Jean Meike

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Born Priscilla Jean Meek, Jean Meike grew up the youngest daughter of a Baptist minister. The fifth of six children in a very musical family, she spent much of her youth harmonizing with her older siblings.…
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Born Priscilla Jean Meek, Jean Meike grew up the youngest daughter of a Baptist minister. The fifth of six children in a very musical family, she spent much of her youth harmonizing with her older siblings. The Meek family was even known regionally in Maine for its big-family Christian singing. At the age of six, Meike began singing with the adult choir in seasonal cantatas, and by the age of 12, she had already begun writing songs of her own while she learned to play the piano. In high school, she learned trumpet, but Meike didn't consider a professional music career until she was well into her twenties. From 1986 to 1992 she sang and played keyboards in Blackthorne, an all-female rock & roll band active throughout the Calais, ME, area. They recorded three songs, which gained a decent bit of exposure on local radio station WQDY, but she also took a day job as a tractor-trailer driver and forklift operator at a pulp and paper mill, a position she would hold for more than a decade. By 1992, Meike was musically ready to step out on her own and began the preparations for a solo career, developing her songwriting skills and purchasing recording equipment in order to put a studio together with her brother, David Meek, in his Old Town home. While considering how to best approach a live show in 1995, she took up guitar and quickly became proficient on the instrument, so much so that it eventually became her primary instrument in live performance. At about the same time, Meike quit a 17-year smoking habit and began taking her singing more seriously. She also returned to the original German spelling and pronunciation of her family name, as well as legally adopting her middle name, to both reclaim her heritage and establish her own identity, both musically and personally. She began booking engagements at coffeehouses and clubs throughout northern Maine, from Eastport to Portland, and became a member of both the Maine Composers Forum and the Maine Art Sponsors Association, eventually landing a manager. It led to the recording of her first CD, Dance on Fire, released in 1996. The album -- recorded with her brother and including 11 of the prodigious number (some 400 at that point, by her own estimate) of songs that Meike had written -- garnered strong positive reviews. At around the same time, Meike entered into a unique but beneficial partnership with Judith Adele. Adele began making what she called "betterthanjam" in 1981 from a surplus at her organic wild blueberry farm. Through the next decade and a half, she continued selling the jam in limited qualities as she earned a master's degree. She also met Meike and supported her work by helping to circulate her music. In turn, Meike helped Adele make her jam, the sales of which gradually grew in quantity. In 1999 they combined the pursuits into a full-time business venture, and Gypsy Wind Productions was born, developing both the jam enterprise and Meike's music. They began selling CDs and jam at fairs, festivals, and other locales. They also moved the business to Freeport to be in closer proximity to both the Portland and Boston music scenes and made plans to continue selling the jam, publish Meike's poems, and produce more CDs. The first such effort was a second album, On My Way (released in 1998), that was even more dynamic than the first. Meike was also selected by the Maine Arts Commission to be a part of their school program, travelling to schools to give concerts and interactive workshops in order to foster self-esteem in and motivate young people. She spent the first half of 2000 performing and working on her third musical project.