Just like there are two (human) members of the Simonoff household, there are predominantly two sides to Jon. One of these sides, and a major part of his life, is music. Jon is a teacher as well as a performer of music.
By day (and many nights and weekends) Jon can be found helming a small school’s storied and daunting music program, working with students of every grade and ensembles of every size, preparing for major musical festivals, organizing musicals and talent shows, and even teaching lessons on atypical band instruments such as the ukulele. By night, however (and on weekends and occasionally during school vacations), Jon can usually be found in front of, in the middle of, or behind some of the Northern Maine’s most diverse musical groups. He conducts or assists with multiple large community groups, he also plays bass with a multiple local theatre groups, a jazz group he founded called “The County Combo,” and serves as the bass player, arranger, and (although he refuses to admit it) de facto musical director of the nineteen-piece juggernaut Star City Syndicate Motown band.
When his busy schedule permits, he also backs up different local artists. He’s the first-call bassist whenever any other school within an hour’s drive of Presque Isle needs a bass player. Jon also took over the reins of the formidable sixty-member UMPI Community Band a few years ago, where he serves as both conductor and musical director.
Although a resume like his could certainly go to a musician’s head, Jon is genuinely confused but grateful to be a member of so many groups and productions. He chalks it up to a combination of luck and the widely accepted fact that the Universe favors bass players, on account of it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that low and funky bass line.
Creating music and creating food are actually very closely related! Another major part of Jon’s life is living the vegan lifestyle. While only starting his travels on this journey in April of 2016 (My vegan story) he was a vegetarian for many years before making the switch to veganism. Since adopting the lifestyle Jon has tried to reflect compassion in as many parts of his life as he can. He cooks, creates, volunteers, and donates regularly and has become more physically active.
The vegan lifestyle has encouraged Jon to explore. The Simonoffs travel regularly around Maine (and sometimes beyond…) to experience all that life has to offer. But most of the time Jon resides in a small town in Northern Maine with his wife Jenna and their cat Fret, surrounded by the scenic rolling hills and fields of what many people refer to as “God’s Own Country” partly because it may take a deity to be able to find it.
By day, Jenna works with small children armed with a variety of musical instruments and percussion. By night, by some large miracle, she wants to go back the next day.
Let’s pause to admire her for that…Jon certainly does!
Jenna spends her days teaching classroom music and working with elementary children from many of the towns. Beloved by her students, Jenna is known for her warm and engaging personality and her unending compassion and patience with people (unless they are dressed like a clown, in which case she will scream and throw her shoe at them). Jenna is an invaluable addition to any school musical endeavor. She’s known for being a sort of musical “fixer”. She will quietly step into a section to encourage and shore up the students or working behind the scenes to make sure the chairs are where they need to be by the second act.
Jenna spends her evenings, weekends, and vacations appearing around the County in a multitude of diverse musical groups including The County Combo jazz group, The Star City Syndicate Motown band, and multiple pit crews for local theatre productions. She is also involved in numerous community ensembles.
Not only a creative musician, Jenna also creates works of art in the sewing room. Jenna is part of the Pieceful Harmony blog with her mother and has sent projects she’s created all across the country. She finds great joy in creating things that are useful to others and is often found in the sewing studio in the late hours of the night.
Jenna has also adopted the vegan lifestyle (My Vegan Story). She is now an avid cook, cat lover, and adventurer (Long Weekend Adventure!). Jenna’s hobbies reflect her compassion for not only the animals and the environment, but also all aspects of her life.
Jenna has made her home in an idyllic rural town in Northern Maine along with her husband Jon and her beloved rescue cat Fret. In her free time she enjoys sewing, cooking intricate and delicious vegan dishes, reading on her front porch overlooking the potato fields, and not being anywhere remotely near clowns.
Fret the cat has been many things during her various lifetimes. Before her current reincarnation as the resident feline domestic goddess and ruler of the Simonoff household, she spent a lifetime in ancient Egypt serenading the pharaoh, had a lengthy residency as a starring soprano at Vienna’s La Fenice opera house in the early 1800’s, and toured the speakeasies and juke joints of the early 1900’s with her friend and confidant Billie Holiday,
Having grown weary of a life of travel and adoration from the general public, Fret opted to spend this lifetime as a cat in a quiet household. She chose her current servants for their friendly dispositions melded with their incredible music talents — a rare combination in any age. Although she seldom chooses to perform, her voice remains as beautifully melodic as ever. And while she can meow in seventeen different languages including Urdu and an obscure branch of Basque, she sticks to English for the sake of her less-educated housemates.
Fret enjoys soaking in the rays of the morning sun from a handy window, composing incredibly melodically complex etudes while dozing on the couch, and hiding the occasional set of car keys just to remind her housemates who’s in charge.
Bios courtesy of our dear friend Chris Morton, author of
Introducing Nutritional Yeast, better known as Nooch, adopted from the local humane society on May 25th, 2018.. Coming in at a whopping 4 pounds her (then) 12 pound feline counterpart was terrified and took to hiding upon cabinets far from the new invader. Despite initial wariness, It didn’t take her long to become co-mistress of the house…as long as they were in separate rooms! Through perseverance, bribery, and a few hissing matches Nooch brought playfulness out in Fret that we hadn’t seen before.
Nooch is a sweet mannered cuddle bug. She will not only melt your heart with her personality but also in how she is always willing to take a nap on you. Her biggest regret though is not being born in Florida. She quickly taught us to always look before you sit since she will burrow pretty much anywhere.
Some of Nooch’s finer qualities are sleeping for most of the day, sometimes forgetting mice are not toys to be played with, having an unhealthy obsession with vegan ranch, and snoring louder than a little cat should physically be able to. Still, she is a perfect compliment to our house. She even gratuitously took a few pounds from Fret (the vet described her as a “chubby little thing”) to level the playing field.