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46 Abbey St. | Ennis, Co. Clare | Ireland |
Tel: +353 65 7025670 |
Well, I was born into a family where music was already king. My father taught and played traditional music and my mother loved all kinds. I learned to play the fiddle when I was eight, already having learned to play the tin whistle. My father, Frank, was the local school teacher in Toonagh and music was big on the 'syllabus' with the result that all my siblings, friends and neighbours played an instrument!
I can't ever remember being told to practise, but practise we did, or should I say play. I can even remember going into this wood that was just beside our home, with my fiddle in hand (not even in it's case), to get this tune off that was going round and round in my head. It was spring and the yellow primroses were out while I sat on a tree stump trying desperately to learn this tune off solely from memory. My father was a brilliant teacher and though I forget loads, I still remember how he encouraged us to go out there and find new tunes and share them with each other and with him himself so that he could turn around and teach them to the newer and younger students.
The year of my Leaving Cert in 1983 I discovered Doolin, purely by accident. I was camping with Paula Carroll, a friend of mine from school, and decided to stay in the campsite down at the pier. We went into McDermotts pub and there was a load of people playing music. It sounded amazing to me. We were shy kids but my friend wasn't that shy... She told one of the musicians that I was able to play the fiddle. He was playing the bouzouki but said that he actually had a fiddle with him and asked me to join them. I was mortified but managed. I knew all their tunes and as I was made very welcome stayed there all day. That bouzouki player's name was Eoin O’Neill and from that day on Doolin was like this beacon for me. I made many friends there and eventually after some years travelling around, ended up living there and playing as a professional musician. It was the centre of the universe musically, and musicians were constantly passing through, but more importantly so were music lovers.
After living in Doolin for six years, Sharon Shannon asked me to join her band. We had known each other since childhood and had spent loads of time playing together in Doolin. We toured all over the world and it was amazing. After playing and touring with Sharon for over two years I continued playing with a band I had already been a member of called Bushplant. It is around this time that I started to teach, as the band was based in Ennis and I had a lot of free time during the day. That was 1995 and I have been teaching ever since.
I started off teaching group classes in schools (which was really scarey!! and I wasn't up to it at all but needed the money) and after years of that I gravitated towards private lessons. It always bothered me that I couldn't reach the ones that needed extra help so I started offering one-to-one lessons. I loved it, it wasn't scarey and it was possible to cover way more ground and also to help those who were really interested to zoom ahead. Lucky for me that I always had that great man Frank to advise or help me in moments of need, and there were many!!
Back to now...
My school happens to be in a beautiful building in the middle of Ennis beside the river, beside the Club Bridge, beside the Abbey, and beside the Cloister, and the house itself happens to be 400 years old. Is it luck? Who knows? Growing up surrounded by music was luck. Doolin was the accident that made me want to be a professional musician and to record music with my amazing friends, each album like a book, capturing time and eras as much as capturing the music we played. I made five traditional albums and several albums with Bushplant (which isn't exactly traditional if at all). I gave it loads and I now put all that energy into giving loads to my students. The range in age of my students is from five up to eighty so it's never too late or too early. What matters to me is that I do the best I can and hopefully bring the best out of you, the student. Sometimes it doesn't happen but that's ok too…