July 1, 2017

From the Center for Irish Music 2015-16 Annual Report

A lucky few of the four dozen CIM students and parents who set out on a charter bus to the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil in May managed to sleep during the drive between St. Paul to Cincinnati, but Adrienne O’Shea was not among them. “I’m afraid I kept everyone awake all night with my coughing,” says the high school sophomore, who was hit with a head cold and a low grade fever just before the competition. “But I had to try to get to Cincinnati. I worked too hard and I love the music too much not to try to make it to the competition. You want to show other people this amazing thing you have worked so hard to accomplish.”

After 13 hours of coughing fits, corn fields, and an unforgettable breakfast at Cracker Barrel, Adrienne finally made it to Cincinnati’s Netherlands Plaza Hotel, where her mother ordered her to stand under a hot shower until the competition started. It must have had the desired effect, because two days later, when she boarded the bus with her brother Liam and sister Ciara for the return trip to St. Paul, Adrienne was carrying 1st place awards from five separate categories in the under-15 competitions.

“It was no surprise to me that Adrienne performed as well as she did,” says CIM executive director Norah Rendell, Adrienne’s instructor on flute, whistle and singing. “She is just an exceptional young woman and she has that special something – she is just naturally driven, and always plays very beautifully, even if she is exhausted.”

Running from competition to competition throughout the weekend, Adrienne was clearly the most seasoned trooper of the CIM contingent, the largest cohort of traditional music students the school has ever sent to the annual Irish music festival. But the experience was just as exciting for first-time fleadh attendees like accordion player Cathal Mee, who won a first place showing in the under-12 category. “We’re never not coming to this,” Mee announced.


Generous fund-a-need contributions at Éigse in 2016 made it possible to provide free transportation to the 24 CIM students who chose to compete at the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil

CIM instructor Brian Miller, who accompanied the fleadh students and coached the Advanced Youth Ensemble’s second place Grúpa Cheoil performance, says that’s the lesson he hopes every student takes away from attending this annual Irish music gathering. “Parents are sometimes a little wary of the idea of a ‘music competition,’ but I think once you’ve been part of it, you can see that it’s not about competition—it’s more about camaraderie,” says Miller. “Setting musical goals and learning to play well in duos and trios really gives focus to your practice. And it’s exciting for students to see that there are other kids their age geeking out on Irish music, too.”

CIM students took part in 37 competitions throughout the two-day music festival, taking home 17 first place and 7 second place medals—high marks that also earned several of CIM’s student musicians the chance to compete at the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2016 held in Ennis in August. Both Carmen Pasquerella and Adrienne O’Shea decided they were up for the challenge this year, traveling across the Atlantic to meet with Adrienne’s Dublin grandparents, who looked after them. The girls didn’t bring home a medal from Ireland, where the best players and 400,000 spectators met for a week, but don’t be surprised if that happens in a future competition.

“It was just amazing to get to go to Ireland,” says Adrienne. “The competitions were just insane but it was an honor to represent little Minnesota. I hope to win a medal in Ireland sometime, and I want to keep moving forward with my music. But I don’t want to base my music on what awards I might win. I just love the music–my heart is in the music.”