2011 · 2012 · 2013 

2013: The Strauss family!

Ages: Connor 10, Colton 12, Aria 15, Tony 16
Instruments: Guitars and Fiddles and Song

How did you first get interested in traditional Irish music?

We have always as a family been entranced by the raw beauty of Irish music. As growing children we listened to Irish music. We held our own little Irish jigs in our bare feet while we listened to sounds of the old fiddle in the radio. We had all learned the basics of our instruments, but were looking for a style of music for us all to play together. We fell upon the idea of Irish, and from there we began taking lessons with Dáithí Sproule, and found ourselves lingering in our living room longer and wanting more and more of the music.

What do you like about Irish music?

We love the way Irish music brings us to life. The way it takes your spirit to a far off mystical place known only to a special few. Irish music has a way of livening and lifting up that which is lost. It makes you want to dance, smile, sing, and laugh. Nothing is like Irish music. It has cultivated in us a greater love for all music and has opened doors in which secrets of music are hidden. Irish music has brought us together as a family to play music and enjoy what each of us bring to circle of music. The old traditional Irish songs and tunes Dáithí has taught us are particularly special to us because they lead back to the county of Donegal in Northern Ireland, where our family is from.

What are your hobbies outside of the music?

We perform at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, and put on a children’s show with music, theatre, live animals, acrobatics, and story telling. When we are not playing music together, you’ll find us outside on our hobby farm with our horses, dogs, ducks, kitties, and chickens. We all love to be outside among the trees and leaves, and we love to laugh and be together

What did we use the Fitzgerald Award for?

We are all honored to have been given the Fitzgerald Award for the year. As we pondered about what we should put the money towards, we decided it was best that we make a cd together. Aria made a recording of the music she wrote on the guitar and voice, along with traditional Irish songs in Gaelic. “It was a whole new experience to go in and record my music and it’s exciting and encouraging to be able to share my music with others even when I’m not there.” -Aria

The Fitzgerald scholarship encouraged all of us to continue to grow in our musical journeys and helped to give us a push have a recording of our own. We are all forever grateful to all the people who have encouraged us through the Fitz scholarship. We are forever grateful to Dáithí Sproule and all of the lessons he has given us both in music and of life. Dáithí instilled in us a greater love for music and all that it gives.

We are all working together on making a recording of all of us with some of our Irish songs and tunes.

2012: Emiliano Morales 

Age: 18
School: Central Senior High School

How did you first get interested in traditional Irish music? 

I listened to the Riverdance soundtrack extensively as a kid and loved making my own dances to it, but it wasn’t until I was about 12 that I heard more Irish music and grew interested in learning it. For my 13th Birthday I got the Matt Cranitch fiddle book and started teaching myself, until that Winter when I learned of CIM and started taking lessons, and I joined the youth ensemble.

What do you like about Irish music? 

The freedom one can feel while playing and listening to it. Everyone gets to tell their story in their own way through the music, and the same tune can be played by ten different musicians and say something different each time. 

Words from Emiliano

I am very thankful for the Timothy Fitzgerald Memorial Scholarship, which I have used to go towards purchasing a new set of Uilleann pipes. It was definitely a tough decision because of how large a commitment it is to learn the pipes, but this was too great an opportunity to pass. In addition, I was also given a grant by the IMDA, which made this new set of pipes much more affordable. It was also great to learn that this set has been around the Twin Cities for a while, giving it a community history.

I’m sure we all have experienced the power of the Uilleann pipes. The room goes quiet, and the drones begin, a warm buzz you can feel in your spine. Then the chanter lifts and the Air begins, each note caressed into life, and a story emerges, mystical, yet tangible. You’re held captive until the very last breath of the chanter, which lingers in the air. I loved that sound, and I wanted to make it, to create my own stories. 

My first set was good, and it helped me learn how to play, but I was ready to move up a step and recreate the sounds that make the pipes unique. The pops, the drones, crans, rolls, and slides that are all distinctive to the pipes, and really bring the music to life in a different way from the fiddle, which I also play. Both are amazing instruments, but I just love the challenge and excitement that comes with learning a new instrument, especially one as difficult as the Uilleann pipes. The whole dynamic of the music changes, and in learning new strategies to play tunes on the pipes, I’ve learned more about the music itself. The new perspective has shown me how phrases emerge in the music, and how the beats and tempos feel for each type of tune. I’ve learned where to place emphasis, and where natural “breaths” happen in the music, and where I can build and release tension. On a whole, I’ve become a much better musician, and a greater appreciator or the music. 

None of this would have been possible without the Timothy Fitzgerald Memorial Scholarship, which gave me the push to advance my musical capabilities. That is why I am very thankful to everybody involved with the scholarship, as well as my teachers who have shaped my life in music, and continue to do so. With my senior year ending, I’ll soon be off in college, but I hope that in the future I can return and give back to the community that has given me so many opportunities to learn, and share the music we all love.


 2011: Fiona McKenna

Fiona McKenna

Age: 11
School: Saint Anthony Park 
Instrument: Whistle, song and harp 

CIM:  How did you get into Irish music?

Fiona:  My dad was really interested in Irish music. When I was about seven he decided to start taking lessons with me.

CIM:  What do you like about Irish music?

Fiona:  It's fun to play, and it can really make me feel happy or sad, depending on the tune.

CIM:  What are your hobbies outside of music?

Fiona: My dad is the coach of the Langford soccer team. I've been playing soccer since I was six.

Words from Fiona

I started playing Irish music in the spring of 2008, when the Center of Irish Music was still located in the Wellstone Center. My first teacher was Kate Dowling, the co-founder of CIM, and the first tune she taught me was The Britches Full of Stitches. When I first practiced it at home, I played with my right hand on the top three holes, not knowing that it was suppose to be reversed.

Before I had started playing Irish music, I was also involved with Irish dancing. I feel like Irish dance was my doorway to all things Irish and it inspired me to start the tin whistle, which led to harp and singing. At first, playing the tin whistle was just for fun, but it slowly developed into something more special and meaningful to me; music was a way of expressing myself without speaking.

I’m very honored to have been the first recipient of the Timothy Fitzgerald Scholarship Award. I have heard lots of wonderful things about Mr. Fitzgerald and what he did for the Irish community, though I never had the pleasure of meeting him in person. 

I used the scholarship money to pay for a student harp, made by my instructor, Chad McAnally. I got into harp during a past Young Irish Musician’s Weekend (YIM), when I got the chance to learn more about its history and pluck a few strings, as well. I immediately loved it, and started lessons for harp a little over a year ago. I’ve had a great time playing harp, and I plan on continuing my lessons. 

I must thank all of the teachers and staff of CIM, especially all of my teachers, past and present. I look up to all of you and find you an inspiration to the students at the Center. I hope to continue my musical pursuit and I’m happy to start a new year at CIM, though it wouldn’t be complete without all of the wonderful people who teach and learn there. Thank you for making my musical dream possible and I wish all the other students at CIM luck in finding the dream that they want to pursue.