Music is the cure for the stick season blues

Waxwing Four - male quartet

Music makes you happy. It’s true. Music causes the release of dopamine, a “feel-good” chemical in your brain. So listening to music literally makes you happy.

That’s why during this time of year when the days become shorter, cooler and we enter into what us Vermonters like to call “stick season,” I try to immerse myself in as much music as I can.

Luckily, just as fall is waning and winter begins to pop up on the horizon, the music doesn’t stop around these parts. There are still house parties, sessions and great concerts to go to that will lift your spirits and make you forget that we’re entering the dark months.

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Celtic Music in Vermont

For the next couple of weeks there are some great musicians coming to town and shows that should not be missed. It all starts tomorrow. Here’s a video of Karan Casey and Lúnasa.

The list of upcoming shows are below:

Friday, Nov 22, 2013
Wendy MacIsaac and Mary Jane Lamond  – Cape Breton Music
Place: UVM Recital Hall, Burlington, VT
Time: 7:30
Cost: $25
Tickets: call 802.656.4455

Saturday, Nov 23, 2013
Tony DeMarco,
Irish fiddler
Place: Vermont Violins, Burlington, VT
Time: 6:00pm
Cost: $15 suggested donation
Tickets: email

Sunday, Nov 24, 2013
Long Time Courting –
Non-traditional Irish, Scottish and American Music
Place:  House Concert at 1060 Bent Hill Road, Braintree, VT
Time: 7:00pm
Cost: $15 suggested donation
Tickets: call 802.728.6351

Saturday, Nov 30, 2013
Lunasa and Karan Casey –
Irish music
Place:  Barre Opera House, Barre, VT
Time: 7:30pm
Cost: $18-32
Tickets: call 802.476.8188

Wednesday, Dec 4, 2013
Natalie MacMaster  – Cape Breton Fiddler
Place:  Barre Opera House, Barre, VT
Time: 7pm
Cost: $20-58
Tickets: call 802.476.8188

Learning to Dance

learning to danceAt one point in my life I moved to New York City to try my luck on Broadway. I had no training whatsoever, but I had a dream. And that seemed to be enough for me to leave my job, my boyfriend and my life. I set out to accomplish something some people only dream about.

I was there for a better part of a year and went to audition after audition only to realize that if I was ever going to get called back, I needed me some training.

So I took this tap dancing class with one of the coolest guys I have ever known. He must have been about 65 or 70 years old with the energy of a 12-year old. He’d show up to class every morning in jeans and sneakers with taps on the soles. This man loved what he did and it showed in not only his ease of the dance, but the look in his eyes when we actually got his steps down. Which for me wasn’t that often, admittedly.

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Dance, dance, wherever you may be…


Yup, that’s me.

Dancing just plain feels good. Whether you are good at it or not, if you can just listen to the music and move your body to the beat, in my book, you can dance. Just ask any kid. Kids have no inhibitions when it comes to dancing.

When my sister and I were little,  we not only danced in many recitals, but we often put on our own dance recitals in the living room of our home. I remember once getting fully decked out in costumes and singing “The Bitch is back” by Elton John, complete with broom guitars and microphones made out of hair brushes. We weren’t allowed to swear but for some reason it was okay if it was in a song. So we sang our asses off and danced so loudly that our next door neighbor came over to check on us and see if we were ok. We were not only ok, we were having the best performance of our life. Ah, the good old days.

Although my childhood dancing days are long gone, dancing still feels good to me. And luckily in Vermont we have lots of opportunities. Just last weekend I went to a masquerade party where we danced to everything from 70’s music to house music. Other weekends I’ve attended one of many contra-dances Vermont has to offer.

Dancing is fun and easy and there are lots of different types of music events to move your body to. This coming weekend is no different.

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Trust the notes, remember the feeling

Recently, I was at a session and there was a woman playing Uillean pipes. While she played, she closed her eyes and let her head and upper body dance ever so slightly to the music. She let the tunes run right through her like it was something she couldn’t actually control. It was almost as if the pipes were just a tool to help her get that feeling out. The music was effortless and she was mesmerizing to watch.

This experience was a good reminder of why I play music. It’s really not about the notes or the number of tunes I know. It’s about how the music makes me feel when I play it. My fiddle is just a tool to express those feelings. Yet, I sometimes spend so much time trying to remember the notes and wondering whether or not they are going to sound good, that I forget to actually express them.

This is a picture me me playing recently at a benefit concert with my friend Harold.

Fiddle Music

I posted it to Facebook and one of my friends wrote:

This is my favorite picture of you at play! Normally you look all serious and concentrating, this one makes you look like you are FEELING the music! Love it!

Music is so great because it evokes emotions in both the person playing and the person listening. It’s a relationship that is hard to put into words. But the greatest people to watch and listen to are the people who clearly love what they are playing and have the courage to just play it from the heart.

This picture of me is one of very few where I am actually expressing what I’m feeling. But I am going to keep it around as a reminder to feel the music and forget about the notes. My fingers know where to go, I just got to trust them.

A weekend filled with Irish music

This past St. Patrick’s Day was yet another fun weekend filled with some amazing music. The weekend for me started off at the weekly Irish session at Bagitos, where piper Michael Cooney generously shared some tunes. The place was so packed with musicians it was hard to find a seat.

What is fun about this session is that many great musicians from near and far are always stopping by for some tunes. If you like traditional Irish music, this is the place to be every Saturday from 2-5pm.

Here are some photos from last weekend, thanks to Annabel!

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St. Patrick’s Day Festivities

Irish Music

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As you can probably imagine, this week is like Christmas to an Irish musician. There are so many wonderful events going on to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. I captured some of my favorites below.

For the full schedule check out the Burlington Irish Heritage Festivalevents page.


Handsome Molly
Place: Ri RaThe Irish Pub, 123 Church Street, Burlington, VT
Time: 6:00-9:00 pm


The Musical Instruments of Ireland: An introduction to Celtic Instruments
Place: Pickering Room, Fletcher Free Library, College Street, Burlington
Time: 11-noon

Weekly Irish Session
Place: Bagitos, Montpelier, VT
Time: 2-5:00pm

Celtic Cats St. Patrick’s Da Ceili
Place: UVM Dance Studio, Inside Patrick Gym
Time: 3-5pm

The Seventh Annual Music Showcase
Place: The BCA Center, 135 Church Street, Burlington
Time: 7:00pm
With a session that begins just prior to the show hosted by yours truly and some other great musicians.

SUNDAY, MARCH 17 – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Festival Ceili
Place: Mater Christi School, 50 Mansfield Ave, Burlington
Time: 1-3:00pm

All Day Irish Music
Place: Tent outside Ri Ra the Irish Pub, Church Street, Burlington
Time: 11:00 am on

Place: the Flynn Center Main Street, Burlington
Time: 7:00pm

For more information on any of the events listed above check out the Burlington Irish Heritage Festival website or visit their Facebook page. I hope you have a safe and fun St. Patrick’s Day weekend!