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Music, Dance, and Great Craic

Jared Coller copyJared Coller is a music industry major at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana.  He is a percussionist, and has also studied piano, tuba, guitar, ukulele, Chinese cucurbit flute, harp, string methods, scoring and arranging, and composition.  This summer he attended the Blas Summer Music Intensive Program in Ireland.

When I found the Blas Summer Program through PAA, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for me to study abroad while in college. It was two weeks over the summer, I was able to get credit for school, and I could travel to a new country and study the thing I love: music!

Not a terrible location either.

Not a terrible location either.

I had only recently become interested in Irish music, although I have always enjoyed it. I have background primarily in percussion, but I also play various other instruments and I compose and arrange music. One of the reasons I wanted to go to Ireland and study at Blas was to learn what made Irish music Irish. I figured I could learn the bodhrán and further my percussion knowledge as I learned about the music.

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When I arrived in Ireland, I realized I really did not know what I was expecting from the program. There were musicians and dancers from all around the world who have been studying Irish music and dance for years, while I had little to no knowledge of the culture. I discovered quickly that I had to throw out all previous notions of what I thought this program was going to be about and keep an open mind.

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I picked bodhrán as my primary instrument, being a classical percussionist, and because I have a love for folk instruments and music. My knowledge of the instrument was basically nothing. However, since “blas” means “taste” in Irish, I figured the tutors knew there would be beginners in their classes.

In the bodhrán classes, the tutors were incredibly helpful, being able to teach each person. Everyone in the class had different skill levels, but the tutors were able to work around this and give encouragement and advice. At the end of the second class, I had already learned enough to play at the sessions with the other musicians. By the end of the two-week program, I was able to perform with the rest of the musicians for our final performance and accompany the vocalists in their final performance.

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However, bodhrán did not have a tutor everyday, which gave me the opportunity to take other classes. I was able to take classes in Irish song and guitar. In the song classes, I was able to learn traditional song from Ireland’s revolutions and modern traditional song. In guitar, I learned an Irish tune playing fingerpicking style, and how to play chords using drop D tuning, which is used a lot in Irish and folk music.

Overall, the experience I had in Ireland was phenomenal. I met and befriended people from all around the world, and shared experiences that I will never forget. I could continue on and on about my experience in Ireland, but instead, just go on the program. Experiencing it is the best way to know what it is like. Live life with no regrets!

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