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Board of Directors

Ellen Carlson              

Ellen started the NH Fiddle Ensemble in 2010 with 18 people. Enrollment doubled in year 2 and has continued to grow to over 120 people in 2023. She added Melissa as a coach and leader in 2014. The Ensemble became a non-profit in 2021. Ellen is a sought after fiddle teacher, teaching at some of the largest festivals and workshops including Grey Fox, Fiddle Hell, Pete Wernick’s Jam Camp, Kaufmann Kamp, and Joe Val. She also runs Fiddleheads Acoustic Jam Camp (in it’s 26th year), now with Melissa. Also an admired and in-demand player, she has played with High Range (20 years), Sweet, Hot & Sassy!, Honest Millie, Stone Country, and the Hot Skillet Club. Her education includes an MEd and BS in Business/Music. Ellen taught middle school math for 15 years, is a member of the NH State Council on the Arts Education roster, and was in the Leadership NH Class of 2020.            


Melissa Bragdon Caron         

Melissa is the co-director of the New Hampshire Fiddle Ensemble. She is a Maine-based fiddler known for playing and teaching many different styles of music. Classically trained, she received a degree in Music Education at the University of Maine and has experience teaching string programs and general music at various grade levels in the Maine public schools. Melissa has been a member of the Portland-based bluegrass band Jerks of Grass since 2006 and also plays with the old-time band Sugar Hill. She recently recorded an album, "Stuff That Works," with Fiddlers Three. Melissa teams up with Ellen Carlson to organize Fiddleheads Acoustic Jam Camp, a music camp for acoustic musicians held each September in New Hampshire. She was greatly involved in the development of 317 Main Community Music Center in Yarmouth, Maine, where she taught fiddle and acoustic ensembles for twelve years. Melissa also teaches at her studio in Scarborough, Maine. She enjoys spending time with her two young sons, Daniel and Aidan.


Diane Collier

Diane has been a member of the NH Fiddle Ensemble for ten years and a member of the Board since inception. For 25 years she has run her own type design and development company specializing in non-Latin scripts. Diane works with Microsoft, other software companies and individual designers and
calligraphers worldwide. It is type that brought her to 'fiddling' after a
conference in Dublin where she fell in love with the fiddle. After returning
she bought a violin, found Ellen and the Ensemble and has not looked back.
She is greatly inspired by Ellen and Melissa and dreams of being a great player some day! While most of her time is spent on the computer, she likes to get her hands 'dirty' by teaching pottery at a local art school where she has been on the faculty for many years. When not working, Diane would rather
be outside swimming, hiking or running. She also enjoys sailing and has chartered boats in the BVI. She has traveled extensively in Africa, Europe, Central and South America and some in Asia. She raised a niece who is now married with four children and Diane loves being a 'grand-mother'. 


Ted Danforth

Ted is a licensed professional engineer operating a successful environmental consulting practice for over 40 years.  Ted discovered music late in life while in the process of retiring his practice and now plays every chance he gets.  A participating member of the NH Fiddle Ensemble, he enjoys the opportunity to play with others, learn new instruments, genres and introducing others to this pastime.  Ted has his BS from Penn State University and an MBA from St. Joe’s University in Philadelphia.  He is a licensed engineer in PA, NJ, MD, NH, DE and several more.  Ted resides in North Yarmouth, ME with his wife and 16 yr old daughter and 3 pups.


Ruth Phelps

Ruth has worked in accounting for twenty-five years, twenty-two of them at Measured Progress, a nonprofit test development company in Dover, NH. She is currently a Senior Accountant at Global Seafood Alliance in Portsmouth, NH. Ruth has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and has volunteered with many nonprofit organizations over the years including Dover Share Fund, New Horizons Daycare, and First Parish Church. She continues to use her skills serving as a new board member for the NH Fiddle Ensemble. Ruth’s husband, Jim, is learning to play the guitar. Last year she bought tickets to the Exeter concert in hopes that he might find a music community where he can progress. And he has. Ruth enjoys hiking and kayaking, and spending time with family, especially her four grandchildren.

Cindy Robertson        

Cindy is a long-time resident of New Hampshire, having moved here from Maryland to attend Franklin Pierce Law Center (now known as UNH School of Law). Like many people, Cindy fell in love with New Hampshire and has made it her home for the past 40 years. Prior to retiring, Cindy represented individuals with severe disabilities specializing in elder law and Medicaid. Cindy currently serves on the EngAging NH board, an elderly advocacy organization, and has served on the Hooksett Conservation Commission for nearly 20 years, currently serving as the Chair. She also became a volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels of Hillsborough County in April of 2020 when the pandemic forced many to remain at home. Cindy loves music and dancing and has been a member of the NH Fiddle Ensemble for eight years.        


Francis Xavier Smith              

Francis has 45 years of industrial experience in pharmaceutical formulating, testing, manufacturing and business management for the development of new drug products.  He received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, a M.S. in Chemistry, Rochester Institute of Technology and a B.S. in Medicinal Chemistry from SUNY at Buffalo.

He founded Bio-Concept Laboratories, Inc. to provide contractual laboratory services for new drug product development.  He successfully managed the operation and until its acquisition.  While operating Bio-Concept, he established FXS Ventures LLC to generate patented intellectual property of health care product concepts for external license arrangements. He currently provides insight and supplemental oversight into drug product development efforts in the field of ophthalmic, parenteral and related drug products through FXS Consulting LLC.

Francis Smith has raised two daughters and two grand-children with his wife Claire in Salem NH.  Fiddle music and 18th century reenactments are among his hobbies. He donates his time and resources to non-profit and charitable organizations.


Paul Smith

Paul worked for twenty five years sailing the world as an engineering officer on many different ocean going vessels and finished his career as a Chief Engineering Officer aboard tankers up in Alaska and the US West Coast. Since retiring from sailing he has been teaching high school math.

He started playing the violin in his childhood. However, the violin sat idle for many years. When his daughters started playing, he found a renewed and robust interest in playing music. He played in the New Hampshire Fiddle Ensemble for several years with his two daughters and his wife. His family played as a band until his daughters went away to college. He is also in the Chickenshack Bluegrass Band with his wife, which has played many venues and fairs in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts.


Daniel Stevenson                  

Daniel has been the City of Westbrook’s Director of Economic and Community Development for the past five years. His primary responsibilities include the development and implementation of strategic economic development initiatives that generate new tax revenues, create and retain jobs and raise the quality of life for all residents. He is highly effective at real estate development, contract negotiations and is well versed in tax increment financing. Daniel has been instrumental in partnering with public and private investors that grow the community.

Daniel brings twenty-five years of experience in economic and community development including legislation and policy development to his position. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Southern Maine and a Master of Public Policy and Management from the Muskie Institute.


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