He's renowned for fiddling away

Sunday, October 31, 2004


MONTAGUE - David A. Kaynor has a master's degree in counseling, but his only one-on-one time is with his fiddle.

Fortunately, there's a living with it.

He is self-described as "a musician and teacher and leader of music and dance."

He gets paid for gigs and by his students, and specializes in fiddling at contra dances, many of them at Guiding Star Grange in Greenfield.

"Contra dancing is one of the best things in the world," he said.

Born in Springfield, the 56-year-old Kaynor grew up in Wilbraham. His father, Allen Reed Kaynor, was a professor of psychology at Springfield College, and his mother, Louise Frost Kaynor, was a medical technician who gave that up for parenting. Both are Springfield natives.

Music was a family heritage, with many members playing instruments and most enjoying the pastime of social singing.

During the Depression, when many of his at-large family were out of work and most of their savings were gone, the Kaynors' big house, Edgewood Gardens, now a dorm of American International College, housed up to 20 relatives. Collectively, they got through the hard times, with the young taking care of the old.

"That's something you don't find much in today's society," he said.

Cleanup after a meal for 20 was no small task, and the family eased the chore by singing. Each learned to harmonize and sing their part in hymns and ditties.

Gathering around the piano was a favorite activity.

They would watch each other and react to the others' dynamics and timing, he said.

Kaynor's first instrument was the piano.

"I used to sit on my dad's lap and bang on the piano between his hands."

"I still can noodle on it," but handheld strings took over for Kaynor, first with a combination banjo-mandolin he was handed as a boy by a neighbor who found it cleaning house, then with a violin a classical musician passed on to him on his birthday when he was living in Burlington, Vt., in 1974, still not sure of his calling.

After college, Kaynor lived in Maine where among his jobs were night desk clerk, lobster boat hand, house painter and shoe store salesman. When he got to Vermont, he began playing in bars at night, with a day job as a teacher's aide.

A chance meeting with members of a contra dance band, and the subsequent gift of the violin, set his path.

Kaynor feels that living in Montague's village of Montague Center is perfect for his pursuits, with easy access to the venues of contra dancing, which are primarily north of the Holyoke Range, and with two close-by granges for his involvement.

"It is a perfectly beautiful place right in the middle of it all," he said.

He lives across the street from the Montague Grange, where he is Grange Master; and he serves as assistant steward for the Greenfield Grange.

He never married, but "I came close a couple of times," he said.

Besides, along with his blood family with whom he has remained close, "I have a huge extended family of musicians and dancers."

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This page last updated on October 31, 2006.