Harpist Hannah Flowers, a college student from Forest Lake, received an IMDA Educational Grant to take lever harp lessons with well-known harpist Ailie Robertson of the Outside Track. Hannah met and studied with Ailie when she visited the Twin Cities last year and wanted to continue that study. But Ailie lives in Glasgow, Scotland – a bit far away. The solution? Hannah will take advantage of the wonders of modern Internet technology and pursue her study via Skype.
Hannah expressed an early interest in playing the harp – she tells us that she first experienced harp music during her long stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as a premature baby. A harpist would come in every week and play and each time the nurses reported that Hannah would “calm considerably” and her stats would improve. Hannah expressed an early interest in playing the harp, although she began her musical journey on piano and violin. She began playing harp at ten with a month of “trial” harp lessons as a Christmas gift from her parents – and she says that “almost 10 years later I haven’t stopped harping.”
Hannah began her study of harp with the Suzuki method, learning by ear, and early on, discovered a book of Irish melodies and became fascinated with Irish music. Hannah has studied both harp and song with Chad McAnally and Daithi Sproule at the Center for Irish Music. In May 2014, Hannah competed in the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil in St. Louis, placing in four categories and earned the opportunity to travel to Sligo, Ireland to compete in the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil, an experience she thoroughly enjoyed. Hannah also apprenticed with Ann Heymann through a Minnesota Arts Board Grant, gaining in her knowledge of the history and music of the wire-strung harp. Hannah was part of the Young Adult Ensemble from the Center for Irish Music who performed in Spring 2015 with the East Metro Symphony Orchestra.
Hannah’s goal is to learn more advanced technique and style on traditional lever harp from Ailie, who is a recognized master of both Irish and Scottish lever harp techniques. She hopes to learn more about specific techniques for accompaniment for both her own tune playing and for accompanying other musicians.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated young musician continue her study.
Kelly Ann Shanahan of St. Paul has been studying Irish dance for nearly 12 years, starting when she was five years old and was drawn to it by seeing dancers at Irish Fair! According to Kelly, she was already doing other types of dance “but Irish intrigued me; it was like tap and I loved making noise.” Kelly dances with St. Paul Irish Dancers, and had been one of the select dancers to dance with the Ring of Kerry Irish band. Kelly has helped teach younger dancers through the school’s summer camp program, as a “driller” – helping dancers accomplish drills, skill sets and steps, and has been part of St. Paul Irish Dancers distance learning program teaching via Skype. Kelly has also demonstrated an outstanding commitment to Irish dance in rebuilding her skills and strength following a serious biking injury.
Kelly wanted to expand her dance horizons and applied and won a place in the Riverdance Trinity College Summer School held at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. The application process for the program was extensive including an essay about her interest in dance and a video of her hard shoe steps. Being accepted into this prestigious program was exciting – but only the first step in actually getting to Ireland. Kelly used her IMDA Educational Grant for a portion of her travel expenses and raised the remainder of the funds by applying for other grants and fundraising.
The Riverdance Trinity College Summer School includes learning the choreography from the Riverdance show as well as classes on nutrition, fitness and personal management. At the end of the week, the dancers present a performance at the Lir National Academy for Dramatic Arts on the grounds of Trinity College. Kelly attended a session in July 2015.
Her teachers tell us that Kelly has “a sparkling personality” and is an enthusiastic proponent of Irish dance, energizing any class that she has been a part of and sharing her love of Irish dance both on and off the dance floor.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is pleased to help this dedicated young dancer pursue her passion for Irish dance and expand her personal horizons.
Thank you to the Irish Music and Dance Association
I wanted to thank you so very much for the grant I received for my trip to Ireland. The Trinity Riverdance International Summer School was all I dreamed it would be! I met dancers from all over the world and trained with the cast of Riverdance- most of whom actually were lead dancers in the show. I was in the Shannon group where I met girls from England, Japan, Singapore, Canada, and China. Without your grant I would not have been able to have such as great experience that broadened my horizons. While at the camp, in addition to meeting new people, we also learned four dances from the show:
Riverdance, Heartland, Reel around the Sun, and Countess.
I have enclosed a picture from the camp. Once again thank you for helping me with this amazing opportunity.
With much gratitude, Kelly Shanahan, 2015 IMDA Educational Grant Recipient