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Adventures in Limerick, Ireland

Emily Lehr is a music therapy major and Appalachian Music minor at West Virginia University. This summer, she branched out and explored the music of Ireland on PAA’s Irish World Academy Summer Music Intensive.

The River Shannon running through Limerick City, taken while exploring the city my first weekend in Ireland.

I traveled abroad by myself for the first time this summer, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I have always been afraid of venturing out on my own, but as soon as I took the leap and did it, my fear was replaced by excitement and wonder at the world I get to live in. Recently I have been more and more captivated by dreams and plans of going. There are so many places I want to see and experience, and I owe this newfound enthusiasm to my Performing Arts Abroad trip to Limerick, Ireland.

In the beginning of this year’s spring semester, my violin professor at university forwarded me an email detailing Blas, a summer music intensive in Ireland focusing on trad music. I was already preparing for my first trip overseas to India, and I had no idea how I would manage to swing two huge trips in one year. But the idea of traveling to Ireland to experience and study its music was too sweet to pass up, so after much deliberation and weighing the pros and cons, I paid the deposit fee and got myself a student loan to cover the rest of the cost.

Dr. Colin Quigley said, “What makes good music is that everyone is doing it,” in a lecture at Blas, and he couldn’t have summed up my experience better. Experiencing music as a community gathering is special, and it adds a whole new kind of magic to making and receiving music. This was evident in the Irish musicians and instructors at Blas. From learning from fellow students who had grown up playing Irish fiddle to dancing with the friendliest set dancers at a céilí, there was an eagerness for our shared experience that rose above any attitudes of superiority, which would have been easily justified. I felt right at home in a place I had never been before.

Having the time of my life set dancing with the friendliest people. Set dancing is really similar to square dancing, which I love to do at home, so it was one of my favorite experiences during my time in Ireland.

I realize how lucky I am to be only twenty years old and have traveled alone to a different country than my own, to have learned to be excited at the unknown instead of afraid, to have met all kinds of new people that I ordinarily would not have come across, and to have experienced a world created for the wonder of its inhabitants. While these adventures may not be necessary to some, they were so necessary to me, and I look forward to more of them. I have met friends who, while we may never see each other again, I will always think of affectionately. I have danced with lovely strangers at a céilí and run through Blarney Castle and Gardens in ten minutes to kiss the Blarney Stone to avoid missing my bus out of Cork. I have flown in an airplane alone and learned to play an Irish polka for student dancers. I have lived some of the most enlightening and exhilarating two weeks of my life that I would hardly trade for anything.

Some friends from Blas and me at the Cliffs of Moher.

We arrived at Blarney Castle and Gardens later than we planned, but we really wanted to kiss the Blarney Stone, so we ran through the castle to get to the top and back so we wouldn’t miss our bus. I hope to go back and explore the gardens more one day.

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