What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

Thought it might be interesting to hear from people on how/why they began playing ITM. When did it all begin for you? Was it an inherited tradition [parents/grandparents] or, if not, was there anything unusual in your journey [if so, please tell us!]….was the journey itself rough and rocky or a seamless transition from some other instrument [like the tuba perhaps] or move from some other tradition [such as classical fiddle]. What was interesting about your journey do you think?

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

No heritage at all. I learned the piano for some ten years but never got anywhere. At some point a friend got me hooked on flogging molly, although far from being really irish, they were enough to let me look further. Another friend inherited love for the dubliners from his parents, and through him I reached "the next step". At some point, that second friend, who plays guitar asked me whether I would like to do folk, and after a little research I gave the whistle a try, and we formed a band. Two years later, I’m learning the flute now, discovered a session scene here and dived in the ITM with yet another friend who took up the banjo for that band of rookies. The band is in a somewhat unclear state now, but ITM has become an integral part of my life and I’m always looking forward to the next session. Basically what lured me into ITM was pure coincidence on more than one occasion, but i couldn’t imagine what I would do now with my spare time if it wasn’t for those coincidences.

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Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

My parents play and both my brother and sister, and also all of my cousins family aswell. Spent my early childhood summers (from around ages of 4 to 11) sitting on the stairs in Cleary’s pub in Miltown during the Willie Week listening to Bobby Casey, Junior Crehan, Joe Ryan, John Kelly Jnr., etc. everyday after the classes. I started fiddle on classical music at 7 and did that for around 3 or 4 years while also doing trad until I started concentrating solely on that. Took up the bouzouki two years ago and have continued playing on a three course Greek bouzouki I bought from Thessaloniki.

So the long and the short of it is, I started the fiddle and then I wrote this comment. lol.

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Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

Certainly nothing to do with hereditary provenance! I’m Polish (even though the largest immigrant group to Ireland now is Polish)

Church organist, son of a church organist. Learned guitar and played with a bunch of folkies who were Irish and rediscovered their roots as it were. They played Tommy Mackem Republican stuff. Being Polish, I played piano accordion (it is rumored that in my generation, an accordion was placed in every young Polish American boy’s bassinette when it was wheeled out of the delivery room :-) )

Played regularly for the high Holy Day in March and house parties with my box banger Irish freinds. Picked up whistle. And got interested in Box when I needed a new instrument to challenge a few years ago.

Besides the Poles and Irish culturally have much in common in terms of their historic experiences. Maybe that’s why we have some empathy for each other.

Bottom line though….ITM is great music. Much more satisfying than the tripe that masquerades as Catholic Church music out of the mega-music mill in Chicago.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

My fathers’ grandmother was named Minnie Mitchell. She came from Country Tyrone and would play the concertina in their Philly row house in the 1940’s and 1950’s. I have pictured, stories, but she passed before I was born. I feel connected to her and existence in general by carrying on the tradition. Culture and Tradition help us actualize our place in the world and provides a meaningful, spiritual function (not religious, spiritual). When I first took it up to study it I felt like I was home, musically speaking. The Music was so nice that it simply told me it was glad I was there. I was expecting it to say "Well, what the heck took ya so long, slacker?" but it was very hospitable. Failte indeed.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I learnt to play Irish music in Latvia.

I come from London.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I have ‘pictures’ but I have ‘pictured’ her often in my mind as well.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

After the first couple of Capercaillie albums (yikes, not Irish at all) sowed the diddley seed in my brain a couple of decades ago, I gradually became increasingly obsessed with the tunes and players, the vast preponderance of whom are Irish or Irish-inspired. A first and lasting love of fingerstyle jazz guitar made room for a new love of ITM fiddle (and guitar), and they both coexist happily in an occasionally mutally inclusive relationship. String relationships of fourths (guitar) or fifths (fiddle) has opened neural pathways that didn’t exist before, and both musical genres have grown because of it. So said (and as stated in my profile), I’m an adequate guitarist and inferior fiddler.

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Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

When I was a kid in the mid 60s my dad would break out the Clancy brothers records every year for a week around St. Paddy’s day. He would also play a few didlydum recordings too. After that, my older siblings got into the 60s "Folk Scare" thing and were playing Dylan and Baez songs on acoustic guitars around the house. I got into guitar that way with those 2 influences being my roots (along with the beatles).
After years of acoustic/folk style rocking I got invited to a session when I was 27 where they played Irish, Scottish, and Old Time country stuff. This lead to more Scottish and Cape Breton music around Boston and eventually a 10 year side track into bluegrass music. Finally I arrived at ITM about 15 years ago and never looked back. The roots helped too since I have cousins in Ireland that I visit frequently.

Salt

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I’ve been involved with music my entire adult life, mostly from the ‘other side’. I started out as a nightclub DJ when I was 18, and continued doing that for the next 18 years. In college, I worked for CBS Records (now Sony). I went on to own my own nightclubs and bars. I also worked as a radio DJ for about 5 years. And all that while, I played guitar. I was self taught, and really never very good at it. I played some hard rock electric guitar, but most of my stuff was acoustic stuff that I wrote.

When I first started dating Zina, she was step dancing, and learning fiddle. I wanted to have something in common with her, and she encouraged me to learn to accompany the music on guitar. I took a couple of lessons from Matt Heaton, who used to work for me at the time. He encouraged me to learn the tunes in order to accompany them well, so I learned to play a few tunes on guitar. It was then that I realized that I’d much rather play tunes than accompany them, so my next purchase was a bouzouki. The natural slippery slope led me to banjo, of course.

My grandfather played ragtime stuff on a 5 string banjo, and I had always disliked banjos because of that. So imagine my surprise when I found myself playing one - LOL. (Not nearly as surprised as all my goth/industrial nightclub friends, when they first saw me with one, mind you…)

Having been involved in so many different aspects of the music industry, I was rather jaded with the whole thing in general. With ITM, I finally found what I was looking for. A way for music to be central to my life, without being fake, commercial, two-faced, or backstabbing. Irish music holds a similar appeal for me that some of the techno and industrial stuff did back in the 90s. But it goes far beyond that, the deeper I get into it. I love the ongoing learning and discovery in the music - almost like digging into a graph of the mandelbrot set - the deeper you dig, the more you find interesting and beautiful elegance. And exploring it is also a journey of self exploration, getting in touch with parts of your mind that you haven’t necessarily been acquainted with before. Good stuff!

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

My paternal grandparents were from counties Mayo and Kerry, and they often listened to ITM as I was growing up. Never really got into it at that time. But after two trips to Ireland as an adult and having a child, I decided to get into it. Went out and got a whistle and flute, and haven’t looked back. So far my son loves the music and dances as I play (he’s probably the only one who enjoys listening to me though:).

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

no real family background here, though my mother used to play ‘the spinning wheel’ on piano. i’ve played guitar since a pup, american folk, blues, country, mostly as hobby. was given a fiddle at around 30, and learned to saw out a few tunes, but not well enough to lure me away from my guitar. i’d been introduced to … er… celtic (well, there t’is, innit?) by steeleye span’s _parcel of rogues_ album, where i worked, then heard the chieftains’ _bonapart’s retreat_ album, which knocked me out, and so on. well, i never stuck with it because i never felt my sound measured up — fiddle is awfully hard to sound good on. but eventually, i met someone who wanted to learn what tunes i had, and when i started (with ‘kid on a mountain’ — the mind boggles!) just playing the notes to get them across as a tune, i didn’t mind the sound so much. after that i just lived in the tunes. still do.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I accuse my parents.
They had some pretty eclectic music tastes, which included 1950s/60s folk revival performers such as Joan Baez, Pete Seeger and the Weavers, as well as the likes of the Clancy Brothers, Irish Rovers and Dubliners (and also the recording of Irish traditional music Seamus Ennis produced for Columbia Records) . When I was in my early teens they began taking me to the Fox Hollow Folk Festival outside of Albany, NY, which featured a number of traditional folk acts, including the Boys of the Lough — in fact, their appearance at ‘72 festival was, I think, one of their first stops in the US.
So throughout my youth I always had the folk/Irish thread running through my musical development, even as I aspired to be a Rock Guitar God and dutifully learned my Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin riffs.
The epiphany came when — as happened with ‘tinamatt — I heard Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention: It crystallized for me the possibilities of marrying trad folk to contemporary, rock-influenced styles without losing sight of the former. (And listening to Martin Carthy’s solo work really impressed that on me.) I began to focus on playing Irish/British Isles material, and the cheapo electric guitar began gathering dust.
Once I started learning more about this music, it wasn’t long before I came across the Chieftans, Planxty, De Danann, the Bothy Band et al.
I also learned that there were these things called sessions where people could, under most circumstances, show up and play together in an atmosphere of fun and camaraderie.
There were plenty of subsequent discoveries and experiences that shaped my playing — as I’m sure is the case with many of us here — but it really did all begin with the living room stereo.

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Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I’ve always liked ITM, especially when I visited Ireland, but learning the tunes and the style was a commitment I never made time for. About 3 years ago, my nephew told me he was learning the bodhran and asked if I’d play with him at an upcoming family reunion. At roughly the same time, a new beginner-friendly session was starting up, so I started going to that, and have been going ever since.

Jeff

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I grew up in California, son to an Englishman and a mother with roots from Ireland, Scotland, England and Holland. Dad used to take us to a fish-n-chips place in town where it was served in a basket lined with newspaper. (Remember that?)
Anyway, mom enjoyed folk including Pentangle which is prolly my first exposure to folk fusion type music.

Fast forward to age 31-32 when I tell my girlfriend about the fish-n-chips place I missed from my childhood. She says I don’t know of any English pubs but I do know of an Irish pub with great fish-n-chips. So we went to the "The Rose" in Santa Rosa, CA. (now called The Black Rose) A local band called "Atlantic Shore" was performing and the music just felt familiar, comfortable and a lot of fun. I bought their CD. Quickly I discovered Lunasa and Old Blind Dogs, then Flogging Molly. Damn that was fun! She bought me a bodhran for christmas. My cd collection grew. I bought a guitar about 2 1/2 years ago and just recently was given a mandolin. I’m completely self taught so the learning is slow. I’m still not ready for sessions.
My new girlfriend plays fiddle and we both learn off each other playing a mixture of Irish, Scottish, English and American traditional music. And sometimes a little Flogging Molly! lol
I couldn’t be happier. Which is a nice change of pace!!

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

Very simple - Nottingham’s Irish Social Club seemed to have a drinks licence which extended the potential for alcohol abuse beyond the then draconian local licensing laws (Mon-Sat 10.30am-2.30pm, 5.30-10.30pm, Sun 12-2pm, 7-10pm - jayz, why do those stick in my head?!). The club had lots of good music too.

Then I discovered that part of my family was Irish and became inspired to take up the fiddle, though by then I was studying in Manchester and couldn’t find a teacher to help me. Nevertheless, I struggled on by myself.

Subsequently, I met the love of my life (from Donegal) and went over with a bike to try and research my roots - lesson 1: never try to cycle around Ireland on a bike with only 3 gears. By that time I was already hooked on the music, had moved to London and was spending much time in pubs such as The Favourite and The Victoria.

That’s probably enough.

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Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

Desire to rebel against electro/trance/house/trip-hop parents.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

What a great collection of stories! This has been a pleasure to read. Thanks everyone so far. I hope anyone just visiting "au moment" will be inspired to add his/hers.

Just a reflection: Isn’t it interesting how love and music are often bound together?…people coming together over music, or pursuing music because of the influence of their partner. [of course it can work the other way — non ITM loving partners fleeing because of the music i suppose!]

The other interesting thing I detect [so far] is how music is a great balm…that wonderful line from someone above who wrote: "I lived in the tunes…still do." Music— ITM at least — also seems to be a place where we can be ourselves in a way which the world rarely offers whether it’s at home in the living room or in a public session…it also bridges that gap between middle age, youth, and old age…the stories here reflect that it seems. And too, these stories seem to reflect how people have staked a place for themselves in spite of the world around them in spite of parents/draconian liquor license laws ;).
thanks.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

Simply great music, and later great people to share a tune with.
It’s just that easy.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

When I was fifteen I started learning classical guitar, which I later studied at university. My teacher (Swiss) introduced me to O´Carolan, whose Music I loved instantly. Got deeper into harp music (Hempson etc). Then I went to Portrush/Northern Ireland on an exchange programme, playing and composing while enjoying the North Antrim Coast - what more can you have? Friends in Belfast made me acquainted with the music of Altan. Back home I started working with one of my English lecturers who originates from Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim and who introduced me to a lot more, especially from the 70ies. I worked with him for some years. Later, after just having started my first teaching post, students asked me to play ITM with them, so we founded a band, which still exists. Then in November 2006 I found this site and started playing mandolin. To be continued…

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

My parents are from County Tyrone and my dad was brought up listening to fiddle music so naturally he passed that music on to my ears through tapes and old records and such. Although my parents didn’t actually play them selves they put myself and my sister in to Irish music lessons in The irish centre in Birmingham. I learned the button accordion while my sister played the tin whistle. I gave up for a good few years but returned with avengance. That’s about it folks.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

My mom was a violinist, and one of my earliest memories is of her playing violin in the hallway of the house when I was very small. When I was 10 my school starting offering string classes, and I signed up for violin because I was in love with the instrument by then.

I stuck to classical music even though I didn’t like it much. I did listen to fiddling and I liked that better, but I thought it would be too hard to learn and I didn’t even know where to begin. At thattime I was mostly listening to Cajun fiddle, and didn’t know much about Irish music.

I quit studying violin when I went to college, and mostly quit playing altogether. About ten years later my mom died and left me her violin. The instrument has a whole lot of sentimental value to it and I’d always wanted to play her violin, so I decided to start playing again.

I couldn’t stand the thought of playing classical again, so I decided to finally try fiddling. I started listening to different types of fiddle music to find what I wanted to learn, and it didn’t take me long to realize that Irish tunes were what I wanted to play.

So I had the old violin restored, bought Kevin Burke’s videos on playing fiddle, got a bunch of trad CDs, and just started playing and listening.

Oh, one bit of irony is that my mom’s father came from an Irish family, but he wasn’t the least bit Irish in terms of culture and she never learned to play fiddle, although she did listen to fiddle music from time to time.

So, basically, I came to ITM because it has the best fiddle tradition in the world :) Not that the the fiddle is more important than any other instrument in trad, but I was specifically looking for a fiddle tradition.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

Brilliant, mehitabel23, just feckin’ brilliant, what an answer.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

Oh, almost forgot, it was probably Ceili House circa 1963 that got me into it. Or maybe a desire to rebel against my parents Big Tom records. Sorry for pinching your brilliant line, mehi.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

My mother’s grandmother came to the States from east County Galway and played concertina and accordion. I first tried playing tunes on her old concertina, without much success and gave up on that. Later I played guitar and played folk blues type stuff with no relation to ITM. Then I made a trip to Ireland to visit relatives in Galway, which of course has a great trad scene and got hooked on the music. I bought a one-row melodeon at Powell’s in Galway City and never looked back! I chose the melodeon because I thought it’d be the easiest thing to learn, but it’s still challenging. I started playing with the local session players here and enjoyed that so much I got addicted! I’ve recently started learning tunes on the concertina again.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

My Dad liked the Chieftains, Capercaillie, and Natalie McMaster and I grew up listening to and loving those albums. Other kids thought Cold Play and all those pop bands were fecking brilliant, but I stubbornly annoyed many friends who had to drive around with me with Altan, Natalie and the Chieftains. I wasn’t rebelling against parents (my brother did that by getting into rap), but rebelling against everyone else! Then I went to Ireland for a summer between 3rd and 4th year of college and discovered sessions. Suddenly the music seemed more accessible. Started playing bodhran around then and quickly moved from that to pipes and whistles. It changed my post-college plan, which, before the Ireland trip, had been law school. Afterwards I found I’d lost interest in law school and just wanted to learn to play this music and move back to Europe. Through a random and at times tortuous path, it led to doing a Scottish history-ish PhD in Edinburgh. When people ask why I bailed on law school (there is no money in academia after all) I can point to my ever-present traveling companion, the pipes case. It’s their fault.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I’ve answered this one before (influences, etc.) but one reason was that I knocked about with fellow-students etc. who played instruments when I didn’t. I wanted in on this. I was starting to listen to various kinds of trad at this time on albums and in folk clubs and sessions, and got a whistle as, frankly, the most obviously easy way in. It wasn’t quite as easy as I’d envisaged, but at twenty I was still in with a better shot at getting the hang of the whistle than I would have had at becoming, say, a fiddler - though I’ve since been surprised how good people can get who have actually taken up the fiddle relatively late.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

Music has always been big in my family’s life and we have rooms and closets full of instruments to prove it. My wife was church organist for years and my son is an accomplished player of several instruments, but I would pickup an instrument, easily get to an intermediate level and then get bored and quit.

After 30 years of working, my wife suggested I start a hobby, and on a walk that day, I ran across a flyer for fiddle lessons. That was 4 years ago, and I started learning OT fiddle. The influence of Irish tunes is what got me hooked on ITM. I feel like I have awoken from a musical coma. Everything is new, fresh and exciting. I’ve met some wonderful people and had the opportunity to travel to Ireland last year, and take part in a couple wonderful sessions in Tipp.

It’s a small circle, and I’m amazed how almost everyone knows each other, or has some close connection anyway. Irish Trad has truly been a blessing in my life and I couldn’t imagine life without it. I have no direct ties to Ireland, but my family is from Asturias, Spain, which some consider a Celtic region along with Galicia. Not sure if that helps make a connection or not.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I’m from a non-musical family, although I was put through the obligatory five years of piano as a youngster. My Dad, who was a sea captain, dabbled at the Boehm flute, but was never serious. His flute is now in the collection of Sir James Galway. I listened to lots of folk in the 60’s. Bought a guitar and fell in love with Joan Baez, but alas, she was very busy. Got a Fullbright Teacher Exchange to Nottingham in ‘88. Went to Ireland at Whitson and ended up at the Rainbow Hostel in Doolin. The flute player in McGann’s blew me away. I bought a whistle w/book and tape, drove my wife and lads bonkers for a year or so before buying a Pakistani flute, which stood me for a couple of years before I could afford a proper one. I returned to Ireland the summer of ‘92, and contrary to what MacCuiskeen admonishes, I pedaled (and pushed) a three-speed bike from Shannon to Donegal and back, camping out and hosteling. If an adventure like that won’t alter your ITM career, I don’t know what would. I’m still struggling with the flute, but much less so now. Good thread here. This is what the board should be like.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I grew up hearing Appalachian music around the house. So the swerve into Irish came pretty naturally. Dabbled in the tunes on guitar and mandolin until I heard the Bothy Band 1975 album—Mick Moloney played it on his radio show on WXPN in Philadelphia. The fiddle kicking off Farewell to Erin clinched it for me. Went out and bought a $25 pawn shop fiddle and never looked back.

Early influences included house sessions at John Vesey’s in Philly.

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Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I grew up in a musically literate home with two parents who both liked to listen to a wide variety of music. My mother was a music teacher who began teaching me how to play the piano when I was seven. Both of my parents were open-minded enough to let me listen to anything I wanted to no matter how strange it sounded to them.
I didn’t really pay any attention to Irish music until I had an eye opening and ear opening experience at a Folk Music Festival in Norfolk, Virginia in October 1981. One of the classes at this Festival was a workshop on Folk Keyboard which was taught by Triona ni Dhomhnaill. I attended the workshop and then, later on the same day, I listened to Triona perform with a band called Touchstone.
This experience showed me the possibilites of the piano in this particular genre of music. I bought a copy of O’Neill’s at a local music store and began trying to play the tunes by myself. At the time, I had never heard of Irish Jam Sessions or the Bothy Band.
However, until some other local musicians started an Irish Session here in 1995, I had no one to play this music with. At a local music store, I saw some flyers announcing an Irish Session and decided to go because I wanted to know what was an Irish Session. I went and listened quietly all evening to the music. When they quit playing, I asked if I could bring one of my instruments to the next session and participate. I told them what I played and was asked to bring my genuine imitation piano (a Roland EP-90 Digital Piano) to the next session to help "fill out" the sound.
That was how I started participating more-or-less irregularly in the local Irish Sessions. When I first started playing with this group of mixed nuts, I quickly learned that they preferred to play by ear instead of using sheet music (or what some members of this web site call the "dots"). Since I had some ear training while I was a music major in college and had been participating in a local Blues Jam where they never used sheet music (or the "dots") for five years by this time, playing by ear was easy for me.
In order to help me learn how to play this music more better, the guitar player (who was one of the organizers of the local Irish Session) loaned me some of her CD’s. When I told the guitarist about attending the Folk Keyboard workshop, she told me that Triona used to play with this group called the Bothy Band and she was going to loan me some Bothy Band CD’s. Besides the Bothy Band, the guitarist also loaned me some CD’s of Donna Long performing with Cherish The Ladies and various other musicians.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I started playing guitar at around 13, but was always interested in music since well before that, and occasionally plinked around on my Dad’s 5-string banjo.

My dad played American folk and some Delta blues styles, and is a very basic player but very talented, with an innate understanding of time and dynamics. Plus, he had nice instruments around the house, and I got to learn on an early 50s Gibson L-4 arch top and a wonderful-sounding 1950s dreadnought Epiphone, which is still among the best sounding guitars I’ve ever played.

So I was lucky that way.

I grew up listening to acoustic music of all kinds. But my favorite tunes were the ones that SOUNDED Irish, especially the ringing, modal sounds.

Further back, when I’d go on trips with my Dad at around age 7, my two favorite 8 tracks to listen to were Jethro Tull’s Songs From the Wood, which is the closest they came to trad (even had some decent jig playing on that record) and a wonderful record called Ommadawn, by Mike Oldfield. This was in the mid 1970s.

I know now that Ommadawn featured an Uilleann pipes solo by Paddy Maloney.

Some time later, a friend of the family was very much into Irish music, and played and sang in a session in town. I had never been to one. I was about 14, but desperately wanted to go. By that time, I had found a couple of Chieftains records in other people’s collections. (My parents would go to parties, and I’d disappear into the host’s dens and go through their record collection, listening to everything that looked interesting, and fell in love with the Chieftain’s sound. It was beautiful and melodic and interesting to me, with new textures and new surprises every couple of minutes.)

So I very much wanted to meet other Irish players, and learn about THAT SOUND!!!!

Unfortunately, my Dad, I learned later, refused to let that guy take me to the pub, because he didn’t want me wrapped up with the IRA supporters. (That was silly. This wasn’t Boston or New York or Philly. It was freaking Honolulu, for fark’s sake!!!! How much of a presence could the IRA have had?)

So anyway, my dad vetoed my early attendance at sessions, and there being no internet at the time, I had no way of really getting to the bottom of the where and when and just catching a bus or a ride and getting there myself.

I knew the sound I wanted, though, and when I was about 14, I bought a fiddle from a music store on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood with some money I had saved up. And tried to teach myself how to play.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the fiddle make a noise, not knowing anything about rosin. So that didn’t go very far. I never forgot that SOUND, but I didn’t know where to find more of it. and the other Irish records I heard then weren’t at all the same thing — mostly the troubadour types, which wasn’t what I was interested in.

Went through college and didn’t run into any other Irish players, though I had no idea what the pub scene and session scene was. Moved to Tennessee and played a lot of music, met a lot of my childhood heros like Mark O’Connor and Jerry Douglas, etc., but still didn’t hook up with any other Irish types.

I did, however, purchase another fiddle, an 1880s Hopf I found at Berry’s Pawn in Lebanon TN. I was so broke at the time I couldn’t afford to pay attention, but somehow came up with the 40 bucks it took to lay it away. Came back a couple of months later with the rest of the 400 bucks, and it’s still the best 400 bucks I ever spent. I’ve made thousands with that fiddle.

But I had to learn to play if first. So I taught myself, and this time it took.

After about 3 years, I moved from Clarksville, TN to Miami, Florida, and a couple of months after my arrival, I saw a sign outside a pub that said "Live Irish Music." So I literallyturned my car around…pulled a U-turn, and went in.

There was a guy playing an electric fiddle, a guitar player, and an Irish guy, Paddy Kelleghan, playing guitar and octave mandolin, and an uilleann piper, Kynch O’Kaine. (Heya Kynch-O!!!). I had no idea about the repertoire and didn’t even know a jig from a reel from a hornpipe. But they were getting that SOUND, even though it wasn’t a session. So I introduced myself. I might have borrowed Jacks fiddle that night, and I probably played Flowers of Edinburgh…which I learned in D, not G, originally, not having played it with anyone else.

Later that night, Paddy asked me if I was available on Tuesday, because he had a gig… I said I was, but I didn’t know the repertoire. So he said come to my house on Sunday, and bring your fiddle, and guitar. So I did. And then he said "learn these ten tunes." I remember some of them: Kesh Jig, St. Anne’s Reel, Morning Dew, Boys of Blue Hill, Harvest Home, Silver Spear, Rights of Man (actually I knew Rights of Man, which I originally learned as a flatpicking reel, but never knew the title or its association with Ireland).

And I went out that tuesday and played a gig.. John Martin’s in Coral Gables, Florida, and had a great time. And then I was booked that weekend, then the following weekend, and I was bitten.

It wasn’t long before Paddy and Kynch convinced me I should go see James Kelly, who also lives in Miami, but doesn’t play out much. (Hi, James!) So eventually, I did. Hooked some more, and I can’t begin to tell you how much I learned in just a few lessons with James.

After that, I ran into some other trad players - Eamonn Dillon, Roisin Dillon (now touring with Cherish the Ladies) and John Schreiber, playing a gig, and THAT was exactly what I was wanting to do. They had a session going then, or it started a little later, with those three, plus Paraic Keane, who is the son of Sean Keane of the Chieftains, who also lived nearby.

They put up with me in my early years in trad when I only knew a few tunes, and had trouble stringing them together. Now I’m fluent enough to mostly stay out of their way, but for the most part, I can hang, and I’m so lucky to have had a chance to learn up close from players who can play at that level.

Soon I was being called to fill in for a fiddler or guitar player who couldn’t make a gig, and I was off. I had finally found home base…my musical calling, as it were. That SOUND that had been calling me since I was seven years old, listening to 8 tracks of Paddy Maloney and Jethro Tull.

That’s my story, and I’m s-s-s-stickin’ to it.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I was bought up in a musical house - sessions everynight listening to the likes of Mick Hand playing in the kitchen. I hated, really hated the music until I got a bit older- started playing fiddle at 18 - havent looked back since.

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Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

My wife got involved with set dancing by friends, and it has been an important part if her life ever since. I went along to watch and immediately wanted to be able to play the music - this was the first time in my life I’d had real exposure to it. So a few weeks later I had an old family fiddle restored to playing condition, started going to beginners’ classes at a local pub, and then began going to a weekly session to listen. It must have been about a year before I actually played anything in a session. It’s snowballed from there.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

The music began in my family with my grandfather, whom I never met [he died in 1965, I was born in 1991.] He had a desire to play music and had a great interest in the Irish language. He learnt Irish himself [no background of Irish I believe] and sported a fáinne [these were pins given by the state to fluent Irish speakers.] He was a flute player in his early days, apparently, but my father only ever witnessed him playing the Tin Whistle, an old Clarke’s. He took part in some Feiseanna or Oireachtais and I think he may have done well, but am not certain.

My father then, recieved a mandolin for his communion. After playing it for a while in his youth, drinking and family matters meant he had to abandon the music. He got back into it in the 90s but suffered greatly mentally and never quite found time to commit to learning the instrument at that time. In 2000, I approached my father, who was tinkering away on the mandolin [just in Y-fronts, on his bed!] and asked him if he would teach me to play. The first tune he gave me was Dirty Old Town. That’s where it began. Never had formal training at the time. I went to the guitar by age 11 and then, back to ITM when my Dad bought a mandola 2 years afterwards. I got a banjo at Christmas 2005 and found my niche. And it’s been onwards and upwards since that.

I met [and am still meeting] so many great people through this music. I’m expressing myself through the music like I could never do with any other interests before. It’s true, love can be found here. It’s happened to me that I’ve gotten on "too well" with numerous female musicians [never wanting to quite settle down yet but anyway, that’s another story!]

The music continues to form a big bulk of my life. I love meeting new people, young, old and middle aged. Now, my younger brother is coming on in leaps and bounds on the button accordion, we both are learning Irish too. Maybe the family circle has rotated or something. Just as Paddy Cummins instilled the music into his family in the 1940s and 50s, todays younger Paddy is making the best efforts to replicate that work! :) And its going well…

Thanks for reading.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I had classical musical training starting at 5 years old and played until I was 18, then gave up the violin altogether. In 1975, I was in Sligo and went into a pub (Harrigans or Hennigans - can’t remember) and there was Stocktons Wing. I was awestruck by Maurice Lennon’s playing. When I returned home, I dug out my old violin and started to learn to play Irish music. I returned to Sligo a couple years later and met Joe O’Dowd. He was an inspiration and an excellent and generous teacher. I spent many happy hours that summer talking with him and playing tunes. Been playing Irish music ever since. Like Paddy, I have met many people through the music and had so many wonderful life experiences. I like your story Paddy. Also, I’ve heard some of your cuts on youtube and I agree, its going well.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I had two non-musical parents, but a grandfather and uncle who played the fiddle ( although I can’t recall them playing it - although my mother reckons she does. Maybe that why she was non-musical )
In my mid teens I started listening to and playing blues and heavy metal with some mates - Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath, Chain ( a local blues outfit ). At College a mate told me to listen to live recording of a concert on a local radio station - it was the Chieftains. That was it - I knew that was the music I had to try and play. I bought a whistle shortly after that and tortured it ( and many hapless neighbours and later family ) for many years. More recently I started playing the flute and have found a local session where is standard is at a level where I can join in without upsetting too many good players.

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Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

By most standards here I’m a newcomer, but anyway..
a few years ago I heard Brendan Power’s "New Irish Harmonica" and decided that that was the sound for me. I’d been given a C Hohner Blues Harp when I was about 15 by one of my brothers and really it has proved to be the most influential gift I have received. I always toyed with it, but never put the work in. Once I started with the Irish stuff on blues harp, the desire to work at the tunes and technique really kicked in… somewhere in that time I heard Liz Doherty (namesake) playing in the town where I live… and I was really blown away and since then I’ve been putting a fair bit of effort in to listen and understand the music. Maybe one day I’ll get over to Ireland. A fella by the name of Larry Egan (BC box - he’s a great musician) lived in Christchurch for about a year and a half and while he was here I decided I liked the sound of the box - bought one, then a year ago I got a good one. I still reckon the harmonica, like the fiddle, is the closest sound to the human voice, so it’s expressive capabilities are amazing - however I found I couldn’t hear the harp in a session even though it was right next to my ear.

Apparently one of my great uncles was a fair fiddler - that’s as far as it goes for direct links to the music. There’s other music in my family, but none back to ITM. I’m not sure why I like the music so much - I’m a 5th generation New Zealander, so links to Ireland are pretty far back now, but even so - something still resonates for me. And anyway - it’s cracking fun and a great opportunity to meet some fantastic folks.

I find that even if I think I know a tune well and can play it different ways, I keep finding other ways to play it, so it seems like I keep learning the more I play it.

Lots of interesting stories here - thanks for sharing them.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I do have irish roots but am adopted and did not have irish influence in my upbringing. I have always been musical growing up, played piano, clarinet, percussion and did a lot of singing. Participated in a lot of opera as a child and musical theatre. Trad is not something I have ever really been around. Still can’t say even now since I have been playing (fiddle, about 8 months now) that I have had the occasion to really be around a lot of live ITM. I live in Iowa and am starting to find other musicians, but it is a slow process. (so if you are reading this and from the Des Moines area, get in touch!)

As to how I came to trad? Well, for whatever reason the fiddle has always been an instrument for me that just pulls emotion from the inside out, and when I listen to irish music my soul soars and I just wanna dance (and drink! and dance! and drink! …vicious circular effect)

So, finally one day last year I decided there was no reason why I shouldn’t learn to play. Only wish I had done it sooner.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

i learnt the tin whistle,trad piano and ceili drumming since i was 7 from the legendary tommy doherty…but i was never really into it…it was just a way to get out of class….
the when i was about 13 or so i was in hmv looking for a new cd…(probably britney spears or something like that…the shame…. :( ;) ) when i had an epiphany….over the intercom came the free-est, funkiest, most beautiful music i had ever heard…i enquired at the counter, bought the album and left HMV a changed girl. I now play the whistle, fiddle, harp (ish), flute (again ish) and trad piano. i play as many sessions as possible..a minmum of two a week…even on school nights…

I am officialy a trad musician,singer, dancer and composer….

If Trad music was a drug….then id be a junkie!!!!!!;):)

And to think it all started because of that CD…."Morning Rory" by Michael McGoldrick….what a legend!!!!

Rachel

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I was born in the thirties, grew up in the Forties/Fifties. Not much music about, just the odd ‘Come all ye’ song or the odd cowboy song from the Roy Rodgers/Gene Autry movies. I was ten when we got electric light and our first radio. We had a mouth organ band in the Scouts, and there I learnt to play the jigs Larry O’Gaff and The young May Moon as well as lots of Irish Marches. When I was big enough to carry a side drum I joined the local Fife & Drum band and got a liken for some of the ITM that they played. Ceili dancing was big in our area in the fifties and I was playing drums with a Ceili Band at 16. I had also graduated from the mouth organ to a button key accordion and within a short time was playing box with a ceili band. I’m afraid to say that at the time not one of us in the band knew one key from another. Every tune we knew was picked up by ear. Although I went on to play with lots of different bands as a drummer. My favourites being Big Band, Swing and Jazz. However, I never lost my love of ITM and the box was a lot easier to carry than a drum kit. So over the past thirty years I’ve played more box and consequently more ITM. Now I’m looking forward to my annual visit to the Fleadh.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I saw Riverdance and fell in love with all those legs. Thought, hmmm… I can’t dance worth a fig, but maybe they’ll let me play the triangle near them or summat. And so my journey to becoming the world’s leading proponent of traditional Irish triangle playing began. Sadly, I haven’t managed to befriend any dancers on said journey, and so I’ve been and remain, ultimately and inevitably, legless.

*hic*

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Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I had wanted to learn ITM for years, but never knew how one would go about doing it. There was no ITM in my family background, only some Chieftans CDs that my classical-loving parents would drag out whenever there was housework to be done. There were apparently sessions in my area, but I had no idea that such things existed. I went through several abortive attempts to play ITM on my Boehm flute, once after hearing the Chieftans live, once after seeing Riverdance, once after hearing Bohola live, and once after being introduced to Kathleen Keane’s Thirsty Work track on one of Gaelic Storm’s albums. Each attempt lasted only hours, days, or occasionally a week - and I gave up in confused frustration each time.

You may laugh when you hear what I tried, but how was I to know? Some of my false starts:
- read hornpipes from a James Galway songbook (Boys of Bluehill and Harvest Home), and wondered why this was not as fun as the Chieftans.
- searched the small-town music shop for a collection of Irish tunes, but came up empty, with no idea where to search next
- went to the University of Notre Dame library (home of the "Fighting Irish") and photocopied obscure tunes from dusty old collections of Irish sheet music and then read them one after another, wondering why they sounded flat and lifeless
- sat down with a roommate and tried to learn Kathleen Keane’s whistle solo Thirsty Work by ear. Gave up in frustration after a couple of hours, having failed to make head or tail of the first bar.

It wasn’t until I moved to Scotland and started asking around about teachers (initially I started asking a Scots fiddle group if they took flutes) that someone told me of a session in town. I attended, found out that this was exactly what I wanted, and was quickly given a CD of tunes to learn from, directed to thesession.org for more tunes, and from there to youtube videos and Grey Larsen’s book. It’s been six months now, and I feel like I’ve finally got a proper start.

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

I was swimming around in my mothers belly for a while,and this cubic object with a line attached came in close contact with me.
I grabbed it ,and subsequently was borned.
Why couldn’t it have been a fiddle….?

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

thank you all for taking the time to do this. I thought these stories were amazing!

Reading these I think, ‘Wouldn’t it be great now to do a small book of people’s stories, like yourselves, from all walks of life — and ages apparently — and from around the world?’

We hear from great fiddlers in volumes like the Northern Fiddler and Blooming Meadows, but the stories of the "folk"..who, I suppose, really help keep the tradition burning…people like yourselves…we seldom hear from. And more’s the pity.

thanks again .hope everyone enjoyed telling their story and reading those of others. I know I did.

best,
michael

Re: What lured you to ITM? Your personal story…

The Thistle and Shamrock.