Lauren Adams-Plehal of Plymouth, MN, fell in love with Irish dance as a Kindergartener! She was already doing tap, ballet and jazz when she saw an Irish dance number at her dance recital. She signed up for a two-week introductory class – and has been an Irish dancing ever since!
Lauren, 14, began her study with Theresa McKenna-Nahorski at the McKenna School of Irish Dance and has studied with Erin Cooney at Rince Nua Irish Dance for the last four years.
Lauren is a member of the Rince Nua Performance and Competition group Team Rince Nua. As such, she performs in a variety of settings, including IMDA’s St. Patrick’s Day Irish Celebration and Day of Irish Dance, Irish Fair Minnesota, various local pubs, schools and senior centers throughout the year, as well as competing in CRN feiseanna. Lauren competed in the CRN Irish Open in Dublin, Ireland in 2012 and in the CRN North American Dance Championships in Washington, DC in February, 2013.
Erin Cooney, who directs Rince Nua, tells us that Lauren is a very dedicated dancer who shows great concentration and perseverance in her study.
Lauren will use her IMDA Educational for private lessons to further improve her overall technique in her solo competition dancers. Lauren’s goal is to qualify to compete in the CRN World Championships.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated young dancer continue to grow as a dancer.
Uilleann piper Ryan Behnke of Hastings, Minnesota, is using his IMDA Educational Grant for the purchase of an uilleann pipe reed making kit, so he can learn to make the reeds used in this truly Irish instrument. Ryan’s grant is special in that he is the first applicant to receive a second IMDA Educational Grant. Ryan received an IMDA Educational Grant in 2011 to study Highland Great Pipes at the Balmoral School of Piping.
Ryan is an active member of the Twin Cities Irish music community, studying uilleann pipes, sitting in on sessions, performing at Celtic Music Open Mic Nights, playingwith the band Trout in the Milk in coffee shops and cafes, and sitting in with his friends the Herringbone Badgers, as well as continuing to play and complete with the Macalester College Pipe Band.
Ryan especially enjoys playing uilleann pipes – he’s been playing for nearly four years – and wants to continue to learn as much as he can about playing. He calls it a rare and beautiful instrument, and feels fortunate to be part of the blossoming community of pipers here in the Twin Cities fostered by the Great Northern Irish Pipers Club. And Ryan appreciates the encouragement that he has received from other pipers. He would like to be able to help create the reliable reeds that the instrument requires, since good reed makers are even rarer than uilleann pipers.
The kit that Ryan has in mind includes specific instruments for measurement and for working the cane, brass and copper into a form that creates the beautiful sounds of the instruments. Having the tools will enable Ryan to continue his study of the instrument and he hopes to share his new skills with others.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help a dedicated musician expand his knowledge of the uilleann pipes.
Theatrical costumer Mattie Ernst is receiving an IMDA Educational Grant to study the history, design and construction of Irish dance dresses. Mattie’s goal is to develop a versatile sewing pattern that she and others can use to sew solo dresses for dancers in the Twin Cities and beyond.
Mattie has always been interested in making things. She tells us “From music to paintings to dresses, I’ve always been captivated watching, or making a work of art come together.” Mattie learned to sew at a young age, sewing from commercial patterns and drafting her own. This interest matured into a college major in Theater with a focus on Costuming. Her college professor from the College of St. Benedict enthusiastically recommended Mattie for the IMDA grant, saying “Mattie approaches her entire life with a spirit of creativity.”
Mattie will be looking at a variety of resources in her research, including historical documents and electronic resources. But an important part of her research will be examining actual dresses. For that, she will be asking dancers to let her borrow their dresses. Once Mattie has done her initial research, she will develop her patterns and test them by constructing costumes. Grant funds will help with driving expenses, fabric and dress materials, copying fees and her own labor. Mattie expects that lots of adjustments will be needed as she perfects her designs. You can lend a hand by loaning Mattie a dance costume and you can follow Mattie's progress by following her blog at http://thedancedress.blogspot.com/.
But Costuming is not Mattie’s only passion. Mattie is also a very talented musician, playing classical violin from the age of 5 and falling in love with Irish music when she began learning the harp at the age of 12. Mattie studied fiddle at the Center for Irish Music, played with the Youth Ensemble and now teaches fiddle and harp at the Center. She is a regular at music sessions around town and dances with Green Fire Irish Dancers.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated young woman pursue her interest in the design and construction of Irish dance costumes. Mattie is an outstanding example of the kind of student that IMDA envisioned for our Educational Grant program – dedicated, disciplined and devoted to the traditional arts of Ireland.
Fiddler Ingrid Jans received an IMDA Educational Grant to help her attend the WillyClancy Festival in Milltown Malbay, Co. Clare, Ireland in July, 2013. Ingrid has long been interested in Irish music, fueled by listening the NPR’s “Thistle and Shamrock” as a child and studying violin growing up. Ingrid joined an Irish band when she came to Macalester College as a student. She tells us that in the process, she “discovered a fantastic community of Irish musicians” here in the Twin Cities. She “finds it exciting to be part of a community that not only boasts some of the best Irish musicians in the world, but also welcomes and encourages its younger and newer members.” She enjoys returning to Macalester to play with the next generation of Irish musicians (she graduated from Mac last year.)
Ingrid plays fiddle and bodhrán with the Herringbone Badgers, a folk trio that plays Irish and Scottish music and is a regular at music sessions here in town. Ingrid also plays fiddle with Paddy O’Brien’s O’Rourke’s Feast. Ingrid has been greatly influenced by playing with Paddy. As Ingrid tells it, it’s a huge honor for play with Paddy. Ingrid says “his style of playing, his unique tune arrangements, and his infectious love of the music make playing tunes with him a joy. I find myself approaching the music differently . . . and appreciating new subtleties in the tunes. His deep understanding, not only of the notes, but also of the music’s origins inspires me to learn more about the roots of this music.”
Ingrid applied for an IMDA Educational Grant to further develop her understanding of Irish traditional music by attending the Willie Clancy Festival. According to her fiddle instructors at the Center for Irish Music, Ingrid is an enthusiastic student who “exhibits a great hunger for learning the tradition of Irish music,”, has a great work ethic, “picks up tunes quickly, has a great ear for fundamentals” and is a vital contributor to the Irish music community in the Twin Cities. Ingrid’s teachers emphasized the importance of opportunities like the Willie Clancy Festival in helping fiddle students progress to advanced levels – and felt that Ingrid would take full advantage of this opportunity. Ingrid’s teachers also commented that Ingrid actively works expand interest in traditional music “through her clear desire to learn and help spread the love of Irish music.” See Ingrid's thoughts on her experience in the short piece below.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated young musician continue to expand her knowledge of traditional Irish music. And we look forward to hearing her on stage and in sessions and to her contributions to our community for years to come.
The Willie Clancy Festival 2013
by Ingrid Jans
Thanks to the generous support of the Irish Music and Dance Association, I was able to attend the Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown-Malbay Co. Clare in July 2013. This week-long festival started in 1973 as a summer program for young Irish musicians. It is named for the great Clare piper, Willie Clancy, and it continues to celebrate the memory and music of the great players who hailed from the region including Bobby Casey, Junior Crehan, and John Kelly. Today, people come from around the world to take classes with some of the world's greatest musicians.
I was fortunate enough to take classes with Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, from whom I learned a number of fantastic tunes. At night, attendees and locals alike would retire to various pubs in and around the town to play music. Often there would be as many as three different sessions in a single pub. I attended many of the recitals throughout the week where I was able to hear some of the worlds best musicians perform. There were also céilís every night, and I was able to hear both the Kilfenora and Tulla céilí bands play.
I learned a lot over the course of that busy week, and I am grateful to IMDA for giving me the opportunity to attend. I'm excited to share my experiences and tunes with my fellow musicians in the Twin Cities.
THE PADDEN FAMILY
The Padden Family of Elk River (Ella on harp and whistle, Connor on fiddle, mandolin and harmonica and dad Greg on guitar, banjo and vocals) is receiving an IMDA Educational Grant to pursue an interest in playing together as a family ensemble. They are studying with Norah Rendell and Brian Miller to learn about playing together as an ensemble, rather than as individual players. Their lessons focus on arranging and pairing songs and tunes, techniques for playing accompaniment and understanding how to complement each other’s strengths.
The Paddens came together as a group when they were asked to perform traditional Irish music for a small dinner party as part of a fundraiser. They choose a name for the band - “the Knotted Clover” – and realized that they enjoyed playing together.
Ella (13), Connor (16) and Greg have travelled different musical paths and have found those paths converging in their shared passion for Irish music and the musical education they all enjoy at the Center for Irish Music. Both Ella and Connor began studying music very young: Connor began with Suzuki method for violin at 5 years old and Ella expressed an interest in playing harp as a 5 year old, studying piano for three years before beginning her study of harp. Greg has played guitar since high school, playing bluegrass and folk music, and more recently learning the DADGAD tuning favored by Dáithí Sproule and Brian Miller.
Dad Greg tells us that the inspiration for their study of Irish music comes from a family tradition of loving Irish music. He also says that he is inspired daily by his children’s dedication to traditional Irish music.
When Connor had studied violin for several years, he expressed his strong interest in wanting to play “fun music” – his words for old time and Irish music. Connor switched to studying fiddle, latter began taking mandolin lessons as well and now studies fiddle, mandolin and harmonica at CIM. Connor plays with the Advanced Youth Ensemble and competed with the Ensemble at the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil in St. Louis in May 2012.
Ella has added tin whistle to her studies of harp at the Center. Her instructor tells us that she has great potential as a harpist – she is “bright, hard working and is able to maintain a sense of humor while tackling one of the toughest of Irish instruments to play.” Both Connor and Ella have performed at IMDA’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration as well as the St. Mathias Celtic Festival. And Greg studies guitar and traditional song at the Center.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help these dedicated musicians continue and expand their study of traditional Irish music.
Piper Meridith Richmond, of St. Paul and originally from Boston, used her IMDA Educational Grant to study with the Balmoral School of Piping this last summer. The Balmoral School is one of the most prestigious in North America and their summer program offers a full week of small group instruction locally at Macalester College. Meridith was excited about the opportunity to improve and refine all aspects of her playing, including phrasing, rhythm and execution.
Meridith first began piping lessons in 2009, while a student at Macalester. Since then, she as performed as a soloist and with the Macalester College Pipe Band in a variety of settings, including the Minnesota Scottish Festival. Meridith placed 2nd in her first solo competition and has earned several good placings in the time since.
Meridith started taking lessons on the pipes on a whim while she was a student at Macalester. The pipes seemed interesting and she was curious. She tells us that she has been “grabbed by bagpiping because of its unique nature and its intense community.” Since graduating from Macalester, Meridith has switched from borrowed school pipes to her own set of pipes and has worked hard to win a coveted spot in the very competitive grade 3 band at Macalester. She feels a strong connection to being part of the band – “a group of kind, good people genuinely motivated to work together, improve, and help you do the same” - and credits the band itself as one of the strongest influences on her piping. She also tells us that this connection is part of the reason she has stayed in the Twin Cities despite job offers elsewhere since graduation.
In addition to her work as an individual piper, Meridith has lent her organizational skills to the pipe band. She took the initiative to create a weekly group for piping students who were not quite ready to play in the band. (Players are ranked in grades from one to five in the bagpiping world; novices begin in grade five, and move up as they improve.) Meridith worked with this ‘pre-grade 5’ group to help them with the transition to piping as part of an ensemble. She also organized the band’s first “open house” event, welcoming over 100 friends and neighbors to a gathering to learn more about the band.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is pleased to help Meridith continue her study of the bagpipes.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is a 501(c)(3) organization.