St. Louis Tionól 2018

This was our 13th year attending the wonderful St. Louis Tionól! We look forward to it every year.

I have several videos to upload from our Friday night performance so I’ll be back with those once more pressing household responsibilities have been attended to but in the meantime I leave you with some photos from our weekend.

IMG_2571Here we are walking to my favorite event of the weekend, the Sunday morning brunch/session at McGurk’s.

I really love this panoramic shot that Joe got at the session. I have known, loved, and played music with many of these good people for years and years now.

The kids’ favorite part of the trip is having special grandparent time in St. Louis while Joe and I are busy with music but on the way home, we also had a memorable day together at the fantastic St. Louis Zoo. This zoo is a world leader in global conservation efforts.

We eagerly await our 14th Tionól in April 2019!


I didn’t know what to expect.

I’ve sat in on touring shows before but never for a band that lit up the soundtrack of my childhood.

Here’s what I learned from being lucky enough to serve as a violinist in the Dave Eggar Orchestra for two tour stops of the Foreigner Orchestral Tour: kindness begets curiosity about the stories of others which in turn begets enthusiasm. The result is an energetic, joyful experience with a high level of excellence and the capacity to touch hearts.

Credit for creating a positive working environment is due to Dave Eggar and Chuck Palmer who arranged the orchestral parts and fostered an environment of fun and mutual respect in their music director/conductor roles. Every person in Foreigner also made real efforts to connect with all of the other musicians, including those of us who were only there for a short stint of the tour.

This tour was the answer to all of the hundreds of times in my life I have scream-sang “I want to know what love is…!”

I will always look back on this as an example of the magic that transpires when people set out mindfully to lead with love.


Top left: Kelly Hansen from the band Foreigner rocks out at the Sioux City Orpheum accompanied by the Dave Eggar Orchestra conducted by Chuck Palmer.

Top right: A radiant backstage photo of Iowa musicians Matt Manweiler, Marita May, Caitlin Thom, Natalie Brown, Maggie Williams, Kristian Svennevig  (and me) and touring musicians Evie Andrus and Katie Jacoby.

Bottom: my fellow University of Iowa alum Natalie Brown and myself or, as Natalie has dubbed us, “Iowa City’s own rock fiddle chicks!”


Featured Musician: William Scott

As a studio music teacher, I have the privilege to work with students one-on-one, sometimes year after year, to build a foundation of musical skills designed to serve the musician throughout a lifetime of music making.

In the case of my featured musician this month, William Scott, I am lucky enough to have been this young man’s teacher for seven years although his musical study began at age 3 with piano lessons. . He is now 18 and poised to graduate this month.  He will be attending The University of Iowa this fall.


Will is an athlete as well as a musician. His athletic achievements at West High School have led to his recruitment by The University of Iowa’s nationally ranked men’s swim team.

Will’s musical adventures throughout the years have included many trips to Scotland to visit his mother’s family where he played with local musicians and brought tunes home to teach me. He has also participated in the Fiddlers Contest at the Iowa State Fair, was a member of the West High Orchestra under the direction of Wayne Thelander during his entire high school career, has attended and participated in countless Irish sessions, and has inspired many of my younger students with his energetic performances at studio concerts.

Will’s mother Kassia and I will never forget the delightful weekend of music that Will experienced several years ago at the St. Louis Tionol.


Will was one of the youngest attendees but fit right in among even the most seasoned of folk musicians at the festival.


Will has such a bright future ahead of him, teeming with so many academic, athletic and musical possibilities. Though I will no longer get to see him weekly for lessons, I will be proud to sit alongside him at sessions for years to come.

Here’s hoping that 2014 proceeds as it began

Here’s to a year of slow going, of taking time to putter, taking time to breathe, of “walking up the mountain rather than running up the hill” –Debbie Rosas

Here's hoping that 2014 proceeds as it began

Atticus and I up at the cabin before the polar vortex shoved us inside

Cabin 2014 048

Nothing entrances like flame


After only 11 short years and multiple rejections, Sam has found a dog bed which he will deign to sleep upon


A robot costume made of the insert of the rice cooker and a cardboard box elicits more joy than the closet full of costumes can provide


Dinosaurs need their tea time too, you know.


I’ve been back for almost two weeks but it’s taken me a while to acclimate to being home.  I’ve been feeling really foggy in my head, like I’m not entirely here.  It’s not a physical illness, more like a state of mind.  It’s not a comfortable feeling.  I hope it fades soon.

Our trip was such a fast one and so packed full of so many people and experiences that it feels almost like it was all just a dream.

My mother and I left Chicago on Sunday around 7 pm and arrived in Dublin on Monday morning at 8.  Here we are waiting for the express bus to my aunt’s house in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

Dublin airport

I was so tired on the bus that I missed a lot of the scenery as we wound through one village and another.  We were greeted at the bus stop by my aunt and my cousin who I was so excited to meet!  Once we arrived home in Enniskillen, we took a walk near my aunt’s house.  I was bound and determined to stay awake that whole day to fend off the jet lag.  It was misting just a little bit that day and, believe it or not, that was the only rain we saw all week.  The rest of the time it was like a perfect summer day.

Walking the ring on the day we arrived

This is the view from my aunt’s sitting room.

The view from Aunt Teresa's front yard

Walking the ring on the day we arrived

The next morning, we got a ride from the neighbor across the border to Swanlinbar, County Cavan, Ireland to visit the house where my mother grew up.

My mother's childhood home

Outside the family home

After we left the house, we went for a walk through the little town of Swad.





I met so many of the people who my mother knew growing up and yet somehow managed not to take a picture of any of them.  But here’s a beautiful field.


The next day, my cousin Maura drove us into Cavan Town to have a look around and have lunch.  Everyone always tells me that I look like my father and it’s certainly true but I see a resemblance here on my mother’s side as well.

On the way to Cavan Town

On the way to Cavan Town

I dearly wish we could come back in August for the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.  It’s not in the cards this year but a girl can dream.

Cavan Town

Cavan Town

Cavan Town

Then it was back to my aunt’s lovely house to meet the children coming home from school.

Aunt Teresa's

Liam and Atticus can’t wait to meet their little cousins whenever we manage to get the whole family over to Ireland.

After school at Granny's

On Wednesday night, we were lucky enough to catch a ride with my mother’s friend back to Cavan Town to attend a session at the Farnham Arms Hotel.  We were extra lucky that the session was hosted by accordion genius and traditional music advocate extraordinaire Martin Donohue.  The men at the session were all very welcoming to having a gate crasher from America and I really enjoyed my first traditional session in Ireland.

Speaking of, I should always have my mother with me at sessions.  She remembers way more tune names than I do.

On Thursday, we took the bus back into Swad to visit with some more relatives and friends.

The bus to Swad

We also stopped by the Swanlinbar An Comhaltas group where they do traditional music lessons every Thursday night.  They were kind enough to let us drop into the lessons but we were worried that we were too distracting to the little giggling tin whistlers so we excused ourselves after a few minutes.  I would have stayed longer for the adult class but I was very much looking forward to going out for coffee with my cousins and their friends.

Thursday night shopping in Enniskillen

Friday was my mother’s birthday and my aunt and her family had the most wonderful birthday party for her, complete with a delicious cake baked by Maura’s 8 year old daughter.

My mother was so touched by this party and most especially by the children’s contributions.  It was a beautiful night.

63rd birthday party

63rd birthday party

On Friday night, we went to a session at The Bush Bar in Enniskillen.

The Bush Pub in Enniskillen

The Bush Pub in Enniskillen

One of the highlights of the session was Donegal fiddler Matt McGranaghan playing his spectular version of traditional tune The Mason’s Apron.

When I was talking to my uncle the next day  on the phone, I found out that I was playing at that session with a fellow whose father used to play in sessions with my great grandfather Pat Dolan.

On Saturday, we caught the bus back to Dublin and spent the night with one of my mother’s friends from nursing school and then suddenly it was time to hop on the plane to go home.

My wonderfully welcoming extended family made us feel so at home with them.  It would have been much harder to leave if I hadn’t been so anxious to get back to Joe and the boys.


After the long trip, I think we were all in need of some snuggles.  My aunt traveled back with us to spend some more time with my parents and to see southern California.


New Cavan football hoodies

Joe and I have set a goal to make it back to Cavan and Fermanagh with our boys sometime in the next two years.  In the meantime, I’ll make do with the memories and the music.