Category Archives: family

Iowa State Fair 2017

There is always magic to be found at the Iowa State Fair!

Our first stop was Pioneer Hall for the Iowa State Fair Fiddlers Contest. The friendly face of David Bellegante, 9 Time State Grand Champion Fiddler and the annual host of the Iowa State Fair Fiddle Contest, is always a welcome sight. I’ve been bringing my fiddle students to this contest for years and I’m always impressed by how David takes time to connect with each fiddler and prepare them for their turn on the big stage. He is as kind as he is talented. I love his t-shirt here captioned: “I Might Look Like I’m Listening To You But In My Head, I’m Playing The Fiddle.” He is accompanied by Michelle Bell on piano who is also an outstanding fiddler and teacher with a long legacy of music making in Iowa.

Three of my students competed this year and they all played their hearts out and absolutely delighted the crowd. Eviva was my youngest student ever to compete and her composure onstage rivaled the most seasoned of performers. Eviva’s big sister Ania defended her third place title for the second year in a row. Nina took home the blue ribbon and is now the 2017 Iowa State Fair Youth Champion Fiddler!

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Here I am with the other fiddlers who placed this year. I accepted Nina’s trophy on her behalf because she was already over at the Cattle Barn competing in the Spelling Bee. There’s nothing I don’t love about that sentence that I just typed. Oh, Iowa.

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When I arrived at the Spelling Bee, Nina was already in place next to the other competitors so I had to silently mouth to her from across the room while holding up her trophy: “You won first prize!”. I thought her jaw was going to drop off her face. Truly one of the most fun moments of my teaching career.

Nina and Kat, the Junior Champion Fiddler, were featured on the KCCI 5 pm news playing tunes for the crowds gathered at the MidAmerican Energy Stage.

The rest of the day was a blur of fair food, farm animals, and carnival rides with the wonderful Denmead Torkelson family!

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I am so proud of my three fiddlers who all played so beautifully and brought so much joy to the Pioneer Hall audience on Friday. I am one lucky teacher.

Interview with Dannye Chase

I recently had the honor of being interviewed by writer Dannye Chase for her delightful new project The Bright Side Blog.

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Dannye is as gifted an interviewer as she is a writer and we had a lot of fun discussing creativity and parenting along with many other things we have in common.

Stop on over to read my interview and check out her other interviews and stories as well. Dannye is a wonderful  person to know, especially if you are inspired by looking on the bright side of life.

ACLU Update

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Art Roche, Mary Denmead, William Dutcher, Zach Twardowski and Atticus Dutcher in Richard III. Photo by Andrea Wilson.

I am not the only American to have spent the past week alternately devastated and enraged but I am so grateful to have also experienced flashes of true hope and deep love for how my community has responded.

Between our event on Friday which raised $833.25, Writers Resist! last Sunday, and The Last Night in America organized by Megan Gogerty on Thursday, eastern Iowa artists have raised upwards of $3700 for the Iowa ACLU this week. Many people do not realize that the ACLU is a non-partisan organization that prides itself in upholding everyone’s civil liberties, no matter who they are or what they believe.

We are going to take care of each other. We are going to resist injustice. We are going to pay attention and participate in the democratic process. We are going to use our art to magnify what is going on around us because, as my friend and mentor Ron Clark said recently in a Press-Citizen interview: “It’s our artistic community that most effectively holds out a mirror and says, ‘Look at what we have become.'”

There are many petitions circling. I’d like to direct your attention to this one in particular asking that we preserve the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. When I signed it, it still needed almost 100,000 more signatures to get a response from the White House. This is quite literally the least you can do but is still so important.

Together we rise.

 

RIII gratitude

We had our final rehearsal last night for our pop-up activist abridged reading of Shakespeare’s Richard III coming up on Friday and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

For Ron Clark, for bringing his lifetime of experience and leading us with his characteristic vision and deep compassion, all the while giving us hours upon hours of his time.

For Jody Hovland, who joined us in our final rehearsal to share her amazing talent and mentorship.

For Keith Reins, who will be with us on Friday, guitar in hand, for our musical partnership and for always having my back.

For Nick Westergaard and Meghann Foster who are not only incredibly gifted actors but also run Brand Driven Digital and are sharing their marketing expertise with us.

For Bethany Horning, costumer extraordinaire, and her support team of Jeremy and Chase, for her creativity, cheerful encouragement, and texts that make me snort coffee out of my nose.

For Chris Okiishi, easily one of the most generous and supportive people any of us will ever know, for lending his time to get the script in our actors’ hands.

For my beloved family Carmel and Rayburn Vrabel and Jon and Susie Dutcher who have spread their pride in this project far and wide which included, in some cases, defending us against the criticism of political disagreement among their own Facebook community.

For my friends who have pressed money into my hands earmarked for the ACLU.

Finally, for these beautiful actors who are sharing their time and talent with all of us: including Ron, Meghann, and Nick mentioned above and also Larry Baker, John Clarence Cameron, Aprille Clarke, Mary Denmead, Carrie Houchins-Witt, Art Roche, Katie Roche, Zach Twardowski and my very patient and wonderful men Joe, Liam and Atticus Dutcher.

You all give me hope and that is the most beautiful gift we can share with one another.

Congratulations to Waylon!

Introducing Waylon, my featured musician for January and February!

Waylon and I had several fun and productive years working at the piano and when he recently he discovered the joy of the mandolin, he clicked with it immediately.

From his picture, you might guess that Waylon is a delight and you’d be correct. I especially love listening to Waylon and his mother Carrie make music (and treasured memories) together with Waylon on mandolin and Carrie on guitar.

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The Beggarmen (2001-2016)

I’m very sad to say that The Beggarmen has come to an end.

An epic project such as this can hardly go unacknowledged and yet my emotions are so tangled that writing a post about it seems almost impossible.

I am very lucky to have been able to make music with these fine men and superb musicians for so many years.

I will always be grateful to those of you who have attended our performances and made it so much fun for us to play for you.

 

A day to celebrate!

This beautiful Irish landscape was created by my father-in-law Jon Dutcher as a gift for my parents.

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Regardless of how you feel about green beer or the question of the snake metaphor, today is a day to celebrate the depth of beauty and humanity in Irish culture now and for centuries past.

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate without leaving home, did you know that Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea as well as The Secret of Kells (same creator and production team) are both available to stream on Amazon? Free if you have Prime!

If you still need more selkie in your life, I refer you to our version of “Song of the Seal” from our 2005 album I Shall.

No celebration is complete without live music though so we look forward seeing you tonight at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts! All ages are welcome. The show begins at 7:30 pm.

Please share the love!