My Musical “Why” and the Nitty Gritty Details

Diana was right… Creativity and blog post inspiration will hit at the most obnoxious of times, and holiday travel prep is no exception! Lately I have been following several blogs and podcasts which address creativity and how to find daily motivation in larger life goals. A year ago, Helene Sula started encouraging me to find my “why”, and for awhile there I thought I knew what that “why” was. But I didn’t. I was compromising by thinking of safe ways to make an attempt to make my dreams work without leaving my comfort zone. Well, the brain waves hit me just a few days ago through my daily goal journal, and I realized I was settling. I rediscovered a method that I used as a postgraduate student in Ireland; one which I want to incorporate into how I affect the people around me, whether they are listening to my music, coming to my gigs, or following along with the journey on my online network.

Fiddling from a young age! I still love wearing hats…

You’re probably wondering by now who these people are that I just name dropped in my first paragraph. Well, about a year ago I discovered American expat and full time travel/lifestyle blogger, Helene Sula, on Pinterest. She frequently posts a variety of tips for making a living full time while traveling all over Europe — so naturally, my inner travel bug perked up and I became curious about the multiple ways I could make a living that would allow me the level of flexibility I would like for traveling with my music. I joined Helene’s “Instagram for Success” course to learn about different ways that I could market myself online, and through this course and the approaches it teaches, I have found so many more musicians that I would most likely have not come across otherwise. One of these awesome people is Diana Ladio, who has an amazing travel and music blog called “Driift,” which she started right around the time I was debating firing up my old blog again. Each of her posts provides so much valuable content, whether it’s traveling musician hacks or deep, reflective insight on being a musician with a constant travel schedule. While I don’t travel nearly as much as she does, I find her posts extremely helpful and I incorporate a lot of what she writes about into my daily lifestyle. If you’re curious to read about her life on the road, particularly the post on creativity that I referenced above, please click here for a link to her website.

There are many people this past year who have had a positive impact on how I approach my life, but for the purposes of this blog I will mention just one more person: Rachel Hollis. I only recently started listening to her podcast, “RISE,” but I’m already hooked. She suggested making a list every morning from your perspective in ten years — meaning that instead of writing “At age 34, I will be a top notch musician,” you write “I am 34 and I am a top notch musician.” Or something along those lines. She tells you to dream big, and to not let fear modify your dreams. And for the longest time, I was not following that advice. I fell prey to the “starving musician” concept, where I didn’t believe I could make ends meet as a full time musician, even though making a living playing my fiddle is my true dream. However, I’m still practical about it, and during these next ten years I plan to hone multiple skill areas that will allow me to draw on more than one source of income to make this lifestyle work for me. I love to write, I love to help others with travel advice, and I love to travel to name just a few things. All of these are elements of my life to some degree now, and I am grateful that I have a 10-6 job that is about as flexible as your steady day jobs get. But it won’t always be this way, and eventually I’ll move on. When that happens, I want to be ready, and I want to have built my self-supporting freelance lifestyle up to the point where it’s a feasible means of making a living. So there you have it: my personal goals in a nutshell. I’ve been afraid to share them up until now, but if it’s one thing I’ve discovered this year, it’s that I need to stop creating potential setbacks in my brain and be open to sharing what I want in life — I think I’ll be much more likely to come across the opportunities I’ll need for this lifestyle if I’m open about it, do you agree?

In my happy place… photo credits to Laetitia Levassar, a fellow traveler in Ennis!

If you are curious why I have been more active on my Instagram and Facebook music page, it all links back in to Helene’s course that I started back in January of this year. I live in northern Michigan. The closest traditional Irish music session to me occurs once a month, if at all. It’s a four or five hour drive to any big city with more frequent sessions and an airport with more than ten gates. We get good musicians passing through our area on tour, but not on a weekly basis. The point I’m making is that it’s very easy for me to feel disconnected from the musical community that I’ve been exposed to since that first summer at the Swannanoa Gathering in 2013. I use my Instagram and other communication platforms to keep in touch with the rest of the musical community, and to break out of that isolated feeling that is so easy to fall into in a small town. It is my way to connect to the outside world, to reach beyond geographical borders and get my voice out there. I enjoy my solitude and the times when I can disconnect and breathe, but having lived in Cork city for almost a year, I discovered that I need that thriving life full of opportunities (and sessions!) just as much as (if not more than!) that quiet introverted time.

But that’s only part of my “why” — my purpose in being in this world, my life mission if you will. When I made my 10-10-1 list, I spent a good week and a half changing how I phrased my dreams until I found something that fit. I’m sure it will keep changing, but a few days ago my phrasing for that day set off a lightbulb in my brain, and I found the approach that I want to take with the content I share with the world.

I had a gig recently where I took the audience on a journey through my musical travels starting with the Swannanoa Gathering in North Carolina, and going through tunes I learned Ireland, Scotland and Cape Breton. I was able to incorporate an educational element into my performance, which directly connected to my studies in ethnomusicology: sharing details in order to give a better idea of the big picture. I grew up in a fairly sheltered and quiet environment, which I will always cherish as fond childhood memories. But eventually the time came to get out into the world and broaden my horizons, and I am so grateful to have been given these opportunities to do so. To study someone else’s way of life, to put the effort into getting to know details instead of a sweeping generalization has been the greatest gift to making me the person I want to be. This thirst for knowledge, for fully immersing into that nitty gritty detail is most definitely something I get from my late grandfather, William McGill. I remember reading stories about the scholarly side of him, diving into one subject and really getting deep into the details in order to master his understanding of it. I want to do the same. I believe in immersion, in digging myself deep into Irish traditional music to come away with a mastery of its nuances and its very essence. I want to take my audience/followers on that constantly evolving journey, to give knowledge and receive it, and to encourage those around me to approach all of those less-understood aspects of life with an openness and depth of thought.

Michigan will always have a special place in my heart. It’s already shaped me into the person I am today, and I have made many connections there that have opened doors for me.

My goal isn’t to be the perfect musician. My goal is to be the most top notch musician that I can be, without comparison to others. It’s more about a sense of fulfillment, of knowing that I am giving my career my all, and making and maintaining valuable relationships along the way. It is learning about the details so I can then turn around and share these details with my audience, particularly stories and special moments that separate Irish music from the broader Celtic label. That is what ethnomusicologists do. We study details, we learn as much as we can about a culture, and then we go back to the big picture to discover how one patch fits into the larger quilt. Due to its massive scale, mass media tends to generalize a lot of these details, to the point where labels like “Irish” and “Celtic” are inseparable to anyone who hasn’t been exposed to the different music styles. So another part of my “why” is to combat that. It’s to spread a message to people, to encourage them to think beyond what we’ve always been told, or what is commonly told to really think and interpret for ourselves. Because if we can do that with music, what is to stop us from incorporating that way of thinking into other elements of our lives?

While I may have had a breakthrough in my way of thinking, I know this is only the start of a long learning process of finding my purpose in the world, and finding the best way to serve others through my music and writing. However, I really wanted to get this written down, and I wanted to share it with you all, my readers, because the more I write it, the more I will truly live it. I don’t want to go through life just settling and believing that someday I will change the way that I approach my dreams when the time is right. Well the time is right, and it is right now. And I hope you all will continue to stick with me through this journey. Having looked back on this year, I am seeing so much growth from where I was in December 2017, and I want to continue growing and living a life of fulfillment, positivity and gratitude. On a daily basis, it doesn’t seem like much, but it’s those baby steps that are building up and making new possibilities happen. This year I reached out and became more present on social media. Next year I will add to this, and I will also learn the ins and outs of financially running my own freelance. It’s all a process, but I am excited for it. I hope that I can provide something valuable for you all, just as I hope to continue learning from you! Thank you for being here for me!

Fiddle Forays Into The Windy City

Chicago. Chicago! One of the main US cities that every lover of Irish traditional music should experience. It’s right up there with Boston and New York, at least that’s what I’ve frequently heard. (Yes, Boston, you’re next on my list!) And yet, it took me until two weekends ago to actually go and visit the real deal and not just the interior of O’Hare Airport. It’s only about a six hour drive away from me, perfect for a long weekend getaway. And I desperately needed a getaway. Petoskey is beautiful in the summertime, but I’m at a point in my life where I seem to need to be in constant motion, traveling the world, going out and grabbing new experiences whenever I can prioritize that spare time… So when I saw We Banjo 3’s summer tour schedule and noticed that the Chicago Irish Fest happened to be on my weekend off of work, I made the decision to go on a little adventure!

Some of you may know that right around this time of year for the past five years, I am usually getting my tune fix at the Swannanoa Gathering Celtic Week in Asheville NC. Sadly it was not to be this year with my schedule, and I was feeling pretty discouraged about missing out on my best annual musicality-growing opportunity. I’m a big believer in finding the positives in situations that aren’t my ideal, but I’ll admit this one was a challenge. Even as I was driving down US-131 on the Saturday, I felt a little pang in my heart as I passed the exit that would take me to I-75 and back down to my southern roots. However, I think I made things work out for the best. So let me tell you about Chicago…

 

The first thing I realized as I was driving along Lakeshore Drive was that I was actually grateful for the slow moving traffic! Maybe it’s reminiscent of my days of learning how to drive around Atlanta, but mostly I was just so happy to be in a new place with beautiful views of Lake Michigan and stunning architecture of tall buildings (can you tell I’ve been living in a small town?). As I half listened to my GPS and mostly listened to the brilliant musicality of Liz Carroll’s fiddle on my car stereo, I felt an exciting thrill of adventure. Here I was in a new city, about to see a couple of my favorite fiddlers in action, and I was pushing myself out of my introvert zone to go meet new people and make new memories!

The perfect combination of Lake Michigan and Chicago skyline – I love the blend of calm and activity!

The only setback I had was with my housing for the weekend. I had booked what looked similar to an Airbnb on booking.com called Hollywood House, which seemed pretty unique and not like your average hotel (also cheaper!). It was about halfway between the Irish American Heritage Center where the festival was held and downtown, both of which I wanted to explore while I was there. However, when I got there, a bunch of red lights went off in my brain. First of all, it was a one way street, and I had to navigate Irish countryside-worthy roads in order to pull around in front of the house. Then, I saw all the zoning signs that demanded you have a special permit to park there. I went ahead and parked anyway, figuring that I would get some form of permit once I checked in (after all, it DID say free parking was available in the description on booking.com). Then I went to check in, and here’s what I found. Two doors with key codes, three mailboxes with other people’s names on them (residents most likely), no sort of check in or even an indication of a self check in (this was answered in a very impersonal email later), and no answer when I called the number listed on booking.com for assistance. I felt like I was trying to break into someone’s home, and since I was running out of time to get to Liz Carroll’s performance in time, I decided to try again later. Fortunately, this is not the first time I’ve had housing issues while solo traveling, so I wasn’t in a panic or anything, but I was a bit frustrated.

 

I was able to put aside my housing troubles for a couple of hours, however, as I listened to Liz Carroll and Daithi Sproule perform a fantastic set on the Folk Stage outside of the Irish American Heritage Center. It was wonderful getting to reconnect with Liz before and after the show, and I really enjoyed chatting with Daithi also! It always reminds me that the musicians I admire the most are the ones who take the time to really connect with their listeners as much as they can — I don’t know how she does it, but Liz has a real knack for remembering people and engaging in genuine conversation with everyone. Cloud nine, y’all.

 

Eventually I knew I was going to have to sort out the issue of where I was going to stay that night, so I left the festival and drove back over to Hollywood House, determined to figure out the mystery. My second visit proved no better, so I gave in and called around to a couple of hotels in the area, eventually succeeding in booking a room. Day One ended with a very exhausted but musically happy me conserving my energy and turning in for the night as soon as I got to my room — I really don’t mind being boring most of the time, what can I say?

Now I can say… I’ve bean there…

I’m happy to say that Day Two was even more adventurous and exciting! I made a rough plan for the day over breakfast, and just kept adding to it throughout the day, going wherever my feet decided to take me. Everything I did was about a half hour drive away from each other, so I definitely got a lot of Chicago driving experience. I knew I wouldn’t have much time to explore everything this trip, so I headed straight for the Chicago Loop with the intent on spending the first half of my day near the waterfront. Rather than tell you about my walking adventure, here are some photos to guide you through my wanderings…

Entering Millenium Park…

When traveling solo, the fiddle case gets to pose everywhere!

Lurie Gardens… did you know it was completed in 2004 instead of 2000? Still a gorgeous part of Millenium Park, though!

She’s posing again… there were just so many beautiful flower arrangements!

Under the bean…

After several tries and watching how other people did it, this is my favorite of many bean selfies… notice all the smudgy handprints, think someone could make good money polishing the bean for tourists? XD

I LOVED walking through the Lurie Gardens. Met a lovely volunteer lady there and we got to chatting about its history. Also met another solo traveler from Vermont and the three of us had such a nice chat!

Walking the waterfront…

A fiddle and Lake Michigan from a new angle… two of my favorite things!

There will never be enough boat and skyline pictures.

Adventurin’

Mmm mmm mmm!

Walking along the navy pier

Beautiful views from the Navy Pier!

Ships passing…

They have live jazz music here every Thursday… so why not live Irish fiddle on a Sunday afternoon?

 

On looking back, I probably should have done some pre-trip hiking prep to get myself back in the habit of walking long distances (I’m reminiscing about you here, Ireland), but it was worth it anyway! Anyway, it ended up being a good thing that my feet felt like they were going to fall off when they did, because otherwise I never would have made the spontaneous decision to drive to Evanston and join in John Williams’ session at the Celtic Knot Public House that afternoon! There I most certainly got my tune fix and met some really lovely musicians, who I hope to reconnect with at more Chicago sessions in the future! I left early to catch Jimmy Keane and Dennis Cahill’s set at the festival, otherwise I would doubtless have stayed until they kicked us all out or our fingers stopped working from overuse. Such is my usual session habit.

 

Once again I found myself listening to some truly inspiring music that evening, catching bits and pieces of Jimmy Keane, Dennis Cahill, We Banjo 3, Gaelic Storm and the whole of John Williams’ sets. Between the abundance of musical talent and the gorgeous city sky/coastline, I think it’s safe to say that Chicago has won my heart and I will most definitely be visiting again — but probably only in the warmer months! Not only did this trip prove satisfying for my need to travel and follow the music, but it also opened my mind up to the idea of making more of these long weekend trips happen! So my question for y’all is… where do you think I should explore next? Thanks for reading! xoxo

Time to explore!

Three Quick and Easy Steps that Relax Sore Fiddling Muscles

Summer is here, which for me means more outdoor gigs, more busking (street performing) outside of the Celtic Shop where I work, and just more playing in general. I used to stretch or do little exercises to warm up my muscles much more regularly, especially when I felt that I had overplayed. However, over this past winter I got pretty lax about stretching, and now it’s coming back to bite me. Word to the wise, start these stretches BEFORE you feel any pain with playing, just to be on the safe side! It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner at fiddling or a pro spending multiple hours a day playing. Be proactive about taking care of your body.

 

Some of you non-musicians reading this may be a bit skeptical about the whole idea that fiddling is a workout, but it really is. We may only be exercising certain parts of our bodies (unless you’re one of those really talented Canadian fiddlers who can step dance with ease whilst sawing away at their instrument), but finger dexterity and arm/shoulder muscles are all constantly at play here. Eventually those muscles are going to need a break, and you want to be in control of when those breaks are. For me, I’ve lately been noticing a lot of tension and a bit of swelling in my wrists whenever I play too hard for too long. And yes, it’s hard for me to tell myself to stop. My heart says I could go on playing all night, but my body retaliates with a vengeance and a desperate cry of, “enough already!!” So what do I need to do? Playing less isn’t really an option I care to go with. So… I’ve got to stretch.

My usual place outside County Emmet Celtic Shop! Gotta love mixing retail with music work.

I had a bit of a wake up call a few days ago after one particular busking session that had me running to the fridge for a water bottle to use as a makeshift icepack. One of our customers kept giving me this concerned look, and at first I thought she was judging my, uh, resourcefulness, but it turns out that she was actually a massage therapist! While I was helping her at the counter, she asked what sort of pain I was having. When I told her that my wrists were sore (it was the left one that day, but it can happen to both), she then proceeded to ask if I stretched (to which I replied with a sheepish “not anymore”) and she asked if she could show me a couple basic stretches to help loosen the muscles in my wrist. Of course I agreed. Three minutes later? No more pain.

 

In fact, I was so moved by her kindness and by her helpfulness, that I decided I would share these tips with you all in a blog post in case any of you, musician or not, are experiencing wrist pain. If you are a professional musician, or play music regularly, I cannot stress how highly I recommend finding a good stretch routine that works for you. I know that on my end, I get excited about stretching and taking care of myself at first, and then I gradually lose the routine and talk myself out of it because it’s just “too much time” or “I don’t really need it.” No. Time to stop kidding myself. Take care of your bodies y’all, and they’ll take care of you.

 

Just to clarify, I’m speaking from personal experience and am in no way licensed to professionally help anyone get rid of muscle pain. These are techniques that I’ve adapted into my routine and they are very effective for me. If you are experiencing serious recurring pain from playing your instrument, you should absolutely consult with your doctor, physical therapist, or another licensed professional to find a treatment that works best for you. Okay. Ethical training induced side note over.

 

So here are just three basic stretches you can do in a really short span of time. If you have more time, I suggest finding a longer routine that stretches more muscles and really gets you warmed up. Descriptions are included below, or you can just watch the video!

  1. Before you play, hold your arm out in front of you with your palm facing up. Slowly stroke your forearm starting at your wrist and moving towards your heart, using a firm but not too aggressive pressure. This helps to open up those muscles and release tension. You can also do this after you are finished playing. I do anywhere from 10-20 strokes usually.
  2. After playing or any time you notice pain in your wrist, hold your arm up and keep it straight in front of you, palm side facing the floor. Let your wrist relax, fingers pointing perpendicular to the floor. Using your free hand, gently apply pressure to the back of your hand and hold this position for four seconds. Release. Tilt your hand to the right, still keeping your arm straight and facing down, and repeat with four seconds of gentle pressure. Now tilt your hand to the left. You should notice a bit more tension in this position, so be careful not to overdo it! Very gently apply pressure again for four seconds and release.
  3. After step 2, keep your arm out straight, but make a fist. Rotate your arm, so now your palm is facing upwards. Release your fist and let your palm relax. Repeat the four seconds of gentle pressure and release. Tilt your hand to the left. Repeat. And then carefully tilt your hand to the right. This should feel the least natural, so again be careful! Same deal with the four seconds here.

 

Voila! Those are three basic stretches to open up tight or swelling muscles in your wrist. While I’ve used other methods before, these have by far been the quickest pain relief, and they’re easy enough to regularly incorporate into a routine. Hopefully most of you already have stretching methods that work for you, in which case I hope this provides some fresh ideas for you! If you don’t though, these will get you started. Additionally, if any of you have your own stretching methods or tips that work for you, I’d love to hear them! Feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email! Thanks so much for reading, and I hope this was useful to y’all!

What in the World is Ethnomusicology?

“So what were you studying when you were over in Cork?” This question used to make me panic slightly because “ethnomusicology” is not a word most people are familiar with. This meant I could give a really general (and probably inaccurate) answer, or I would have to give a lengthy explanation about what it is and why it’s valuable. So to begin with, I could say ethnomusicology is like the anthropology of music – and then sometimes I have to explain what anthropology is. Some things never end. Like any field of study, it can be hard to come up with a single all-encompassing definition for a word: what is ethnomusicology? What is music? What is performance? It took a few tries, but now I feel much more comfortable in telling people exactly what I studied, which is great because, well, I love my degree! In fact, I love it so much that I decided I would write about ethnomusicology for you all in what is hopefully a personable and relatable way without throwing around a whole lot of academic jargon — see what you think!

Ethnomusicology is primarily a field of research, and it can be anywhere from general to specific. You could take an overview course on musical communities from all over the world, or you could choose to focus on one specific area. Usually you will find that the further you go into studying ethnomusicology, the more likely you are to narrow down your focus. After all, think of how many different types of music you hear just in your daily life! Ethnomusicologists can study abroad, or they can do a “home ethnography” and study their own culture. My interest in ethnomusicology started out in a very general World Music course in undergrad, where we learned about a different culture every week. This was all very surface level, but it introduced many different types of music I didn’t even realize existed: Hindustani ragas, Balinese and Javanese Gamelan, Mongolian throat singing, etc.! I soon came to realize that I could study my primary interest, Celtic music, by using the ethnomusicological method and I was eager to find more opportunities to study the many traditions that fall under this category.

Me getting ready to go to Ireland for the first time back in 2015!

So that’s all well and good, but what exactly do I mean by “ethnomusicological method”? Well, a method is the approach you take to study your subject of choice, and for ethnomusicology, we primarily do fieldwork to gather data. This is mostly through participant-observation; so if I wanted to study Irish traditional music sessions in Cork City, I would take my fiddle along to a variety of pubs in the city that would host these sessions and join in! Of course, in order to be ethical, you should always be open about your intentions to your fellow musicians. When you introduce yourself you should say 1. that you’re a researcher, 2. ask if they would be willing to let you take photographs or video, and 3. maybe even ask if they’ll let you interview them! Some people are okay with it, but not everyone is, so it’s always always important to make your position clear!

Ethnomusicology is similar to fieldwork in other areas of cultural anthropology in that you, the researcher, have a unique perspective to share with the world! Before you start participant-observation, you will have conducted enough background research to understand what others have written about your subject. You may even have some prior experience in the music itself. Say that you wanted to research American contra dance musicians because you attended these dances in the past and loved the experience enough to dig deeper and really understand all of its elements: music, dance, community, socializing through movement, etc… This makes you an “insider” to some extent, and that position is what is known as “subjective.” It means you already have experience of some sort with your field site, even if it is the most basic knowledge. However, chances are that if you were to join a Contra Band (teehee), most of your fellow musicians are not participating for research purposes: they are performing artists engaging in their craft. You, on the other hand, have research motivations rather than performing ones (although naturally it’s not often as clear cut as this, and you will have some overlap). This makes you an “outsider” of the group, or a researcher with an “objective” perspective. As ethnomusicologists, we combine our unique position as both an insider and an outsider to try and understand different music in our world in a way that no one else can because it is all filtered through our OWN perspective!

Some of my friends and I at my favorite Cork pub, An Spailpín Fánach

Of course, nobody is perfect. What I like about ethnomusicology is that it’s structured in such a way that we can acknowledge our shortcomings while still providing credible information. Everything we write is based on our personal experience, whether it is previous readings we choose to reference, field sites we choose to visit, or the particular opinion of our interviewees on a given day. There is no one “right” answer when it comes to ethnomusicology. I am only one person, and all the information you receive from me is filtered through what I choose to share, and how I choose to share it. Naturally, any statement I make could be up for argument, and there are many other valid points out there, and this is why ethnomusicology is such a great field. There is a constant need for us to study music and culture because of its dynamic nature — it’s always changing, and there is always another detail worthy of being examined. I don’t think that there’s really an “end goal” for ethnomusicologists: we are just constantly finding new things to analyze, new points of interest to explore, and new connections to make with different aspects of life. And while we’re at it, we self reflect and figure out how we can improve ourselves as a researcher, and honestly just as a person!

Another one of my favorite things about ethnomusicology, and something that I think is such an essential part of any field of study, is the emphasis on breaking down previous assumptions and dismantling stereotypes. Remember that bit about improving ourselves? Today’s media is full of stereotypes, some of which are so subtle we don’t even realize they’re there! To give you an example, before I lived in Ireland I had no idea just how little the musicians over there associated the Irish traditional label with the Celtic label. In fact, I was so intrigued by this assumption, which was based on my prior knowledge from American media, that I dug deeper and wrote my entire Masters thesis on the subject. You will absolutely be seeing more posts on this subject in the future — it’s sort of my baby. All of this aside, ethnomusicology may not be a particularly well-known field. And yet, it provides us with an opportunity to challenge the way we think, and really provides a deeper immersion into music by opening up an unending range of possibilities and experiences to make life’s journey worthwhile!

Ready for adventure!

Fiddle Forays: New Beginnings and the First Post!

Hello everyone! I am beyond excited to share this new website with you! My name is Hannah Harris, and I am a performer, scholar, blogger, and occasional teacher of Irish traditional music in the northern Michigan area. This website serves two main purposes: one is to keep you all up to date with future gigs and to provide another method of contact if any of you are looking to hire a performer or a fiddle teacher. The second purpose is this blog! I love to write, and I love to network and learn about other people’s perspectives on the Irish tradition; however, having completed my time with academia, I find that I have to create these opportunities for myself if I want to further my knowledge on the music. One of my solutions? Start getting my voice out there, and write!

Photo by Holly Conners

To give you a bit of my background, I was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, an area which is still very near and dear to my heart. I’ve also lived in Georgia and South Carolina, but then in 2016 I made a complete geographical leap when I decided to pursue my Masters Degree in Ethnomusicology at University College of Cork in Ireland. Needless to say, I had a wonderful year immersing myself in the music, playing in pubs or on windy beaches, and making long lasting friendships with some truly wonderful people. I used to think that home was a fixed geographical place, but now I am more inclined to think that I have many homes, simply because there are so many people I’ve met all over the world who just make me happy! I ended up moving to Michigan when I returned to the US (yes, I got the Masters!), and after surviving the coldest and longest winter of my life, I am feeling relieved to get back into longer, warmer days and more opportunities to play my fiddle both inside and out! There’s nothing quite like sitting by the water, sawing away at a few tunes…

So what can you all expect to see in this blog? At the moment I am not traveling much, but I have plenty of untold stories from my year in Cork as well as a few others from past trips (I may need to knock on wood here, but I have become an expert at flirting my way onto even the smallest of planes with my fiddle case). I’ve also started teaching fiddle lessons this past year, so it’s probably time to revive and revise those old and slightly camera awkward YouTube fiddle tip videos, which you can find here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49KBmOeHgeQ . I also love to go on rants about Irish music and how it’s different from Celtic music. It just might have something to do with writing a 50+ page Masters thesis on the topic last summer… what can I say, I had to pick something I’d be obsessed with for a long time!

While I may be sharing my story and writing about the things that are interesting to me, I want you all to gain something out of it too! Whether you are a fellow fiddler looking for a fresh perspective, a classical musician trying to incorporate an Irish style or technique to your playing, or just someone who likes to learn new things and is wondering what the heck “ethnomusicology” is, I invite you all to follow along, ask questions, and tell me what you want to know more about! Thank you for joining me in my fiddle forays, and I look forward to sharing more content with you very soon! Stay tuned!