Our founders

The Folk Arts Center of New England was founded in 1975 by Conny and Marianne Taylor, whose influence and leadership has inspired generations of dancers, musicians, ethnographers, and lovers of cultural diversity the world over.

Conny Taylor (1921-2006)

Cornell Sawyer Taylor grew up in Dorchester, MA and worked as a welder at the Boston Naval Shipyard during World War II. In 1944 he enlisted in the US Navy, where he served as a Quartermaster, Third Class, navigating a refrigerator ship in the North Atlantic and the Caribbean. Back in civilian life after the war, he resumed his welding job and moved to Cambridge, MA, adding folk dancing to his other interests: skiing, cycling, mountain climbing, and sailing. He attended weekly New England contra and square dances at the Boston YWCA and in Cambridge, and began teaching international folk dance and Scottish country dance in the Boston area in 1953.

Having decided to continue his education, Conny received his bachelor’s degree in Recreation from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in 1954. At the Cambridge YWCA in 1955 and ’56, he and his then-wife Marianne started the international folk dance classes and parties that later became the Thursday, Friday, and monthly Saturday series still run by the Folk Arts Center of New England. In those early days, Conny and Marianne learned folk dances from Lawrence Loy, Ralph Page, Dave Rosenberg, Michael and Mary Ann Herman, Dick Crum, Andor Czompo, Paul and Gretel Dunsing, Gordon Tracie, Jeannie Carmichael, Genevieve Shimer, and the many other leaders whose workshops the Taylors attended in other cities or sponsored in Cambridge. The Taylors usually presented a workshop with a visiting teacher once every two or three months.

Conny taught folk dance workshops and school programs all over New England, in Virginia and Quebec, and at Oquaga Camp in NY and Texas Folk Dance Camp. He was a frequent leader at Ralph Page’s East Hill Farm and Year End Camps and served on the New England Folk Festival Association planning committees in the 1950s.

The Taylors’ dance business was called “Folk Dancing ’Round Boston” and included a printed calendar and a folk dance record shop by that name. In 1975 Conny co-founded the Folk Arts Center of New England with Marianne and served as its first President and Technical Director. He ran the Copley Square outdoor summer folk dances and the Oktoberfest Folk Dance Weekend in Stowe, Vermont for many years and helped initiate FAC’s Pinewoods Camp sessions. He and Marianne received the San Antonio College Folk Dance Festival’s National Dance Award in 1982.

In later years, Conny was a guest at FAC’s Pinewoods and Oktoberfest camps and at the San Antonio Folk Dance Festival. In his retirement, he volunteered at the Pepperidge Farm Thrift Store in Cambridge, MA, delivering bread to food pantries in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. He also enjoyed his annual vacations at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. Conny died in November 2006 at age 85 after seven months of battling lung cancer.

In his long teaching career, Conny taught a broad repertoire to dancers of all levels. He is especially remembered for his teaching of Békési Páros, Bourrée Pastourelle, Bucimis, Corrido, D’Hammerschmiedsgselln, Gensci Verbunk, the Swedish hambo, Jarabe Pateño, Kamishitsa, Kreuz König, Mainzer Polka, Neapolitan Tarantella, Old Deninka, Rustemul, Sedi Donka, the waltz, and Zillertaler Laendler.

Donations made to the Folk Arts Center in Conny’s memory go to the Conny Taylor Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships to FAC’s annual Oktoberfest Weekend in Fairlee, Vermont. Many thanks to the Taylor family and to everyone whose contributions are funding this program.

Marianne Taylor (1930-2008)

Marianne Patterson Taylor taught folk dancing locally, nationally, and internationally for over fifty years. Her warmth and enthusiasm inspired several generations of dancers. With “clarity and charity,” she taught hundreds of school programs and residencies, Scottish and English country dance classes, and international folk dance workshops. She was featured at Stockton’s University of the Pacific Camp, Mendocino Camp, Pinewoods Camp, and workshops in Alaska, Hawaii, Japan, Australia and Switzerland and from British Columbia to Newfoundland in Canada.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Marianne graduated from Sargent College, Boston University in 1951 with a B.S. in Physical Education and a minor in Dance. She received her teacher’s certification in Scottish Country Dance from the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society in 1957, and the RSCDS Scroll of Honour in 2005. In the mid-1950s, she and her then-husband Conny Taylor started running weekly international folk dance classes in the Boston area. She co-founded the Folk Arts Center of New England with Conny in 1975 and served as its first Vice President and as its Program Director through 2004.

In 1995 Marianne became a member of the Ralph Page Legacy Committee of the New England Folk Festival Association and a committee member for the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend. She was an Artist in Residence for primary, middle, and high school programs through the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts. She was the recipient of the Boston Dance Alliance’s 2007 Dance Champion Award in recognition of her immeasurable contribution to recreational folk dancing in the Boston area. In March 2008, the National Folk Organization honored her with its Preserving Our Heritage Award.

Marianne played piano for contra, Scottish, and other kinds of dance since the early 1950s and was a regular member of the Scottish dance band Tullochgorum. She played monthly with the Lamprey River Band at a contra dance in Dover, NH, and was sometimes a musician and sometimes the caller at the Deerfield Town Hall Contra Dances, which she had organized since 1991. She also played regularly with the Strathspey and Reel Society of New Hampshire and several other groups. She appeared as backup on several Scottish/Celtic music CDs. These include:
Celebrate Fifty Years of Dancing with the Boston Branch RSCDS (with the Carfuffle Ceilidh Band and the Strathspey and Reel Society of New Hampshire)
Dances frae the North (with the Commonwealth Ceilidh Band)
The Golden Keyboard (Celtic Marimba)
Muckle Carfuffle (the Carfuffle Ceilidh Band)
The 2005 Gala of the Strathspey and Reel Society of New Hampshire

In later years, Marianne’s interests included leading a small group tour in Portugal, helping to organize a second concert tour in Scotland with the Strathspey and Reel Society of New Hampshire, and playing piano for a Scottish dance tour on a schooner in the Greek Islands. Marianne died in August 2008 at age 78 after several months’ illness with sarcoma cancer.

Marianne taught many hundreds of dances in her long career, including Auld Reekie Hornpipe (which she wrote), Bare Necessities, Bourrée Droite du Pays Fort, Burns Night, Dundee Whaler, Hora la Patru, Kamenopolsko, Karapyet, Jabadao, Nao Vas ao Mar Tonho, Neapolitan Tarantella, Nonesuch, Orleans Baffled, Pas d'Espan, Pinewoods Reel, Potrkan Ples, Sardana, Shrewsbury Lasses, Thady You Gander, Trekantet Sløjfe, Vira da Nazaré, Vira do Sitio, the waltz, Waters of Holland, and Well Hall.

The Taylor family’s Marianne Taylor Tribute Fund provided for a memorial stone bench overlooking Round Pond at Pinewoods Camp in Plymouth, MA. The remaining money in the Tribute Fund was distributed between the Folk Arts Center of New England and Pinewoods Camp, as Marianne requested. With its share of the Tribute Fund, FAC established a scholarship program for young musicians to attend FAC’s Pinewoods sessions as apprentices to The Pinewoods Band. Donations made directly to FAC in Marianne’s memory are used for grants and scholarships. Many thanks to the Taylor family and to everyone whose contributions are funding these programs.