Musician John Anderson, 10, of Roseville first began studying Irish music at the Center for Irish Music by studying bodhrán with his grandpa. It was a great way for the two of them to spend time together doing something new and fun. John tells us that he enjoys playing Irish music “because I really like how the music sounds” as well as being “a great way to connect with the community and my Irish heritage.” John also studies English concertina and wants to learn the Anglo concertina.
John’s recommender, his bodhrán teacher Todd Menton, tells us that John’s “grasp of the nuances of rhythm and melody is excellent and, not for nothing, he manifests a raucous spirit, frequently racing ahead of me in trying new ornaments and patterns on the bodhrán.” Todd also tells us that John has a curious and eager attitude in playing and “the ‘raucous’ part comes out in his music.”
John has enjoyed playing bodhrán at a variety of events, including collaborating with his sister Ginger (a 2018 IMDA Educational Grant recipient) for the Rince na Chroi ‘From the Stage to your Heart’ show and with his grandpa for the Celtic Junction’s Holiday Hooley. John has also competed in the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil as well as attending the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann in Drogheda last year. John attended Scoil Eigse there studying bodhrán, which gave him the opportunity to learn different styles of bodhrán as well as learning to play spoons and bones. John had planned to complete in this year’s Midwest Fleadh, which was unfortunately cancelled.
John will use his IMDA Educational Grant for the purchase of an Anglo concertina. John tells us that he is “interested in learning the anglo concertina because it is better for playing more Irish tunes and I would like to learn how to play both types of concertina.”
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated musician continue to expand his skills and enjoyment of the music.
Tenor Banjo Player Chris McGreevy of Bloomington had made plans to attend the Freakle Festival in County Clare, Ireland in July 2020 to study with renowned East Galway tenor banjo player Páraic Mac Donnchadha. Chris was hoping to learn tunes directly from the East Galway repertoire, tunes Páraic had learned from the great players of earlier generations.
But Wait! Plans for the festival and for Chris’s travel changed with the Pandemic. Instead, Chris will use his IMDA Educational Grant for video and Skype lessons. The lessons will take the form of video recording of tunes made by Páraic for practice with follow-up Skype sessions to work out the tunes.
Chris grew up in the Twin Cities, enjoying the music his parents enjoyed – the Beatles and Bob Dylan. Fortunately, Chris discovered the Friday session at Merlins Rest and he began visiting regularly just to listen to the music. The musicians there both impressed and inspired him. His interest in learning to play the music led him to the Keegan’s Learner’s Session and a suggestion from Tom Lockney that he try tenor banjo. (Tom loaned Chris his tenor banjo at one of the sessions – and Chris says he “was hooked.”) Chris began studying with Brian Miller at the Center for Irish Music a couple of years ago and is now a devoted student there.
Chris discovered Páraic’s playing on Clare FM’s show The West Wind. (Isn’t technology amazing!) He looks forward to gaining “a greater understanding of the music through learning directly from a great tradition-bearing musician in Ireland.”
And Chris hopes to make the recordings available to other students.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated musician continue to improve his skills and enjoyment of traditional music.
Dancer Caidence O’Rourke, 13, of Brooklyn Center fell in love with Irish Dance after watching the documentary “the Big Jig.” Caidence is an active 7th Grader with lots of interests. In addition to Irish dance, Caidence does tap, ballet and lyrical dance as well as playing both acoustic and electric guitar. Her dance teacher tells us that she is also an aspiring artist, who hopes to someday become an Art therapist. Caidence dances with the Hudson Irish Dance Academy in Wayzata.
Her recommender tells us that “in the last year Caidence has set goals for herself competitively, and has worked tirelessly to exceed them, earning the opportunity to compete in the 2019 Mid America Oireachtas and at the 2020 North American Irish Dance Championships in Nashville.” Caidence will use her Educational Grant for classes to prepare her for reaching her goals at Nationals and Oireachtas.
Caidence has been studying Irish dance for seven years. She enjoys both performing and competing, especially participating at Irish Fair and IMDA’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities as well as performing in the community. Caidence also enjoys helping to teach the beginners at her dance school. Her recommender tells us “the beginners love to work with her and it is exciting to see her passion for dance be shared with the next generation of Irish Dancers. She is an incredible role model for the beginners and for her fellow classmates, she shows strength in her individual confidence, proficiency in dance, and being a leader in and outside of the dance studio.”
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated young dancer to pursue her dreams.
Cullen O’Rourke, 13, of Brooklyn Center was drawn to Irish dance by his twin sister, Caidence (who also received an IMDA Educational Grant in 2020). He attended her performances and feiseanna and decided he wanted to try it, too. Cullen tells us “I enjoy Irish dance because I get to travel and meet new friends, and I enjoy the competition.” Cullen dances with the Hudson Irish Dance Academy in Wayzata.
Cullen is an active 7th Grader who enjoys basketball, baseball and Irish dance. And it’s clear from his application that he is inspired by the accomplishments of other dancers. Cullen is “inspired by the resilience and dedication of his dance teacher, Corey Hudson” who fought hard to get back to teaching after a major injury. Cullen follows O’Shea dancer Evan Lowe, using Evan’s video to inspire him “to work harder and try new moves.” He is eager to try to match the accomplishments of World Champion Tyler Schwartz in hitting ten clicks in a row, and acknowledges that it will take hard work, practice and persistence to meet that goal. And Cullen enjoys the challenge of having a younger brother who dances.
Cullen’s recommender tells us that “he is passionate about his sport, like any great athlete, and he approaches the art of Irish dance with the agility, strength, and will-power of a dancer twice his age.” His recommender also tells us that Cullen functions as a leader in the school, “always leading by example and setting a reliable target for his fellow classmates to follow. Cullen can always be counted on to be personally responsible and to gently, discreetly assist those on his team who have fallen behind.”
Cullen has shared his dancing at day care centers and school functions, nursing homes and community events. Cullen danced as part of IMDA’s St. Patrick’s Day Pajama Party as well as at earlier IMDA St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and at Irish Fair of Minnesota.
Cullen will use his IMDA Educational Grant for extra weekly dance classes to help him prepare for Nationals and Oireachtas. We all hope that these competitions can resume soon. In the meantime, the Irish Music and Dance Association is pleased to help this dedicated young dancer pursue his goals.
Dancer Hannah Reichenbach, 20, of Inver Grove Heights, dances and teaches with Rince na Chroi. Now a college student, Hannah decided she wanted to join “those big girls wearing the curly wigs and beautiful dresses” when she saw them at the St. Paul St. Patrick’s Day Parade when she was 4. Hannah is delighted to have found an additional family in the Minnesota Irish community and is proud to be part of it.
Hannah speaks so fondly of all the good things that have come to her through Irish dance and as part of the Rince na Chroi family: lifelong friends, strong positive role models, the opportunity to perform with world-famous bands, the thrill of performing for family, friends and the Twin Cities community, and the opportunity to teach children. She tells us that having Irish dance as part of her life “is the greatest gift anyone could give me.”
Her recommender tells us that “Hannah continually demonstrates her true love and passion for Irish dancing and for performing. Hannah is always challenging herself- studying videos, trying to teach herself new steps and new tricks, coming up with her own new material, and encouraging us to think outside of the box with our choreography.”
Hannah hopes to pursue dancing professionally and used her IMDA Educational Grant to help with travel expenses to attend the Fusion Fighter’s Fusion Dance Fest in Limerick, Ireland this past summer. This week-long intensive camp gives dancers the chance to learn from world class instructors and perform with many accredited dancers. (Fusion Fighters is a progressive performance company that has branched away from what has become the typical Irish dance experience in order to evolve for a modern audience while still preserving their traditions. www.fusionfightersdance.com/fusionfighters) Hannah’s recommender is confident about this experience, saying “not only could it help her move toward opportunities in her own dancing career, but it would also help her bring a lot of new and exciting knowledge back to our own community.”
Hannah described this as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’, one that will “push me in the right direction as I hope to fulfil my dream of becoming a professional Irish dancer … providing the instruction and experience I need to transform myself into a better dancer.” Hannah also tells us that “I’d love more than an anything to bring a piece of Limerick’s culture back to Minnesota.”
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated young dancer to pursue her dreams.
Claire Vanorny, 12, of Eagan, has been enjoying Irish music her whole life! Beginning with going to see her mom’s bands (Claire’s mom is fiddler Mary Vanorny who currently plays with the Two Tap Trio, the Twin Cities Céili Band and Brass Lassie), Claire has been playing fiddle since her mom found a 1/10 size violin on Craigslist when she was very small. Claire has also studied Irish dance, dancing with Rince na Chroi for six years.
Claire began learning her instrument with help from her mom. Claire tells us that they didn’t do lessons. Her mom “just showed me what to do and I would ask questions.” Claire studies at the Center for Irish Music and plays with their Swallowtail Ensemble. She now plays a half size fiddle and joined in recording a track on her mom’s recent CD First Light of Day.
Last year, Claire and her friend Ginger Anderson (another IMDA Educational Grant Recipient) placed 1st in duet at the Midwest Fleadh, earning the opportunity to compete in the All-Irelands. Claire really enjoyed her trip to Ireland. She attended Scoil Eigse, the week-long camp before the Fleadh, played in sessions, attended concerts and recitals and did a bit of touring. Claire says that she was “so happy to meet new people and hear amazing musicians from all over the world.”
Claire has also begun to teach! She teaching a neighbor (he’s 6) to play violin. She tells us “My mom coaches me how to do a lesson and then I go over to his house and teach him.”
Claire has continued to study during these difficult times, attending classes via Zoom at the Center for Irish Music as well as taking private lessons with a Suzuki teacher. Claire decided this time, during the Stay at Home order, would be a great time to take fiddle lessons on line with someone she wouldn’t normally get to play with. Claire began studying with Gaelic Storm’s fiddler Katie Grennan and is using her IMDA Educational Grant to continue those lessons.
In recommending Claire, Katie commented that she was impressed with Claire’s “technical skills and her inner musicality.” Together, they are working to expand Claire’s repertoire, strengthen her left- and right-hand techniques and help her develop her own unique style rooted in tradition, all while gaining more confidence in her own abilities, deepening her appreciation for traditional Irish music and better understanding the interaction between the music and the dance.
This is a unique time to be studying music and this collaboration appears to be valuable both for Claire and for Katie, who is not able to tour with Gaelic Storm, play other gigs, or to teach dance classes.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated young musician continue her musical journey.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is a 501(c)(3) organization.