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When Jean was 16 years old, she got a classical guitar for her birthday. Mr. and Mrs. Hewson were concerned about spending so much money on the instrument as their daughter had been enrolled in piano lessons for many years, and had to be constantly harassed to practice. They feared that history would repeat itself and that the guitar would eventually end up collecting dust in their daughter's closet. They need not have worried. When Jean picked up the guitar, it was as if she had found an element that had been missing all of her life. Her parents had to nag her to put it down to do other things!
When she turned 18, two things happened:
1) A friend introduced her to the folk rock sounds of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span. Martin Carthy also became an obsession for her at around this time, and she locked herself in her bedroom with Prince Heathen (an album, not a person) And didn't emerge till she had learned most of the songs therein.
2) She heard Figgy Duff perform. Being a high school graduate, she could put two and two together; when she did, she realized that she didn't have to do Martin Carthy covers if she wanted to play traditional music. There were lots of interesting traditional songs and tunes in Newfoundland that were crying out for musical treatment.
In 1982, Jean became a founding member of the well known Newfoundland folk band Barkin'Kettle with fiddler Brian Murphy and bass player Lindsey Hartery. This group toured Canada and the UK and reached a modest level of notoriety before disbanding in 1987. Throughout the eighties she was a staple at folk festivals across the island, and her association with older Newfoundland musicians like Rufus Guinchard and Gordon Willis intensified her desire to keep the music of her province alive.
In the late eighties, she toured with Eric West's traditional group Tuckamore. The purpose of this band was to bring awareness of Newfoundland traditional music to the province's schools. In 1992, she released the well received CD Early Spring, a solo project of Newfoundland songs and ballads. She also co-produced and co-arranged Fiddle Me This, Christina Smith's CD of Newfoundland fiddle tunes (SingSong, 1995), and recorded the guitar accompaniments for the STEP Fiddlers recent release Galing For A Storm (2000).
In addition to teaching guitar, voice and piano (Suzuki and traditional methods) Jean has her own production company (Black Cat Music) which presents concerts periodically. Jean programmed NAFCO 2008, and is currently booking the International Conference for Traditional Music.
A long-time sufferer of ashma, she has become a proponent of the Buteyko method for controlling the condition and has thrown away her Ventalin.
Jean lives in St. John’s with her sweetie, Frank Parsons.
All content ©2010 Jean Hewson and Christina Smith