Crowdfunding and Album Update

Here I am emerging from the depths of… album production! That’s right, I am recording my very first album to share with the world and couldn’t be more excited!

At this point I have recorded 10 out of 14 tunes, and completed scratch tracks on two others! I’m not sure if all the tunes will go on the album, or if I’ll keep a couple around as bonus tracks and incentives to sign up for my email list. I don’t expect people to just give me their email list for nothing, so I want to be able to offer a free song as an exchange!

The more I research online marketing and e-commerce, the more excited I get. Why? Because if I can master this method of making a living through my music, then it doesn’t matter if I live in a super busy city or in the middle of the woods (as long as there’s a good wifi signal)! Through the beauty of the Internet, I can stay connected with all my wonderful worldwide people even though I live far away from most of you. And those relationships and connection is why I do all this in the first place.

Tuning up for a big recording day!

The reason why I’m making my album now is because it makes the most sense to tackle at this point in my career. I want to grow this music business as much as I can, which means developing multiple streams of income. My music business is currently service-based, so I offer my music in the form of entertainment (gigs) and teaching (private lessons). Those are two income streams right there. Now add e-commerce and selling a digital and physical CD online and we’re taking it to a whole other level!

Back to the album. Here’s what I have left to do before I release this project to the world in Spring 2020:

Recording Phase

  • Finish Recording
  • Mixing
  • Mastering 

Post Production Phase

  • Design the album cover
  • Creating the CD booklet
  • Pick a Digital Distribution platform
  • Physical CD printing

Pre-Launch Phase

  • Advertising and promo to spread awareness
  • Reach out to press release companies
  • Reach out to radio shows
  • Upload music to DD platform
  • Create and share content on email list, social media, and website building the hype
  • Set up a Shopify page
  • Study eCommerce, email marketing, copywriting and all the legalities!
  • Ship crowdfunding rewards
  • Launch a new campaign for pre-orders
  • Ship pre-orders
  • Anything else I’ve accidentally left out of this list!

Needless to say, this project is one of the largest ones I’ve ever undertaken — with the possible exception of my Masters’ Thesis! It’s certainly doable when I break it down into smaller steps to tackle one week at a time, but as you can see there are a lot of steps. You may be wondering if there’s a way you can help or be a part of this process… If this is you, keep reading!

I launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo this past Tuesday, Nov 19th. This is the perfect opportunity for you to be a very special part of the process and be the first to order the new album! I am offering several different levels of perks to those who contribute to this campaign, from early access digital downloads to signed CDs to house concerts to Skype lessons/hang outs! There is a price point for everyone. 

Check out my campaign video here!

Phew. That’s a lot to update you with! Basically this album is my life right now, and will continue to be one of my main projects for many months ahead. Up here in northern Michigan we’re buckling down into the winter season, which means a LOT of cold and snow. I’ve been making my peace with becoming a northerner the past few years. At first I wasn’t sure I’d like living in a remote area of the world, but I’ve gotta admit that it does wonders for my creativity. Just imagine me curling up near the wood stove in my little house in the woods with a cup of tea, pouring my thoughts out into this blog — see, that’s not so bad! I have the space to think, reflect, and get those ideas flowing. And like I said before, I can connect with you, wonderful reader, wherever I am! Thanks for being here, and keep your eyes open for more album and music life updates soon!

Folk Alliance 2019, Part One: What I Learned

February was my month for traveling and seeing new places! About halfway through the month, my fiancé, Chris, and I took off for five days to attend the Folk Alliance Conference in Montreal. This particular conference takes place once a year — although there are also associated regional conferences — and it is a time where artists, festival scouts, promoters, vendors and panelists all gather to network and explore new possibilities for sharing music! Since Chris is a board member of our local music festival, Blissfest, I got to tag along as an honorary scout. Our main purpose was to discover and meet new acts to introduce to our area of northern Michigan, while also reconnecting with artists who have performed here in the past. When Chris first sent me the list of artists who were going to be at Folk Alliance, I admittedly squealed with delight each time I saw a familiar name!

I’m not quite sure what the logic is of trying to get hundreds of people up to a hotel in Canada in the middle of February, but I expect it has to do with being a slower time of year for both performers and presenters. Needless to say, there were quite a few travel delays, and we were no exception! We had decided to fly out from Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, which involved crossing the US/Canadian border the night before to stay at an Airbnb since we had a morning flight. Of course northern Michigan winter weather made an appearance, and the Mackinac Bridge, which was our one way to get from the lower peninsula to the upper peninsula of Michigan, was closed due to high winds and very low visibility for about seven hours! We hung around Mackinac City for a few hours in hopes that we’d catch a clear window between the snow storms, but no such luck. We ended up driving back to Chris’s house, but had no sooner settled in to watch a movie when the bridge opened back up! Fortunately we hadn’t unpacked and were able to throw ourselves back in the car and get over the bridge to the Canadian border and our Airbnb. Winter traveling is a lot of “hurry up and wait!”

The view of our hotel from the cathedral across the street! Still very snowy and icy.

The following day, our flight was canceled and we were put on standby for a later flight — nine hours later to be precise! We were flying with Porter Airlines, and I’m happy to say that despite the weather conditions, they made every effort to get the two of us on that flight and to our final destination in Montreal. We arrived at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel a few hours late, but very thankful that we didn’t have to cancel our trip! If you are a northern Michigan resident, I do recommend checking the rates for International Travel out of the Soo airport — it’s a lot quicker to go through Customs at the border, and you’re paying airport parking rates in Canadian dollars! It’s both a time and money saver, despite the winter weather delays, and we had a good experience.

As for the artists, I saw many familiar names and discovered some new favorites. There were quite a few musicians on this list, so in order to give them my proper attention, I am splitting this blog entry into two separate posts. I asked my Instagram followers what they would rather hear about first, and my takeaways from the weekend ended up being the winner. Don’t worry if you wanted to hear about the artists, because that post is coming within the month!

And here’s the cathedral!

This post is dedicated to what I learned about myself as an artist and how I will use these takeaways to grow into a better musician and businesswoman. I hope that some of these insights will prove useful to you on your own journey, or that they will help you to better understand who I am if that is your primary reason for following along.

So to dig right in, I learned from this week that I need to be more assertive and proactive when it comes to going after my goals and making the necessary connections for growing into a successful music business. Right now I am struggling with fully adopting this mindset because I do still have the security of a full time job. However, this won’t always be the case. If I truly want to pursue my dream to be a full time musician, it will mean transitioning from a “9-5” job into a freelance lifestyle where it is my responsibility to schedule my own hours, manage my time wisely, and be in charge of my finances. What is holding me back right now is the job security I currently have, so there is no mass panic on my end to come up with funding outside of that. I thought my procrastinating days would be over after college, but as it turns out, this is a weakness I will have to continue to battle to overcome.

Something I didn’t realize before arriving at the conference is that the artists have to pay in order to come perform here. This is as much a networking event for them as it is for festival scouts and educational panelists. In retrospect this makes perfect sense, but it did make me stop and think for a minute about the different choices I will have to make when I invest in myself as a musician. Will I pay to go to these networking conferences in order to book more gigs and make all of that money back? Will I take courses on how to manage a music business? What will I have to budget out for in order to better increase my growth and income? I am glad that this is something I’m realizing in the early days of my music career. I no longer believe that some agent is just going to “discover” me and book me for festivals and cruise ship shows for the rest of my life. If I want to be a part of these communities, then I need to meet these people halfway. I need to take the initiative and be bold enough to put my work out there and ask to collaborate with others. I can’t just sit around and wait for people to come to me. This may seem obvious to some of you, but for me Folk Alliance was a reaffirmation of this and the fire under my pants I needed to stand up and start figuring out how to assert myself into the musical community I so desperately want to be a part of.

Positive flowers to keep my motivation strong!

Another takeaway I got from Folk Alliance is that there is a power of connecting and reaching out to people on social media. I have been interacting with a band called Pete’s Posse on Instagram for over a year since I switched to a business account for marketing my music. This Vermont trio has been very supportive of me and my tune videos from the start, so you can imagine how thrilled I was when I found out that their guitar/jaw harp player, Tristan Henderson, was going to be one of the performing artists! What was even more awesome was that we recognized each other in the showcase room right away and were able to connect instantly in person due to our social media introduction.

Check out Pete’s Posse on Instagram and Facebook — you won’t be disappointed! Shared with their permission.

This happened again with Canadian fiddling virtuoso, April Verch. I had seen April’s showcase lineup on Instagram the week before and commented that I was excited to meet her and see her perform in person for the first time — and, bless her, she must have looked my profile up beforehand because she recognized me AND introduced herself! In addition to her performances, she also taught a two hour masterclass on different regional styles of Canadian fiddling, which I was lucky enough to attend. As a personal takeaway, I learned so much more about the nuances of Canadian fiddling, and was able to compare this to my North Carolina Appalachian roots as well as Irish county regional styles.

Each of the musicians I connected the most with were ones who took the time to craft their own unique persona, which they shared fully in their music. For example, Emerald Rae is one of my favorite fiddlers — she stands out because she can sing while accompanying herself on the fiddle with her own compositions, loves medieval music, and has both dreadlocks and a delightfully warm and bubbly personality. Andrew Finn Magill grew up in Asheville with a background in classical and Irish Traditional music, but found his greatest love in the music of Brazil. Rising Appalachia is a group deeply rooted in the music of the Southeastern United States, while also stretching back further to the places where its settlers came from. In this rooted mission of theirs, they also seek to spread a message to their audience: one of awareness and how to best live in harmony with our land and our ties to the earth. I had a breakthrough at Folk Alliance, because I realized that the artists that stuck the most with me where the ones who not only played well, but put their passions and their personality wholeheartedly into their craft. That resonated with me, and made me realize that in order to best serve you, my reading and listening audience, that I owe it to you to provide the most true version of myself. Only then will I feel as though I have truly grown into the musician I want to be for you all.

My constant travel companion…

Some other tidbits I picked up from watching the showcases and attending talks are as follows:

  • It is a good idea to bridge the familiar with the unfamiliar in a performance. Personally, I love to pick obscure Irish tunes that are not overplayed in sessions, but it’s also important for me to not lose my audience on the way. The best solution I’ve found for this is to tell a story about how I found the tune or why I picked it — often times it works to keep that connection with my listeners.
  • A good performer communicates firmly but respectfully with the sound crew. Don’t get upset when feedback occurs or if you have to repeatedly ask to hear more of yourself in the monitors. If you’re a female performer, learn at least some basics of sound technology and don’t let the sound guy walk all over you. Know what type of sound you want in different venues and be able to communicate that with the crew. I noticed that April Verch was very good at subtly indicating when she was switching from hard to soft shoes in her step dancing sets. Because of her calm and assured demeanor, she was able to guide the sound crew through her performances with little to no mishap. Goals.
  • Both the directors of the Swannanoa Gathering and Celtic Colours Festival were at Folk Alliance doing the same things our Blissfest group was: scouting! So because part of my music dream is to perform or teach at some of my favorite events… guess where a good place to network will be!
  • From the ethnomusicology summit: I unintentionally got to hear the counterargument for my Master’s thesis about the media’s role in promoting “world music.” Stay tuned for a post on the pro’s and con’s of media labeling, and be prepared to get your discussion keyboards out!
  • Ideas for a solo fiddle show: incorporate Quebecois foot percussion boards and pizzicato fiddle accompaniment on songs. I’ll let you know how those projects go for me. Or maybe you’ll see it in a future video!
  • If y’all ever want to go on a cruise with me as your private group entertainment, let me know because there are programs out there for that and we can make it happen!

There you have it! Folk Alliance was one of those weeks where it took me a long time to process what exactly I learned from the experience, but I’m delighted to share those thoughts with you now. If this was helpful to you, or if you want me to dig deeper into any of these subjects in a future blog post, please comment below and let me know what you think!

Thanks for tuning in! Comment your thoughts below 🙂

Behind the Scenes of Fiddle Forays: Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me

The inevitable happened. Several months ago I had this blog drafted and almost ready to go, when — surprise — life happened and I got sidetracked! Last fall I went through a complete slump with content. I wasn’t blocking aside specific time to write, and the thought of growing my music business was more stressful than exciting. Fortunately, I’ve hit a turnaround point where I am now taking much better control of my schedule, and I’m prioritizing this dream of mine to create written and musical content for y’all without going into overdrive and burnout mode! I’ve got at least twenty five different posts in the initial brainstorming mode (basically I know what they’ll be about, but just haven’t sat down to write down each one yet), so you’ll be hearing a lot more from me this year! I couldn’t be more excited to share my thoughts on music traveling, the benefits of classical technique for learning the fiddle, more anthropology/ethnomusicology information, and much more! For now, though, I want to take this time to tell y’all a little bit more about myself, from a range of fun facts to more reasons behind why I’ve decided to take y’all along on my musical journey through blogging.

I originally intended this post to be a response to my nomination for the Liebster Award, which is a fun way for smaller blogs to network with other bloggers and ask each other unique questions about themselves. I was nominated by Candid Alexandra, who I was lucky enough to meet up with at The Cobblestone pub in Dublin last September. Like me, she got her masters degree in Ireland, and unlike me she stayed over there! Her blog is full of great European travel advice as well as in-depth reflections of how her move to Ireland has changed her life — both of which are things I love reading about and connecting with! She’s also starting to post more about things to do in Dublin, so her blog is definitely worth a visit if you’re thinking of putting Dublin on your Irish trip itinerary! Give her a read here and follow her on Instagram for a great American expat perspective that is the perfect mixture of sass and seriousness!

A Smithwicks Red and a Smithwicks Blonde meet up in a bar…

Unfortunately I didn’t get around to posting this before the end of 2018, which was the deadline for the award. However, Alexandra’s questions were just too good to pass up! So despite that this “Liebster Award” post isn’t actually for a Liebster award, I’m going to go ahead and answer her questions as a way for y’all to get to know the gal behind this Fiddle Forays blog!

I really loved thinking up answers to these questions, because most of them are things I’ve never addressed to my readers before, or even in casual conversation! Unless you know me really, really well, I’ll bet there will be some new tidbits in here that y’all never knew about… so I hope you enjoy! If you scroll all the way through, you can also see some of my favorite music bloggers, some of whom I’ve posted about before.

Keep scrolling to read about the girl behind the fiddle!
  • How did you come up with your blog name?

Hannah Harris Music was just way too generic! Given the number of Hannah Harrises out there in the world, it seemed logical to tack the Irish word for music, “Ceol,” at the end of my name. Especially because I’m primarily playing Irish traditional music! As for my hashtag and blog name, Fiddle Forays (#fiddle_forays), I’ve always loved catchy alliterative phrases, and this one seemed to combine my love of music and my goals to travel more with it all into one!

  • Top 3 travel items you can’t go on a trip without? Passport excluded, because duh.

I’m going to exclude the phone (and the fiddle) here because they’re pretty obvious answers for me too. For longer or overnight plane trips I love the Trtl neck pillow (not sponsored) combined with an eye mask — it probably looks totally ridiculous, but if it means five slightly better hours of sleep with no neck stiffness and self controlled lighting, then I’ll take it! I also take some sort of moisturizer or facial mist to keep my skin from getting too dried out on planes. Lastly, I live a  ketogenic lifestyle, which means all of that processed airplane food is a no-no. I usually pack my own snacks, and stick to only eating those for shorter trips. For longer flights, I still do eat the airplane food because I need that energy, but having my own snacks gives me the option to leave off the dinner roll and dessert. Also there’s nothing that beats bringing a couple of your favorite tea bags — you can almost always ask a flight attendant to bring you a cup of hot water! Peppermint tea is my cure all.

  • What do you find most difficult about blogging?

Motivation! Right now, I am really tackling the concept of keeping myself on a consistent schedule without losing interest or stressing too much. I really love writing and playing music, but since I work a full time job, it’s a challenge to squeeze it all in some days. I write best in the mornings, so sometimes that means getting up earlier or prioritizing writing a paragraph over catching up on Instagram stories with my morning coffee!

  • If you had time to learn any skill, what would you choose?

Hmm which instrument to choose… I love some of the Scandinavian string instruments like the hardanger fiddle or nyckelharpa for their full and rich tones — so I’d say one of those!

The Cork and Kerry Mountains…
  • Did you grow up traveling, or is it something you started to do yourself?

My parents and I would travel to visit family and friends several times a year — the furthest being New Zealand when I was five — but the travel bug really didn’t bite me until the summer of 2015. I spent five weeks in four different countries participating in Irish, Scottish, and Cape Breton music workshops. Not only did that fuel my love for the music and eventually lead to me studying abroad for my Masters Degree, but it also got me motivated to start writing about my music journey. I now travel whenever I can manage it, whether it is shorter weekend trips, or longer trips overseas.

  • What is your least favorite aspect of travel?

I’m not a fan of sleeping upright on airplanes. I used my dad’s frequent flyer points the first time going to Ireland to fly first class (before we found out I’d been accepted into all the other programs and would have a lot more flights to book, oops), and it definitely spoiled me because you can lie down up there! However, I’m finding ways to work around that, see my answer to question 2 for more details!

  • Have a travel nightmare? Tell us about it!

This ended up being a kickstart for me being more assertive and more confident when traveling, but when I flew to Glasgow in 2015 I missed my connecting flight and had to spend the night at a hotel near London City Airport. It was my first time being stranded alone in a foreign country far away from my parents, so naturally I was freaking out. I ended up meeting a really nice gentleman who was in a similar flight predicament (turns out we were both going to the Royal Conservatoire but for different things). He bought me coffee and kept checking in with me about the flight booking, luggage locating, and hotel process to make sure I was all right — talk about a guardian angel! I think that was when I really got out of my comfort zone and learned to enjoy taking life’s curveballs and running with them, so maybe this wasn’t such a nightmare after all! Thank you, Gary!

Amazing how one short visit can bring so much growth!
  • Where is somewhere you visited that you thought you weren’t going to like but ended up enjoying?

(Sorry, Alexandra): Dublin! I always thought I wasn’t a city person, but living in a small town for the last year and a half has definitely changed that! Each time I go to Dublin I enjoy it more for all of the opportunities it has, and the travel smarts it has taught me — yes, it really does take 3 hours of transit to get to your flight gate from your Airbnb!

  • What do you wish to accomplish with your blog?

I really love connecting with other bloggers, especially other musicians! To risk sounding cliche, it’s a small world and the trad world is even smaller, and the trad blogging world is tiny. But it’s a great way to connect with those few, and then to share with others why this music is so special and important to me. I want to be able to travel more with my music and connect with many more musicians who share that love for the Irish style (and yes I love many more “Celtic” or Celtic related styles aside from Irish, but that’s a whole other post. Or you know, a Master’s thesis.) My blog is a way for me to share both my love for fiddling and my love for writing — it would be great if I landed gigs from it, but ultimately it’s an artistic expression that allows me to incorporate my educational degrees into my adult life.

  • How do you/did you deal with homesickness?

I stayed in touch with my parents and close friends from home, calling or video chatting at least once a week. However, the best cure for homesickness is to find a community where you are that feels like home! When I was studying abroad in Cork, this ended up being the Wednesday and Saturday night Irish music session group — I met some of my best friends there, and made loads of great memories. They were such a warm and welcoming group that from the very first visit, things felt right. So with that to look forward to twice a week, I really didn’t get homesick in my last semester! Love ya, Thirsty Scholars!

Your typical dark pub photo — but it’s still one of my favorites!

Lastly, here are some of my favorite music blogs to follow — and if you know of any other music blogs I should check out (yes, you can shamelessly self plug here), let me know!

  1. Diana Ladio — Diana is a gem. She’s taken a year to travel with no home base, and her blog is filled with her experiences and reflections on how this lifestyle has affected her. She’s also got top notch travel tips for musicians!
  2. Anders Lillebo — I have yet to read one of Anders’ posts that I didn’t relate to in some way. He’s got incredible insight and is all about sharing his passion for Irish music. Also, he just made his second album, so go preorder it and enjoy!
  3. Jessica Willis Fisher — An amazing musician and writer, with a deep story to tell. She speaks with such vulnerability from the heart, and inspires me to share my own story with that authenticity in mind!

I truly can’t recommend these musicians enough… and I’m also excited to see who else is out there sharing their story! I hope you learned some more about me in this post, and if you’re curious to learn more about anything I referenced in my answers, please comment below or send me an email, and I will put it in my list of topics to share with y’all! Thanks for reading, and as always stay tuned for more content!

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: 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!