Franco-American musician and songwriter, winner of the Governor's Heritage Award in 2007.
Date of Birth1965
Primary ResidenceSt. Albans
Michele Choiniere was born in St. Albans, Vermont, in 1965. A first generation immigrant, Choiniere's mother was born in Quebec, and her father was born in Vermont just after his family emigrated. Choiniere's first language was French. At a young age, she began playing music with her father, Fabio, a talented harmonica player, and her mother, a singer. Choiniere studied classical piano for ten years, as well as learning traditional Quebecois songs and dances.
After a ten-year break, in 1995 Choiniere returned to the piano and began writing and composing songs. She writes primarily in French, her first language, and focuses on themes of nature, romance, and her Franco-American identity. After being encouraged by Franco-American musician Martha Pellerin, Choiniere began performing her own compositions.
She has been featured on TV5 International's "Visions d'Amerique," which was broadcast to francophone nations worldwide, as well as on Vermont Public Television's "Rural Delivery" and has recorded an archival family collection of Franco-American music with her father. She was interviewed on "Profile" by Fran Stoddard, on Vermont Public Television in January 2007. She is featured on the Smithsonian Folkways CD "Mademoiselle Voulez-Vous Danser: Franco-American music from the New England Borderlands" released in 1999. Choiniere self-released her debut solo album, Coeur Fragile, in 2003. She plays regularly with both Montreal-based and Vermont musicians, and her performances blend original compositions with traditional Franco-American songs, jazz standards, and songs from France.
Choiniere has performed at the Great Lakes Folk Festival in East Lansing, Michigan, the American Folk Festival in Bangor, Maine, Champlain Valley Folk Festivals, First Night Burlington Festivals, the Flynn Theater Main Stage, on Vermont Public Radio, the Festival Folklorique de Tadoussac in Tadoussac, Quebec, the La Kermesse Franco Festival in Biddeford, Maine, and many other venues throughout the northeast. In 2007, Choiniere was awarded the Governor's Heritage Award, an annual honor presented to one artist and one teacher by the Vermont Folklife Center and Vermont Life Magazine. She has been featured in Vermont Life Magazine, the Burlington Free Press, Seven Days Newspaper, Dirty Linen Magazine, Yankee Magazine, and the Montreal Gazette, among others. She was accepted as a juried artist into the Vermont Arts Council Register in 2001. Michele Choiniere also teaches international French at Williston Central School in Williston, Vermont.
Vermont received waves of immigration from Quebec throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as some French-Canadians came to farm, some to work in mills, and some in the stone quarries of central Vermont. Many settled in Franklin County, Barre, Winooski, and Burlington, where they formed close-knit communities and parishes. Today, Franco-American culture remains mostly in the family homes of an older generation, without a great deal of exposure in mainstream Vermont culture. Michele Choiniere uses music to maintain her relationship with Franco-American culture, blending traditional and original styles as she explores her identity as a Franco-American in Vermont.
In 2009, she was recognized as part of Vermont's Champlain Quadricentennial celebration.