Irish music workshops draw community to Fisher

Ted McGraw and Jane Sturmer conduct a workshop in button accordion playing. (Photo by Lauren Welling, staff photographer.)

By Lauren Welling staff writer

The Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann Rochester Irish Music Association celebrated Irish Culture Day by hosting 24 free workshops for the community at St. John Fisher College on Saturday Sept. 29.

This is the third year the event has been hosted at Fisher since the tradition began over 20 years ago. The workshops taught the community about Irish music, dance, language and culture. All of the workshops are led by volunteers from the local community.

Kathy Whitfield, far left, teaches traditional Irish dance to a group on the stage in Cleary Aud. (Photo by Lauren Welling)

In Cleary Auditorium, a volunteer from the Comhaltas Rochester could be found teaching Irish step dance. She explained that she was excited to teach Irish dance to a large group from the community and raise awareness about the different types of Irish dance. One of the participants of the dance workshop stated that it was fun to be involved in this event as Irish culture is something that has always interested her. She said she was excited to be able to come to an event where all the members of the community can merge together to learn Irish traditions.

Upstairs on the third floor of Kearney Hall the hallway was filled with the sound of violins, drums, and accordions. Each instrument flooded the floor with traditional Irish tunes.

Music books with traditional tunes lined a table at the workshop. (Photo by Lauren Welling)

Teaching one of the sessions was Ben Hockenberry, who helped organize the event. Hockenberry is a systems librarian who also teaches Irish music at Fisher. He helped to promote the event and encourage Fisher students to join in the festivities.

He believes Fisher is the perfect venue for this event as it provides a unique hands on experience that coincides with the Irish Studies Program and the Irish Dance Club. Although, St. John Fisher is a convenient local for the Fisher community it was not the most convenient locale for one of the participants in an accordion workshop that exclaimed he had traveled two hours in order to be in attendance. He said the experience was well worth it as he did not have opportunities to learn about the accordion where he is from.

The volunteers and participants in the Irish Culture Day workshops enjoyed the festivities on Saturday as they were able to share their love for Irish traditions with the Rochester community.

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