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.
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.
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.