Train the children well, for they are our future!

Train the children well, for they are our future!

This is a bit of a sidetrack from the "Interesting article" thread, in which Larry Kirwin of Black 47 stated "Sadly, I run into few people under thirty. That hardly augurs well for the future of Traditional music.", when talking about Traditional Irish Music as compared to Celtic Rock.

I find myself wondering if that is true. There are very few players of Irish traditional music under 30 where I live. There are a few, but not many. Is the tradition doomed?

Are we coming off a wave of popularity, spurned by the likes of Riverdance, only to find that popularity waning to the point of oblivion?

It seems to me that I see Comhaltas videos fairly often that are made up of young people playing wonderfully. On a recent trip to Ireland, I got a chance to spend some time with a fairly well-known extended family of players, whose 6 children all play beautifully. But is this only happening in Ireland? Do these youngsters love it, or only do it because they’re forced to do it, like I was forced to be in the school band when I was 10 years old? (In the case of the family I mentioned, they all do it out of a true love for the music).

Are you grooming a new generation of players where you live? I help run a tune learning session, in which we encourage new players, ushering them along, pulling them into the fold. But when I think about it, almost none of them are younger than 30!

I am generally an optimistic person. I like to think of the tradition as being alive and healthy. But Larry’s comment took me by surprise, and made me wonder…

Pete

Re: Train the children well, for they are our future!

I’m sixteen, and I play Irish fiddle, and there are many other violinists in my school who, before I picked it up, didn’t really know anything about Irish music. You know, though, what you could do? It would be a really good idea if you or someone else went to different schools and talked to bands and orchestras, and maybe even play for them.

In the area where I live (SE Michigan), there is a lot of interest, but not enough influence.

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That’s a really good point, akoz. Interest without influence. Especially in the U.S., a lot of youngsters aren’t exposed to much traditional music - even the American traditions.

Pete

Re: Train the children well, for they are our future!

We have had two teenagers blaze through my local session in the past few years on their way to bigger and better things. One now plays Irish music professionally, and done extremely well in competitions, and the other is now a student at Berklee in Boston. Pretty amazing, when you still remember the first night they came in and everyone slowed the pace to play The Rakes of Mallow or other beginner tunes with them.
Fortunately, there are a lot of young people attending sessions in my area, and at least one high school has a "celtic music club" where they play together.
The folks who come to the session regularly, and stick around, are (ahem) fairly mature, but it is a pleasure to have the youngsters be part of things, at least for a while. I look forward to the next young talent to walk in the door one night.

Re: Train the children well, for they are our future!

Apparently young people aren’t our future,
a steady supply of old people is.😲

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Re: Train the children well, for they are our future!

Our local schools ask us to come in and play for classes now and then. This usually sparks some interest in the music, and kids show up at our session for a while. But most are already immersed in classical or rock, and they don’t latch on to trad.

We do have several under 30s in our sessions here, but no under 20s.

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Our sessions have many young people in, mostly students. But trad has a poor following among local youngsters, something myself and my fellow evangelists are trying to address.

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Yeah, if you could only talk that 17 y.o. of yours into putting his guitar skillz into trad instead of all that screamin’ fuzzed out punk stuff, Puddy Tat. But I guess we have to each take our own journey to get here. (Lord knows I did!) 😉

A good friend of mine is an elementary school music teacher. She plays some Irish stuff for the kids on occasion. I should see if she’s interested in having some of us come play for her classes some day…

Pete

Re: Train the children well, for they are our future!

The best thing about heading up the coast to Tampa was to see the young’uns.

Normally in my neck of the woods, at 36 I’m the baby. Pretty sad. Well not for us, we have a great time, but really, yeah, it’s a little demoralizing sometimes.

However, in Tampa last time I was up there they had a cadre of young folks cranking away. The hostess up there is a teacher and apparently always has a posse of her students at the session. They do range in age but there are many young ones, including three fiddle students who had to have been High School age. Many of the backers and the three whistlers were my age or younger as well. No doubt the star of the evening was a 10 year old lass who threw her shoes on to dance a hornpipe and a set of reels for us.

The kids are all right…in the big city, it seems, just not here in the suburban wasteland.

Apparently I need to get some students? Obviously, go to the schools and play for them? I…think…I…have…a…plan…

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I don’t think there’s any fear for the future of the traditional music of Ireland in Ireland. There are probably more kids playing now than ever before.

Re: Train the children well, for they are our future!

Being in the "under 30" group, I would say one of the most influential things to get me into ITM was
1) my secondary school director, where we played a whole range of styles from classical to trad (of various areas) to the Beetles
and 2) finding a great mentor at University who persisted in getting me to the learning session on campus (which, ironically, is mainly over 30s), regularly performing with his group in the area, and helping me get started in an "under 30" Irish group myself. A good persistent mentor can really make a difference (please, over 30s take note! ;) )

Now I use Irish when I teach young students violin (even if we’re learning "classical" styles) and definitely plan on using it when I start teaching at an elementary school in the next few years sometime.

And right now I’m at sessions in Cork taking in as much music as possible!

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Re: Train the children well, for they are our future!

I work with 140 string players age 10-18, and we all do *some* traditional Irish music, by ear. I do have guitars, bodhrans, and mandolins around, and I really should try and find time to teach tinwhistle. By the time the highschoolers graduate, they’ll know about 30-40 tunes (if they’re kids I started in 5th grade, they’ll know about 10 more). Most won’t stick with it, but they’ll likely have a greater appreciation for it at any rate. Maybe some will remember that it’s always good for free beer when they go to college 😉

http://www.cdbaby.com/hullksiazek

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I have an 18 year old fiddle and harp player and a 16 year old guitar player who love trad. We’ve been to Swannanoa for Celtic week. I don’t think they’re your average American kids though. I just hope they’ll pass it on to their kids.

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Laitch’s comment about a steady supply of old people being more important to the tradition than a cadre of under 30’s might be tongue-in-cheek, but it’s an apt characterization of the musical community of which I am a part. At only slightly shy of 30, I’m one of the younger regulars among the *beginners* at my session. Most of us (myself included) were classically trained to some degree, and then discovered that fiddling was more fun.

And I wouldn’t be so quick to knock the Celtic pop/rock/fusion genre. As a Canadian with no ancestral ties to anywhere in Western Europe, let alone Ireland, I had little exposure to ITM as a child, and discovered it in a roundabout way, through various talented Canadian fiddlers (Ashley MacIsaac, Leahy, Natalie Macmaster, Richard Wood) who are heavily influenced by ITM but who have taken tremendous liberties with the form. Their music - which I still love - led me to the traditional tunes.

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When I was in Mayo recently one of the pubs, two nights in a row, had a crowd of kids playing, and I mean kids, aged from 7 to about 16. Apart from issues of exploitation, and keeping kids in the pub to 2am in the morning, these kids were very good, a lot of them playing concertina. So the future certainly looks assured.

However they were progressive, 4 fiddles, 3 concertinas, two flutes, two button box players, not a backer amongst them.

Re: Train the children well, for they are our future!

You’ve only to visit the Pearl River and Queens areas of Metro NYC to know that the tradition is not only alive, but flourishing here!
There are literally hundreds of youngsters playing ITM, encouraged and / or taught by the "middle-agers" who themselves learned from masters such as John Glynn, Martin Mulvihill, Andy McGann, Paddy Reynolds, Martin Wynn and Seán McGlynn and others.
These kids just LOVE to play!!! It’s such a pleasure to hear / watch them. And it’s very much the same in Boston and Chicago.

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I am encouraged by what I see at our local Irish Community Center. Although not quite a real Comhaltas, there are several dedicated music teachers and a growing supply of youngsters getting involved. I am doing my part as well, by saturating the ears of my young sons with trad music. I recently gave my six year old his first penny-whistle, which he promptly used to whack his older brother over the head. Perhaps I should have gotten him a bodhran….

Re: Train the children well, for they are our future!

Grego and I went to a feis in Calgary last weekend where they had a little music competion and various kids got up and played the fiddle or sang. I was expecting it to be less "traditional" than it turned out to be, and all of the kids did a great job. They need some direction in the "what’s a traditional song" department, but there is lots of enthusiasm there. I was encouraged.

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It’s with the older musicians that we have the problems. Most of my experience at sessions is that it’s the younger musicians who are playing quality music and are the ones you’ll automatically ask to play a solo at some stage during the night. There are many reasons why this is the case as musicians start lessons at a much younger age than 30 or 40 years ago. They also have easier access to good trad teachers and better opportunities to attend fleadh and festival events than we had at the same age. The proof of all this is clearly evident at fleadhanna cheoil where it would seem that at least 80% of all the players in sessions, competitions, etc would appear to be under the age of 25.

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There is ageism discrimination up here nowadays, Bannerman. What you just posted is against the law. Punishable by the death penalty, I think.

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There was a kid at our last session, or maybe the one before. He was quite good. Played the fiddle. I’ve seen a trio of kids playing American Old-time at the farmer’s market. I’ll probably see a bunch of kids to make me feel humble and hopeless at the fiddler’s convention this weekend.

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I’m always meeting impressive youngsters, great love of it, great technique, lovely to play with.

However, it’s worth noting that I first met one of my all time favourite players when she was only 16, and her technique has not improved since I first met her, 15 or so years ago. The quality of her music though has always increased exponentially year on year.

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I’ve seen some great teenage fiddlers where I live…playing old-time and bluegrass instead of Irish trad, but that’s because of where I live.

People under 30 tend to invest a lot of time into things like school, careers, young children of their own, etc.

It’s easier to devote yourself to a folk music hobby when you’re older and things have settled down a bit. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the youngsters are any less interested in the music than older people.

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To disagree with akoz, there is quite a bit of influence as well as interest in SE Michigan, if you know where to look. It may not be the biggest scene, but the music here can rival Chicago or Boston any day. And there are plenty of "young people."

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Is it just me thinking the idea of the future of Irish music lying somewhere in SE Michigan or Florida is somewhere slightly deluded?

The crux of the matter is that there are more young people in Ireland playing Irish music, and playing it well than ever before in history.

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Hi Reverend Pete. I’m under 30. I’m also pitifully overworked, exploited by The Man, and a starving student. You should send me a free banjo to help support the future of traditional music. 🙂

Kind regards,

silver bow.

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There are certainly plenty of young people learning to play trad. music in Ireland. I myself teach a number of young fiddlers in West Cork, most of whom are very enthusiastic, and what helps to keep that enthusiasm going is opportunities to play at fleadhs, festivals, etc., several of the children I teach belong to Skibbereen Comhaltas, and have been able to join a ceilidh band or grupai ceol, as well as going in for individual competitions if they want to,(I never push pupils into competitions if they don’t like the idea, but for many it’s a motivation to practice!) Skibb. Comhaltas also organise a monthly session which is open to all children not just those who fancy competing in a fleadh, but just for fun. I know other Comhaltas branches organise similar events.
It’s also common here for kids to learn at least the basics of whistle playing at school.
When I lived in England there didn’t seem to be anything like this to encourage kids to play trad. music.

Re: Train the children well, for they are our future!

Lots of under-30 players in Edinburgh. I’d say the average age is a bit higher, but not by that much. Most sessions here tend to be fairly balanced in that way. In Newcastle, the Folkworks program (the folk music degree program at Newcastle Uni) brought loads of under-30 players, but the Folkworks sessions and the local sessions tended to be pretty segregated. As I preferred the local sessions, I was usually the youngest person there 90% of the time. There were very few young players who were unassociated with the university playing the music.


Rev,

The Boulder session could be very young, much younger than the ones in Denver as I remember. There were a number of us who were under 30 and a couple teenagers as well. A couple of my friend there were teaching the music as well, so passing it onto the next generation of Boulderites.

Why would the average age of musicians in Denver be much higher than in Boulder, which is only half hour drive away (or why is it higher in non-Folkworks Newcastle than Edinburgh)? I don’t know, but if I had any training in sociology you can bet I would try to find out. My kind of lay theory is that it has some relationship to demographics and regional variations in culture, but I really haven’t a clue. There’s a PhD for someone in there somewhere.

Re: Train the children well, for they are our future!

There are several very talented teenagers playing ITM in the Philadelphia area being taught by some very dedicated teachers, among them Brendan Callahan, who is not all the ancient himself! Brendan, of course, started when he was just a young boy and has gone on to make quite a name for himself. We try to feature the playing of these talented youths at whatever we can (festivals, concerts, ceilidhs, sessions, etc.) and many of them are regulars at our local sessions and have on several occasions anchored the local sessions. But I think the main factor in the tradition being carried on by new, young players is two-fold: having ITM in all its forms (lessons, sessions, invitations to play) being open and welcoming to young players and having the support of all of the adults (parents, teachers, organizers, etc.). We are fortunate in Philadelphia to have both of these factors well in place. I also know that many of these youths have traveled to Ireland with their parents and played at fleadhs and sessions around Ireland. That is the true dedication of the parents to support their children showing! And of course, Philadelphia has a very strong tradition of ITM of its own and is proud to promote it in any way we can.

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Looking for the future of Irish music in Florida? I don’t know about all that fluffery, I was just looking to give back to the community and perhaps selfishly get more young folks involved in my area.

I live here, my sons live here, and their mother lives here. I work here. I belong to Irish American clubs here; we have several festivals every year. We have weekly, monthly and bi-monthly sessions all up and down the coast. We have schools of dance here. This is America, we have Irish Americans, am I missing something here, kilfarboy?

Jusa Nutter, you keep at it. My boys are 7 and 5, nothing quite yet, but it’s happening via osmosis, I can see it. [wink]

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In our area, Cincinnati, I’d guess the under 30 outnumbers the over 30 by far. Largely attributable to the Riley School of Irish Music. We have some remarkable young talent playing fiddle, whistle, box, banjo, guitar … you name it.

Trad may never have the commercial appeal to an uneducated ear that Celtic Rock has but I’m not convinced that it should.

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LOL, please DO NOT send silver bow a banjo, free or not. We’re already having a difficult time limiting him to fiddle and button box—he tends to pick up and play any instrument left laying about, often better than the owner.

Besides, he’ll be over 30 some day, just another old fart reminiscing over his "glory" days….

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SilverSpear, yeah, after I posted the thread, I thought more about the Boulder session. I don’t get over there as often as I should (Why do all the durn sessions have to be on the same night?) But you’re right, it does have more young players. Probably has to do with it being a college town. And with Jesse’s students, etc.

Puddy tat, you’re just worried about silver bow taking up yet another instrument that you play, because he’ll probably end up better at it than you! Don’t you just hate those ultra-talented under-30s?

Pete

Re: Train the children well, for they are our future!

I can’t get too pessimistic about traditional music’s outlook when I go out to sessions, parties and concerts around these parts (Boston/New England) and see a sizable group of under-30s — hell, _teenagers_ — who clearly love playing the music and are not about to give it over any time soon.
There are numerous camps and programs, such as Pinewoods and the Maine Fiddle Camp, that help to inculcate and inspire these younger folk. And by the looks of it, there’s a pretty good supply of them; don’t forget, some of the teens and 20-somethings have younger siblings who might get caught up in the music as well.
Will _all_ of them stay with traditional music? Nope. And those that do will, inevitably, bring their own unique influences and approaches to it. But that’s how things have gone since time immoral.

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"Is it just me thinking the idea of the future of Irish music lying somewhere in SE Michigan or Florida is somewhere slightly deluded?"

Boy, I hope it’s just you, kilfarboy. I hate that kind of backwards thinking.

I would guess by your attitude that you’ve never actually heard musicians from these areas play before. For Irish Americans, or just American lovers of the music, the future of Irish music does in fact partly lie in the states. And it hopefully does with some Irish people who are not so narrow-minded.

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Rev, silver bow won’t "end up" better than me—he already is.

I like sts’s freudian slip there: "time immoral." So that would just be the span of human civilization, right?
🙂

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I come from the same learning session as Amy J, and I have to agree, having a great mentor makes all the difference when there aren’t many people your age in your area that play ITM. Our mentor is a flute player, and he’s spent so much time with me, helping me progress in my tune learning, and slowly developing my own style of flute playing. The band that Amy J and I have played in together had four people in our 20s… and a college prof in his 40s who used to have his own band, but has been away from playing ITM for a while. And the band’s worked out great! It’s definetely a cross-generational genre of music. (I’m trying to work out a way to use ITM in the flute lessons I teach for classical flute… we’ll see how that goes. Get them started young, right? 🙂
In our learning session we are starting to see an influx of younger players (i.e. mostly in their early 20s), and we’ve even had some high schoolers drop by for a session or two every once in a blue moon. That’s pretty rare though, sadly. A group of two or three of us are actually planning a trip down this weekend for the Boulder session, so we’ll add to the young crowd there!

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Here at Coventry Comhaltas we have 7 young players aged between 8 and 16. It’s great to have them and only two are mine and been shoved in this direction since they started instrument lessons at school. We have consisted of those aged 30+ for several years although used to have more under that age at a previous venue. It’d be good to get back to an even balance I think. An apt quote I feel coming on is " We don’t inherit the world from our parents, but borrow it from our children."