July 5, 2022
From left to right: Teddy Brandt, Beth Bryson, Morien McBurnie, Niamh Mee, Laura Billings Coleman, Richard Fitzgerald, Norah Rendell & Brian Miller.
Each year, the Center for Irish Music awards the Fitz Memorial Scholarship to three students who:
- Have demonstrated to their private teacher that they are dedicated to learning their chosen instrument.
- Have shown an interest in expanding their musical education and experience.
- Have shown interest in the larger Irish community by attending sessions or attending concerts and workshops.
We were unable to present this award in 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. This year at the Minnesota Irish Music Weekend Kickoff Celebration, we were thrilled to present the award to two students in each age category.
Congratulations to this year's award winners!
12 and Under
Excellent on both of his instruments, Teddy is a smart, delightful kid. He plays with Mary Vanorny’s Osprey Ensemble and has been a part of summer camps and many performances on both accordion and bodhrán, sometimes with his two older siblings Henry and Eloise. Todd says: “Be advised: I intend to make sure that Teddy's bodhran work doesn't get sidelined by his box playing!”
Beth came to CIM last summer before the Irish Fair and jumped right in with both feet! Beth has taken naturally to playing Irish music in a short time and she is remarkably comfortable in the advanced ensemble even though she is the youngest member. Beth just placed 2nd in the under 15 fiddle competition at the Midwest Fleadh Ceoil.
Morien started at CIM as a "Sprouting Songster" way back in 2011. He began guitar and whistle lessons soon after and banjo in 2017. He has since added button accordion as well. Morien is passionate about his music. Pre-Covid, it was common to hear him and Derek Anderson playing all around the Celtic Junction at all hours. They busk and perform around town too. Morien is a leader in ensembles and always plays with conviction and a sharp attention to detail. His teacher Brian says that his music just gets better and better.
Niamh has progressed so well over the last few years, largely due to her own hard work. She demonstrates a passion and commitment to the music many of us have seldom seen in a person her age. She has attended workshops, performed a recital for Na Píobairí Uilleann online, and has really blossomed into a great young musician. Her flute and whistle playing, and singing has come a long way as well. It seems that she has made every effort to improve, and to attend workshops and events, despite the obstacles in her path. Her teacher Sean Gavin says, “I don't have a student of whom I'm more proud!”
Chris started banjo lessons at CIM in 2018. He is a very diligent practicer and continuously shows a deep commitment to his music. His teacher Brian says “Of all my students, Chris is great about following up with listening suggestions and seeking out recordings of musicians I mention in class.” Chris discovered Galway musician Páraic Mac Donnchadha this way and wrote a successful grant to the IMDA grant program to take lessons from Páraic online. Those lessons really paid off and he developed some wonderful looseness and depth to his playing. Chris has attended the Keegans' Learners Session, the Merlin’s session and plays with CIM's Open Sky ensemble.
Laura Billings Coleman
Danny has been blown away by Laura’s enthusiasm and progress on the fiddle over the last two years. She has great natural rhythm and, although still a learner, her playing has an innate musicality. Laura’s instinct for phrasing and ornamenting tunes is right on the money every time, and her attitude in general is absolutely inspirational. She is also the best kind of Irish music parent - supportive of her three boys - Mac, Declan and Finn - in every way.