Stephen Muise ('94, '95) rarely takes centre
stage, but is an invaluable asset to both
professional and budding musicians
by Aloma Jardine
tephen Muise may not be a household name to the
average Canadian, but among the who's who of the
Cape Breton music scene, Muise is a sought-after
He plays the piano, accordion, and organ and has
worked with the Barra MacNeils, Rita MacNeil, The Rankin
Family, Bruce Guthro, Jimmy Rankin, and Matt Minglewood,
For the past six years he has also held the position of assistant
conductor and technical director to the Men of the Deeps, one of
Cape Breton's most iconic groups.
Muise is equally at home in front of a high school
band. During the school year he teaches music to
students in Grades 7 to 12 at the Breton Educa-
tion Centre in New Waterford, where he grew
up. He also works with the senior high band and
Though Muise could no doubt make music
professionally full time, he likes the balance he
"I've often said if I was only teaching, I don't think
I would be happy, but if I was only playing, I don't think I would
be happy either," he says. "It is nice to take what you learn in the
professional work back to the classroom. It's easy to lose sight of
what the professional music world is if you are not doing it and I
think it is valuable as a teacher to have that experience."
His Music and Education degrees have come in equally handy
in his professional career. His skills as a teacher are useful
in helping a band work through musical difficulties, while
being able to read music has created opportunities he might not
otherwise have had.
"One of my highlights was a call from The Rankin Family to be
their fill-in piano player," he says.
The group sent him the sheet music, but apart from sitting down
with the rest of the band in a hotel room for a couple of hours, he
had to jump on stage with no rehearsals.
"The Rankin Family set is really piano heavy, but it was lots of
fun," he says.
Although Muise is most often found backing up another musi-
cian, he also has a few projects of his own.
For the past decade he and pianists Aaron Lewis and Johnny
Aucoin have toured a show they call The Three Pianos each
summer, to rave reviews, and for a number of years he was part
of a group called The Accents, a rock and roll cover
band that played at conventions throughout the
Maritimes. Despite the many big names he has
shared the stage with, The Accents remains one of
the projects of which he is the most proud.
He has also worked with the East Coast Music
Awards (ECMAs) and the annual charity telethon
Christmas Daddies, and produced and performed on
two ECMA-winning albums for The Burke Family.
"There are always surprises along the way. You don't
know where your life is going to take you," he says.
"A lot of it is dictated by the people you meet, or in a musician's
world, by the last show you played."
There are always
surprises along the way.
You don't know where your
life is going to take you.
A lot of it is dictated by the
people you meet