Musician Joe DeGeorgeo, 18, of Minneapolis has been playing violin for 15 years and playing Irish for just under 10 years. As student at the Center for Irish Music (CIM), Joe has been a member of the Center’s Advanced Youth Ensemble and the Taking Flight Collective. In addition to studying at the Center for Irish Music, Joe has helped in leading youth summer camps with the CIM.
While Joe began his musical study with classical music, he began listening to Irish music when his family lived in Ireland for a year. When he returned to the Minnesota, Joe began to study with Jode Dowling at the Center for Irish Music, going to fleadhs and “getting serious about the music.” Joe tells us that he is very interested in the old style of playing. He has competed in the Fleadh Cheoil na Éireann for the last four years.
Joe’s recommender tells us that Joe has “an unmistakable love and affinity for traditional Irish music.” Joe has taken advantage of Skype to study with master musician James Kelly and his most recent studies have been with the Center for Irish Music also via Skype. Even given that challenge, his recommender calls him “one of the finest fiddle players of his age in North America” and tells us that Joe’s “hard work and dedication are principally responsible for his advancement.”
The ongoing pandemic meant that the Fleadh Cheoil na Éireann 2021 (also known as the All Ireland competition) scheduled for Mullingar, Ireland was cancelled. The event was replaced with FleadhFest 2021. After qualifying for what was thought to be a virtual event, Joe found out that he was invited to come to Sligo to compete in person. Joe was anxious to have the opportunity to participate in person – the last year he could compete in the Under18 category. Joe used his IMDA Educational Grant to help with travel expenses. Joe also planned to enhance the experience by reaching out to individual musicians in the area to share and learn music from them. In addition to preparing for his own competition, Joe worked with Morien the competition.
Joe really enjoyed the opportunity. In his own words: “Thanks for the great opportunity and the support to make it over to Ireland. The IMDA grant alleviated some of the stresses that were made greater by the covid pandemic. The trip was amazing and I got so much out of the experience!”
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated musician continue to expand his skills and enjoyment of the music.
Brenda Gant, 14, of Rogers, MN, first discovered Irish dance on her way to a karate competition that was sharing a venue with a feis (Irish dance competition). Brenda was fascinated by the dresses and the crowns. Her aunt took her along to the feis and after watching for a bit, Brenda declared “I can do that!” She was 4 years old and Brenda admits that she “did not realize the amount of dedication and hard work I had in store for me!” Brenda studies with the Hudson Academy of Irish Dance in Wayzata and tells us that “Irish dance is my passion, and I am so grateful I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I would not change that for the world.”
Brenda has shared her dance journey with her teacher, Paige Even. When Brenda started dancing at 4, Paige was 16 and became a role model for Brenda. Brenda says “(Paige) has shown me how to be a great teammate and support to my friends, and how to balance the ups and downs of Irish dance.” Brenda credits Paige with being with her for her “entire dance journey cheering me on, tying my shoes and helping me do my best.” (Just the kind of support you would want from a fine teacher!). Brenda also credits her best friend, Clare, who also dances with Hudson, with inspiration as she has a great work ethic and great attitude and is always being willing to help her run steps.
Brenda is a busy middle-schooler who enjoys a range of extra-curriculars, including skiing and snowboarding, competition dance and swimming.
Brenda has enjoyed performing at Irish Fair and at IMDA events at Landmark Center. She especially enjoys being with all the other dance schools and feeling the excitement. Brenda especially enjoyed the opportunity to perform with Hudson on the Jason Show a few years back. She also shared a special experience in taking a class with Riverdance lead Lauren Smyth and learning a festival style slip jig with her. And she participated in the Global Irish Dance talent contest Go Irish Dance. She placed as a finalist (and in the top 25%) and had a great time “putting together a Tik Tok style dance and participating.”
Brenda planned to use her grant for expenses related to participating in Nationals in Phoenix this past July. Brenda also hopes to participate in the Target Training program, which offers an OnLine Institute to help with conditioning and strength training.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated young dancer continue to pursue her goals and grow as a dancer.
Musician Morien McBurnie, 16, of Minneapolis has been playing guitar since he was 6 years old. Morien tells us that he is fortunate to have grown up surrounded by traditional music. Morien got an early taste for performing as the youngest cast member in Get Up Your Irish in 2011 – an experience that exposed him to Irish culture and performance – which he really enjoys.
Morien began studying guitar with Brian Miller at the Center for Irish Music (CIM) and feels especially grateful to have been able to learn from him. Morien plays guitar and banjo, principally in accompaniment for other instruments, as well as mandolin and accordion. He tells us that while “accompaniment may not sound like such an important piece of the music, it’s really what holds it all together.”
Morien had been working hard on his music, but he was still surprised to place first in the accompaniment competition at the Midwest Fleadh in 2017, qualifying him to compete in the All Ireland Fleadh. He tells us that “I was already blown away by the community in the Midwest, but I had no idea what was waiting for me in Ireland.” Morien had the opportunity to play with another Grúpa Cheoil there, and thought was “cool to get to know other young musicians and play along with them in the biggest Grúpai Cheoil competition in the world.”
While Morien was pretty excited about his experience in 2017, he tells us “that feeling was only comparable to the moment I found out that I had been on of 3 musicians in my age group WORLD WIDE to be invited to Sligo, Ireland for the 2021 Fleadhfest.” Morien used his IMDA Educational Grant for travel expenses for Sligo this past August. (FleadhFest replaced the regular Fleadh Cheoil na Éireann in 2021.)
Morien’s recommender, who coaches his emsemble, tells us that Morien’s “light-heartedness, along with his solid sense of rhythm and knowledge about the music, made him a leader in the group. He helped other students develop their rhythm by being a stable and confident backer and melody player and was a constant source of encouragement for his fellow musicians.” His recommender was delighted to have Morien representing the Twin Cities Irish music scene and the Center for Irish Music at FleadhFest.
Morien’s musical influences include Ten Strings and a Goat Skin, We Banjo 3 and the Scottish Band Silly Wizard (“their sound from the 70’s is amazing”) as well tenor banjo player Páraic Mac Donnchadha, who he has met and studied with virtually through the Minnesota Irish Music Weekend.
In addition to his playing with the Center for Irish Music, Morien has teamed up with his friend Derek Anderson to perform together as the duo Twice Banjaxed. Morien has been very involved as a volunteer in the community, helping with CIM’s fundraising events as well as setting up and cleaning up for the outdoor events hosted by the Celtic Junction Arts Center.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated musician continue to expand his skills and enjoyment of the music.
Musician and singer Adrienne O’Shea, 20, of Mendota Heights has grown up playing Irish music. As a student at Center for Irish Music (CIM), Adrienne has honed her skills on whistle and flute as well as traditional song, performing in a number of award-winning student ensembles and competing in the Midwest Fleadh and in the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann (the ‘all Irelands’); most recently, Adrienne has been part of the Taking Flight Collective, the Center’s mentorship program for emerging traditional Irish musicians. Adrienne has also been a member of the professional show bands for Kickin’ It Irish and the Celtic Holiday Hooley for several years.
It's not surprising that Adrienne feels that she “has grown up in the Irish tradition…learning both music and dance from a very young age.” She tells us that “the Irish community is my family” and that she enjoys engaging with the many Irish organizations in the Twin Cities. She comes by this perspective naturally as her parents are the founders and nurturers of the Celtic Junction Arts Center. In addition to performing in a variety of settings, Adrienne has been active as a volunteer, lending a hand with Eigse CIM, Minnesota Irish Music Weekend, local feises and Celtic Junction events.
Adrienne’s recommender speaks highly of Adrienne’s “talent, work-ethic, follow-though and passion for Irish traditional music.” Her recommender tells us that “Adrienne has developed her own style of flute playing, incorporating influences from her regular instructors at CIM, and the visiting teachers she has studies with at multiple Minnesota Irish Music Weekend advanced teen programs.” Her recommender also advises that Adrienne “has a gift for delivering traditional songs texts with emotional connection and poise.”
Adrienne will use her Educational Grant to help with the expenses associated with recording her debut album of traditional Irish music, using singing, flute and whistle playing. The funds will be important in helping with the expenses associated with recording time and space. The album is especially important to Adrienne, as it will be part of her honor’s senior thesis at the University of Minnesota. Adrienne hopes to grow as a musician and to expand her professional and academic resources. While the project is important to Adrienne as a musician, she also views it as a means of “giving back to my community and the people who raised me up in this Irish culture …a way of giving back to this community with the skills I’ve learned from them.”
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated musician continue her musical journey.
Carter O’Rourke, of Brooklyn Center, became interested in Irish dance at 4 years old when he watched his older sister Caidence trying Irish dance. Carter, who is now 11 years old, asked him mom if he could do it too and he says ”I have never really looked back.” Carter dances with the Hudson Academy of Irish Dance in Wayzata. (Carter’s sister and brother Caidence and Cullen are also dance with the Hudson Academy and both received IMDA Educational Grants in 2020.)
In addition to Irish dance, Carter is busy taking care of his many pets (3 dogs, 2 cants and 2 fish!) and is active in sports – playing both basketball and baseball. His recommender tells us that Carter has “kept up the difficult school-sport balance” and he excels in both sports as well as Irish dance!
Carter tells us that one of his favorite things about Irish dance is “just having fun and seeing your progression” and is proud of his advancement to Preliminary Champion. His recommender tells us that Carter “brings unwavering support to his fellow dancers and a dogged determination to improve each class,” and that he is tough on himself – holding himself to a high standard and striving toward excellence. Carter also reports that as a young dancer, he remembers always giving his older siblings Caidence and Cullen an attitude because he “wanted to be better or just at the same skill set as them.” Carter credits his siblings as important influences in his love of Irish dance as well of his teachers at Hudson and the many friends he has made along the way.
Carter has shared his dancing in community – dancing at nursing homes and day care centers as well as IMDA’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities and Irish Fair of Minnesota and tells us that “no matter how big or small the place we are performing we also put in 100% effort and work super hard.”
Carter has been preparing for Nationals with ZOOM classes, driveway lessons and more recently in-person classes and planned to use his IMDA Educational Grant for travel expenses and fees for the National Irish Dance Championships in Phoenix, AZ. He tells us “Right now my main goal is to have fun and just do well.”
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated young dancer continue to pursue his goals.
Fiona Schaack, 16, of St. Louis Park, especially enjoys the connection that Irish dance provides to her Irish heritage. Tracing her Irish heritage from County Tipperary to the mid-1800s and Minnesota’s first Irish settlement at Jessenland, Fiona tells us that her Irish heritage has always been important to her. She first “discovered” Irish dance at the St. Paul St. Patrick’s Day Parade as a girl of 7. She tells us that the dancers “were representing Irish culture while putting on an amazing performance, having fun and wearing pretty costumes. What more could I ask for?” It’s not surprising that Fiona tells us that St. Patrick’s Day is her favorite time of year and her favorite part of Irish dance.
Fiona dances with Onórach Mulhern Geraghty School of Irish Dance. Fiona met the challenges of 2020 and adapting to on-line instruction with determination, eager to make progress with every class. Fiona’s recommender calls Fiona’s work ethic “exemplary,” letting us know that has held herself accountable by “engaging in every Zoom class, analyzing and sending videos for teacher review, doing everything she could to continue to progress in these challenging times.”
In addition to her love of dancing, Fiona also appreciates the community and sense of family that she finds in Irish dance – telling us that “the dance family there has given me a place where I belong.” And she acknowledges the role that older dancers have played in teaching and encouraging her – providing her with someone to look up to and admire. Her recommender tells us that Fiona is a “true team player…she delights in the success of others” and that “the younger dancers admire her for her talent, but they especially enjoy how approachable and kind she is.” Fiona tells us “Dance to me means family, culture, and a source of happiness and learning.”
Fiona has enjoyed her opportunities to dance in wide range of venues in the community - retirement homes, places of worship, schools, parades, charity fundraisers, hospitals, and (of course) the Landmark Center.
Fiona has worked diligently toward her goal in Irish dance – “to continue to improve my dancing and attend a major Irish dance competition,” attaining OC (Open Champ) level in January 2020. She planned to use her IMDA Educational Grant for travel expenses for National Irish Dance Competition this past July in Phoenix, AZ.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is pleased to help this dedicated young dancer move along on her Irish dance journey.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is a 501(c)(3) organization.