mother promise to get me piano lessons.)

When did Marcille Wallis & Friends first come together?

In 1997. I was living in Charlotte County at the time, and by then had learned to play the hammer dulcimer. A new Irish pub, The Celtic Ray, had just opened, and one of my friends actually approached the proprietors, saying that a proper Irish pub needed to have Irish music. The deal was sealed before I even found out about it!

How long have you guys been performing?

The current lineup of instrumentalists has been playing together steadily since 2006, although we had played together off and on for several years prior. Our dancer, Sebastian, has been performing with us since December 2013. 

Can you tell us something unique about each member of Marcille Wallis & Friends?

Matt Miller has been playing with this band for over half his life! In addition to the Celtic music he plays with us, he’s also a member of a country band up in Florida’s Panhandle, and a talented side man who sits in with jazz, folk, and rock bands. He teaches violin and fiddle… and has a degree in mechanical engineering.

Don Pigeon grew up in Melrose, Massachusetts, a town in the greater Boston metropolitan area. That area has a huge Irish influence and Don has been listening to, and playing, this music, practically his whole life. He’s a master of a number of traditional instruments — including flute, penny whistle, mandolins, banjo, bodhrán, guitar — Matt refers to Don as the “Swiss Army Knife of Celtic music” because he has a tool for practically everything! 

Sebastian Valley is a champion level Irish dancer who also dances other styles, including (at one time) ballet. 

There is a lot of excitement about the 8th Annual Celtic Family Jamboree this year! How many times has Marcille Wallis & Friends performed in Brooksville?

We’ve performed at the Celtic Family Jamboree since its beginning.
Growing up, did you have a musician(s) who you idolized as a kid who you believe had an influence on your music career?

My earliest musical influences were my mother — an operatic mezzo soprano — and my aforementioned grandfather, who was minister of music at the First Baptist Church in Brooksville. I remember listening to a lot of Hank Williams when I was a kid, and when I started learning how to play guitar, I was very drawn to the music of Bob Dylan. But I listen to a wide variety of music, and take inspiration from that.

Matt Miller

Matt, are you from Florida? If not, where did you grow up? 

I was born and raised in Freeport, FL. It’s up in the panhandle, between Destin and Panama City. When the traffic is good, I can leave my house and be at the Sertoma Youth Ranch in about six hours, so it’s a pretty easy drive. I believe I’m either a sixth or seventh generation Floridian, so my family has deep ties with this state.

Can you tell us when you picked up your very first instrument? 

My parents started me on piano when I was six years old, and then I started taking violin when I was eight. That’s the instrument that I play with Marcille Wallis and Friends, and the instrument that I love and play the most. I can get around on a guitar, bass, mandolin, viola, and a lot of things with strings, but violin is my main passion.

When did you first join Marcille Wallis & Friends?

I first played with Marcille Wallis and Friends when I was 12, I believe–but I wasn’t a full time member until I was 13. 

How long have you guys been performing? 

Well I’m 29 now, so I’ve been with the band for about 16 or 17 years. I’ve been with Marcille longer than any of the other members of the band. 

Can you tell us something unique about yourself? 

I’m the only professional fiddle player that I know of that has a degree in mechanical engineering. I’m sure there are others out there, but I haven’t met any yet!

There is a lot of excitement about the 8th Annual Celtic Family Jamboree this year! What do you look forward to at the performance in February? 

My favorite thing about this festival in particular is the feeling of community and family around the park. A lot of people love the festival and faithfully go every year, and we’ve all gotten close and bonded over a mutual love of Celtic music and Celtic culture. I’m excited to see a lot of my friends and play some tunes around the campfires with them.

Growing up, did you have a musician(s) who you idolized as a kid who you believe had an influence on your music career?

From the Celtic traditions, I loved Johnny Cunningham, Eileen Ivers, Natalie McMaster, and Liz Carroll–they were all big heroes of mine. But I also loved Vassar Clements (another Florida native), Mark O’Connor, Bobby Hicks, Darol Anger, and Casey Driessen. They weren’t so much Celtic heroes of mine, but they were huge fiddle and musical influences on me when I was growing up.

Don’t miss out on the fun-filled performances by Marcille Wallis & Friends as well as many other talents at the Celtic Family Jamboree.

8th Annual Celtic Family Jamboree
(Multiple other bands and performances scheduled also)  

The Sertoma Youth Ranch 
85 Myers Road, Brooksville

February 7th and 8th, 2020 (Friday-Saturday evenings) 

$35.00 – Advance Weekend Pass

Children under 18 years old (accompanied by an adult) are free per website: 
See website for any additional information.

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