Ginger Anderson, 12, of Roseville, loves playing her tin whistle with her friends at the Center for Irish Music. Ginger had already discovered a love for Irish dance and had been dancing with Rince na Chroi for a couple of years when she heard Norah Rendell playing tin whistle at Irish Fair. Getting her feet wet with the Center for Irish Music’s Tin Whistle Troupe, Ginger has continued to study tin whistle and now plays with the Center for Irish Music’s Swallowtail Ensemble.
Ginger attended her first Midwest Fleadh Cheoil in 2018 in St. Louis, competing in a trio and as a solo performer - and she tells us “I had a blast!” Ginger attended the Midwest Fleadh in 2019 and received a 1st place in duet, playing with her friend who plays fiddle. Ginger and her family had already planned to travel to Drogheda, Ireland for the All Ireland (Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann), so she was thrilled to qualify to participate there as well.
According to her recommender, Ginger “is a good ensemble student who always comes to class with her tunes learned, …and to her private lessons with a clear idea of what she’d like to work on.” Her recommender is impressed by “Ginger’s drive, enthusiasm, and her relaxed, cool manner around the scene,” especially for one so young. Her dedication and passion for the music led to recognition in receiving the 2019 Tim “Fitz” Fitzgerald Scholarship from the Center for Irish Music.
While Ginger intends to keep working on tin whistle, she has been wanting to learn to play the flute. Her teacher has agreed that she’s ready. Ginger used her IMDA Educational Grant to purchase her own keyless flute.
Ginger is active as a volunteer for both the Center for Irish Music and the Celtic Junction Arts Center, playing for community events and drawing in visitors to information booths with her music.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated young musician continue her musical journey.
Uilleann piper Ryan Behnke of Hastings is a professional performer as well as teaching the fine art of playing the iconic Irish pipes. Ryan began playing uilleann pipes here in the Twin Cities, has become a contributing member of the Great Northern Irish Pipers Club, and holds a Masters in Traditional Music Performance from UL, University of Limerick in Ireland. Ryan performs with the Twin Cities based “Unwelcome Visitors” and the Texas based “Three Pints and a Glass.” Ryan used his IMDA Educational Grant for tuition for reed making classes at the Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malby, Co. Clare, Ireland this past summer.
While Ryan also plays the Highland Great Pipes, his focus in recent years has been on the uilleann pipes. He became interested in the study of reed making when, as an intermediate piper, he struggled with his instrument, wasting half a year not playing his instrument “because it was unbearable to play.” He tells us that his “chanter was very temperamental and I could never get it reeded right.” His struggle to find the right reed and reed maker drastically stunted his growth as a musician.
By way of background, Ryan tells us that “the main problem is that all Uilleann pipe changers are different and to fit a reed to the chanter appropriately one needs to have the instrument and the player.” That’s challenging as most reed makers live very far away. Ryan used an earlier IMDA Educational Grant for the purchase of a reed making kit and wanted to continue to develop his skill. He has been able to create some nice reeds for his own use and has helped counsel other local, new pipers to get the most out of their reeds.
Ryan’s hope is “to improve this skill that I may be a of better service to local pipers and help strengthen the Minnesota Uilleann piping tradition.” He also hopes “to save any new pipers from being in the dark and not getting the most out of their instruments.” He feels that the pipes are a very daunting instrument and it is best to remove as many roadblocks as possible!
The Irish Music and Dance Association is pleased to help this devoted young musician continue to develop his skills and share his knowledge with our local community.
Musician, singer and writer Hannah Carr-Murphy of St. Paul is originally from Iowa. With a background in music performance and creative writing, Hannah made her way to Limerick, Ireland, where she pursued her interests in Irish culture and community arts education, completing her MA in Community Music in 2017. Since coming to St. Paul, Hannah has immersed herself in the Twin Cities Irish Arts community, attending concerts and the occasional ceili and volunteering for several Irish organizations, including IMDA. Hannah is a familiar face at the Center for Irish Music, serving as Registration Coordinator and Administrative Assistant as well as studying flute, whistle and tenor banjo as a CIM student.
Hannah’s long term goal is a PhD in English. To pursue that goal, Hannah needs to demonstrate a proficiency in a foreign language. And Irish is her language of choice. Hannah has already begun her study of the language though independent study. Hannah will use her IMDA Educational Grant to study Irish through the Irish College of Minnesota, a program of the Celtic Junction Arts Center.
Hannah’s goal is a a long term one and the Irish Music and Dance Association is pleased to help her continue on her educational journey.
Dancer, Musician and Teacher Danielle Enblom of Minneapolis used her IMDA Educational Grant for travel expenses for Camp Souches a Oreilles in Quebec, Canada. Following are her comments about the experience:
"As I believe you know, my grandmother grew up in Quebec, north of Quebec City. She left her poor factory town at age 18 and learned to speak English. Aside from visits home in the summers to stay at my great grandparents' cabin with my mom and her siblings, my grandmother never really looked back. I heard her speaking French on the phone to her siblings from time to time, and of course her strong accent still reverberates in my mind whenever I think about her. However, she did her best to live an American, English speaking life. I think she felt above the life she left behind, proud to speak Parisian French, rather than the often looked down on French of her childhood, and proud to be American. She really did become a self-made woman here.
Fast forward to 8 years ago. I took a road trip with my grandmother to Quebec, just as she was in the early stages of her Alzheimers, just as she was beginning to return to memories of her childhood more readily than those from the day before. On this trip, with some prompting, my grand'manan shared with me that her parents would often have friends over to the house, put cornmeal on the floor, and dance squares, or sets, all night with a fiddler playing in the corner! Now, she had seen me grow up in Irish music and dance with ceilis, house dances, and Irish sessions being a central part of my life since the age of 10 and she never once shared that traditional music and dancing were a regular part of her life back in Quebec. Immediately after this road trip, I went back to Belfast where I lived for 3 years. Her Alzheimers progressed, I became preoccupied with completing my MA, healing from my brain injury, and training to be a Waldorf teacher. So, I never really had the time to pursue what she had shared with me, until now!
After meeting a Quebecois fiddler and ethnomusicologist at a festival in NY this Feb, I learned that there was indeed a lot of traditional dance and music in my grandma's region and town and that she would have of course had exposure to it. At that point, it felt significant to finally begin to learn more about this style of dance, which is so close to the forms I practice, and a part of my history. So I wrote the grant!
I then reached out to dozens of cousins and aunts and uncles in Quebec, primarily to ask for advice on how to get to the camp to study dance via bus. These communications were all in French, so it was challenging enough to simply enquire about the logistics of transportation. However, one aunt commented on the dancing, and we began an ongoing conversation about the dance traditions in my grandma's home town and region. It is so exciting to learn about my familial ties to practices that have been central to my own life!
And it gets better! I attended the music and dance camp only hoping to learn some steps and gain some insight, which I did. If nothing else, the cultural experience of attending Quebecois dances, which are so similar to Irish set dances, but so uniquely Quebecois would have been worth my trip alone! I also befriended Normand Legault . Normand is a fabulous step dancer, and a fellow ethnochoreologist who has been doing important archival work since the 70s. He is of a few significant tradition holders of traditional dance (social and solo) in Quebec. During my time at camp, Normand provided individual instruction so I could learn at a more advanced level, and it was such a treat! After sharing my story with him, he informed me that he has video footage of dancers from my grandma's home town and region from the 70s, and had it with him! So for a few days, I spent time watching and studying this footage. Not only was it an incredible privilege to get to view this footage, I also learned that one of the step dancers in the video is from my grandmother's home town and has the same last name as my great grandmother! We don't know his first name, so I have some sleuthing to do, not to mention some dance steps to practice!
Now, I also have to add that I have also been connecting with my grandfather's side of the family, also Quebecois, with recent generations living in Manitoba and Alberta, and I've learned that my great grandfather Laurent, and his brother Barney were musicians in Manitoba in the early 1900s! Barney played the fiddle, and Laurent the spoons and harmonica. Who would've ever thought that I would spend most of my life fiddling and dancing, just by chance really, and come to find twenty-three years later that it has been in my blood all along, just waiting to be discovered!
More sleuthing to be done indeed! Who is this mystery man in Quebec, and what fiddle tunes did Barney play!!"
Harpist Hannah Flowers of Forest Lake feels that the harp chose her at birth. Born prematurely, Hannah “lived” in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for a very long time, where harp music calmed her and helped regulate her vitals. Hannah also tells us that “music can as naturally as breathing” for her and she played several instruments while growing up (piano, violin, harp), and now harp is her primary instrument.
Hannah is a previous IMDA Educational Grant recipient (2015), where she used her grant to refine her playing of the lever harp. Hannah’s newest grant will enable her to study fiddle, expanding her skills as a musician with the goal of becoming accomplished enough to play fiddle in sessions and increase her understanding of tune playing and ornamentation as a traditional musician. Hannah explains that “the harp as both a tune-playing and accompaniment instrument often falls into its own special category and the way you understand tunes as a harp player is very different than playing a melody instrument alone.” Hannah tells us that “learning fiddle has given me a whole new perspective on the shape and form of traditional tunes.”
An active professional musician performing on harp and voice, Hannah also teaches both at the Center for Irish Music. Having studied both lever harp and wire-strung harp as well as the Irish language both here in Minnesota and in Ireland, as Hannah hopes to pursue a Master’s in Traditional Irish Music in Ireland. Hannah’s various experiences studying traditional music and language have led her to pursue Irish music as a career path. She feels strongly “that learning another instrument, the fiddle, to a high level will help me gain a deeper knowledge of dance tunes and melody playing and improve my musicianship. It will also have a positive side effect of improving my harp playing and singing to help me become the kind of well-rounded and accomplished traditional musician I strive to be.”
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated musician continue to expand her skills and enjoyment of music and continue to contribute to our community.
Jordan Lukas Grubidge of Coon Rapids became interested in Irish dance when he saw a friend at school practicing. Jordan, who is 7 years old, studies Irish dance with O’Shea Irish Dance and also studies at the Center for Irish Music (playing harp and whistle). Jordan is a dedicated student, attending classes a few times a week, practicing every day and he tells us that “I stretch a lot.”
Jordan reinforced his interest in Irish dance by spending a long time sitting by the musicians at his first feis and watching the dancer’s feet. He tells us “This is when I really started to love Irish dance and music because I saw it come together and it was really beautiful.” Soon after, he began his study of Irish music at the Center for Irish Music. Jordan is delighted with his dance teachers at O’Shea; he tells us that Miss Natalie O’Shea has “helped me learn my basics and understand how my muscles work together in my dancing” and that Cormac O’Se’s choreography helps him “do what I love best – showing off my fancy moves.” He says that his teachers believe in him and encourage him to do his best all the time. His recommender tells us that he is intense in his study of Irish dance – taking advantage of ‘free time’ to do extra practice and spending extra time at major competitions to watch the ‘big kids’ - “and during the breaks in their dancing, he would stand up and try out some of the fancy moves they would make.”
Jordan has shared his dancing in community – participating in his school talent show and cultural night, dancing at Irish Fair and IMDA’s Day of Irish Dance as well as being part of O’Shea’s holiday shows. Jordan is already an active volunteer, helping at the Center for Irish Music’s Éigse gala and being part of Irish outreach events throughout the year.
Jordan used his IMDA Educational Grant for training and for travel expenses for Nationals in Vancouver, BC. He tells us that he enjoys traveling to majors, where he gets to watch and learn from great dancers across the country. He tells us “Every time I dance, my love of the sport and the Irish culture grows and grows.”
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated young dancer continue to pursue his goals.
Bagpiper Kent Kaiser of St. Paul discovered the pipes as an adult. Growing up in a musical family in Silver Bay, Kent played organ and euphonium as a young person and as a college student. As an adult, he drifted away from music as he pursued his educational goals in history, liberal studies, mass communication and kinesiology.
Having completed an extensive educational journey culminating in a doctorate, Kent was ready for a break from formal schooling but still interested in continuing to learn something new. Kent decided to start taking bagpipe lessons – thinking the instrument better suited to solo performance than the euphonium and more portable than the organ. With a nod to his Irish and Scottish family ancestry, Kent joined the Macalester Pipe Band about five years ago. He has competed with the band for several years and most recently as a soloist. Although friends had warned him that learning the bagpipes would be difficult, Kent found a great teacher in Mike Breidenbach, Macalester Director of Piping and 2017 IMDA Educational Grant recipient. With Mike’s tutelage and his own hard work, Kent moved from practice chanter to the pipes in about six months.
Kent especially enjoys playing the bagpipes - telling us “I love playing the bagpipes because it is more than just music – it is a whole cultural experience.” His recommender tells us that Kent is a valuable member of the band who actively participates in both competition and performance and helps recruit bandmates for competitions.
As with any challenging pursuit, practice is incredibly important. While Kent memorizes music quickly and has become a dependable member of the band, Kent’s devotion to piping and to the pipe band is often interrupted since he travels extensively and is often away from home. Kent will use his IMDA Educational Grant for the purchase of an electronic chanter, allowing him to continue to learn more tunes and improve his technique. The electronic chanter will allow him to practice when he is out and about, even it places where a traditional chanter would be too loud.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated musician continue to improve his skills and enjoyment of music and continue to contribute to our community.
Irelandrose Langer of St. Michael, MN became interested in Irish dance when she came to IMDA’s Day of Irish Dance as an eight-year-old. Irelandrose dances with Rince Nua Irish Dance in Maple Grove. This dedicated young dancer loves competing, most recently placing 6th at the CRN World Championships in Killarney, Ireland in June 2018. (Irelandrose’s dance teacher is Erin Cooney, ODCRN, who is certified through the Cumann Rince Náisiúnta in Dublin, Ireland.) Irelandrose has danced extensively here in the Twin Cities, participating in IMDA’s Landmark events and Irish Fair as well as performing with traveling Irish bands. She has been able to build her skills by attending the Riverdance Summer School at Trinity College in Dublin. Irelandrose loved meeting other Irish dancers from around the world. Being cast in Studio2Stage productions in New Jersey and New York in the summers of both 2017 and 2018 gave her the opportunity to learn from professional dancers while being part of intense training leading up for presenting a professional show.
Irelandrose has an exciting new opportunity in 2019 – she will be spending two months in Dublin, Ireland training with Naomh Fionnbarrah School of Irish Dance, in preparation for the World Championships. Irelandrose will use her IMDA Educational Grant to cover the cost of dance classes in Ireland, as well as entry fees for competition there. She will attend classes three times a week and meeting with a trainer once or twice a week to improve her health and fitness. She hopes to enhance her knowledge about Irish dance and to deepen her understanding of the art and the sport, as well as enhancing her appreciation of the culture of Ireland. She imagines that she will “be truly immersed into the culture as I live there … and go about my day like dancers in Ireland do on a daily basis.” Studying Irish dance in Ireland is something Irelandrose has always dreamed of.
While she enjoys competing, Irelandrose delights in performing at the many community events that welcome Irish dancers – nursing homes, schools, and restaurants. She “loves to see the look on people’s faces” when she dances and especially enjoys seeing the reactions of audience members who haven’t seen much Irish dance. Irelandrose has also helped coach young dancers working on a new step or dance and improving their technique. Her recommender tells us that Irelandrose “has demonstrated her devotion to the Irish dance community by mentoring, instructing, and inspiring fellow dancers. She has taken several younger dancers under her wing and helped them to build confidence while guiding them toward success.”
Irelandrose has worked hard both in the dance studio and in earning the needed funds for this big adventure and she looks forward to sharing all that she hopes to learn in Ireland, and to encouraging other dancers to pursue their dreams.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated young dancer continue to pursue her dreams.
Ava Sackaroff, 14, of St. Paul, loves Irish music. Ava started her musical journey studying tin whistle. Initially, she tried playing her mom’s tin whistle – she says her mom found her “squeaking away loudly.” Ava was 7 when she began learning the tin whistle at the Center for Irish Music. She has since added flute and bodhrán and recently began to play the harp. Ava loves Irish music and has fallen in love with the harp!
Ava will use her educational grant for the purchase of a Rick Kemper lever harp kit from County Sligo in Ireland. She has selected a harp that uses carbon strings “which are better for playing fast (because I love to play reels!).” Ava has support from a friend who has agreed to assemble and finish the instrument for her.
Ava admits that playing four instruments is challenging. She’s figured out how to keep up on all of them by splitting up her time on a schedule. She plays in the Center for Irish Music’s Advance Youth Ensemble and regularly participates in their performances in the community, as well as youth sessions and family gatherings. Ava competes in the Midwest Fleadh and has traveled to Ireland to participate in the All Ireland Fleadh. Ava dreams of having her own band one day, and touring Ireland playing Irish music.
In the meantime, Ava enjoys playing with her Center for Irish Music friends in a variety of settings, including IMDA’s St. Patrick’s Day Irish Celebration. Ava also enjoys teaching – she’s taught friends and her little brother to play whistle. And Ava has led a music class for young children at a local day care center.
Ava tells us that she is influenced by and heartily encouraged by the instructors at the Center for Irish Music. She loves going to concerts and searches YouTube for good harp players to learn from.
Her recommender tells us that Ava’s “passion for and dedication to the instrument is evident through the hard work she puts into practicing the instrument each week.” She has progressed very quickly on this new instrument. Her recommender feels strongly that Ava’s “harp learning is … but a new chapter in her musical journey that will continue all her life.” This is the second time that Ava has received an IMDA Educational Grant.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated young musician continue her musical journey.
Irish dance is a family affair for Sophia, Sarah and Sydney Wahl of St. Louis Park. The sisters study with North Star Irish Dance in Eden Prairie. According to their mom, “What started as one girl’s interest in dancing led to an infectious desire that spread to the others.” Sarah, the oldest of the sisters, was interested in dance, but was unfamiliar with Irish dance. Taking advantage of North Star’s “try-it-out” class sparked genuine interest for Sarah. Her mom tells us that “she enjoyed the teacher, the music, the style, and herself in that setting.” Sarah shared her new steps with her sister Sophia. When Sydney turned five, it seemed only natural that she would join in the jigs and reels she had been mimicking at home. An additional “perk” is that the girls have some Irish heritage on both sides of their family. Learning Irish dance has provided a special connection to their grandparents. The Wahl family also appreciates North Star Irish Dance’s focus on community service, and actively participates in the school’s community outreach activities.
Sophia, Sarah and Sydney will use their IMDA Educational Grant for additional dance lessons, with the goal of developing their skills to allow them to perform independently. They have especially enjoyed learning about the cultural significance of the dances. They plan to add some history of Irish dance to these presentations, and to bring these performances to senior audiences.
All the girls are actively involved with North Star Irish Dance, helping with planning and fundraising, and community service projects as well as participating in performances at IMDA’s Day of Irish Dance and North Star’s own “Wee St. Patrick’s Day Celebration.” Their letter of recommendation reiterates the girls’ enthusiasm for learning and for sharing their love of Irish dance with their audiences.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help these dedicated young dancers expand their appreciation of Irish culture through their love of Irish dance.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is a 501(c)(3) organization.