The red string

October 14, 2016

Chas ConquestIn some Chinese folklore, it is believed that the gods tie an invisible red cord around the ankles of those that are destined to meet one another in a certain situation or help each other in a certain way. I love this concept. I envision a red string attached to me throughout my life and everyone I meet touches it in some way, changing the course of my life.

It implies to me, that the meeting of someone new has an impact on both parties and shapes our future in some way. I can think of countless times throughout my life where this has held true.

One time in particular was when I met a man and musician, named Charlie Conquest. Those who knew him, knew him as Chas. Chas recently passed on from this world to play music in the heavens with countless other musicians who were taken from us far too soon.

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Creating a practice plan

October 2, 2016
music practice

Image courtesy of punsayaporn at

In order to get better you must practice. I won’t say practice makes perfect because I’m not striving for perfect. I’m striving for better. And the only way to get there is to practice.

No one every really wants to practice. We all want to pick up our instrument and just sound great. But very few musicians are actual prodigies, most of us have to work at just improving where we are at today.

For most of my musical career, unless I was taking a class or lessons, I had no idea what to practice. So I would just learn tunes and work on the hard parts of those tunes. Occasionally, I’d play a scale or two but nothing was ever focused or planned.

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Going back to the beginning and starting over

October 1, 2016

Learning Tunes by EarAs a traditional Irish fiddler, I have never learned how to improvise on the fiddle. Like most other traditional musicians I know, everything I play, I learned by ear.

This past week I started a class at Berklee College of Music on basic improvisation. It’s only been a week and I can confidently say it’s probably one of the hardest classes I have ever taken. It’s challenging in so many ways. One because I never really learned my scales and most of the time I have no idea what key I’m playing in. And two, because I am starting from the very beginning. I’m doing something I’ve never done before and it’s intimidating and scary.

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How music is like mountain biking

June 29, 2016
Mountain Biker

Courtesy of

I have rediscovered my love for mountain biking. Recently, I went out on an all-women’s mountain bike ride. I have to admit I felt a bit out of shape, especially on the climbs where I held steady as the caboose of the group. (In my defense I still ride a hard tail and was most likely twice the age of the women I was riding with). While I was out there sucking wind, I realized that you don’t ever forget how to ride a bike. But, if you don’t keep it up, you do however, forget how to ride it well.

It’s the same with music. Unfortunately, you can’t just pick up your fiddle every once in a while and play like Liz Carroll. You actually have to practice it, and often. Otherwise, you get a bit rusty. Read the rest of this entry »

Irish music in June

June 5, 2016

June, when the weather is warm, the days are long and music festivals and concerts in Vermont are abundant. June is the true beginning of summer and what better way to enjoy it but with some Irish music. There are a couple of Irish music events around Vermont this month that you won’t want to miss:

Irish Music Festival – June 17-19

Turalough O'CarolanIf you like the music of Irish harper and composer, Turough O’Carolan, check out the 10th Annual Carolan festival, a festival filled with lessons, workshops, concerts, sessions, dancing and more, all celebrating the music of Turough O’Carolan.

This year’s featured performers include Irish harper, Máire Ní Chathasaigh and guitarist, Chris Newman. Other performers include harper Dominique Dodge, harper Hilary Farrington, piper Benedict Koehler, The Fiddleheads and more.  See the full line-up of performers and festival events.

Deadline for pre-registration and to pay for meals is June 10.

Date: June 17-19, 2016
Place: Worcester, Vermont
Register:  Contact Us

Irish Fiddler, Frankie Gavin – June 21

Frankie Gavin, FiddlerFrankie Gavin began playing whistle at age 4 and fiddle at age 10 and by the time he was 17 he placed first in the All Ireland Fiddle Competition and in the All Ireland Flute Competition on the same day. His influences were Michael Coleman and James Morrison and helped to form the band De Dannan in 1973. He has recorded 16 albums with the band and a handful of solo albums. He’s played with Stephane Grapelli, The Rolling Stones and Earl Scruggs. Learn more about Frankie.

Date: June 21, 2016
Time: 6-8:30pm
Place: Burlington Violin Shop, Church Street, Burlington, VT
Cost: $25
Register: email

There are only 40 seats available so register today!

Music that makes you want to dance

April 10, 2016

One of things I love about Irish music, and most Celtic music in general, is it makes me want to get up and dance. After all, it is dance music. Dancing is such a big part of this tradition and learning the dances actually helps in learning the tunes. This weekend, whether you’re a musician or not, you too can learn to dance.

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The key to being a good musician

April 5, 2016

Key of a TuneI’m always impressed with melody musicians who can just call out the key of the next tune they are going to play. I have a hard time just lifting my foot to say I’m switching tunes. Not to mention, most of the time I have no idea what keys I play in. Aren’t all fiddle tunes in D or G?

I was talking to one of my friends the other day who is a great fiddle teacher. She said that when she teaches a tune to someone, she first teaches them the key and to get familiar with what notes might be in the tune. Then she teaches them the tune.

Because most tunes in this tradition are taught by ear, you may not know what key a tune is in. Here are a few ways to quickly figure it out on your own:

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