As I become more comfortable with myself at age 44, I’ve grown more comfortable with where I’ve come from. I’ve taken to saying, “I’m Irish on both sides of my family. My wife has Scottish blood in her and just has to deal with me!”  It’s been interesting emailing my aunt and getting pages of things about different ancestors.  My dad just rolls his eyes, but it’s who we are.

My own awaking in terms of heritage has happened parallel to the beginning of the Iowa Irish Fest in Waterloo, Iowa.  They just wrapped up their ninth year of shamrocks and shenanigans, putting on another tremendous event over the last weekend.  We started taking our daughters when they were still relatively young, and they’ve come to enjoy all that is the Fest: the Irish kilts, the food, the different vendors, and the music!

This year was no different.  I’m picking out three bands in particular, but there are so many different groups that play during this three day festival that you can have your pick of traditional to punk rock and everything in between.  First, we saw a group called the Screaming Orphans (@screamingorphan) and I was totally blown away.  This is a group of four sisters who just simple rock, period.  As we approached their stage during their set, I was in awe of the energy that just rolled out over the crowd.  As I think as they get deeper into their set, the Fest realized something special was going on because more and more people arrived!  They played traditional Irish folk songs, sang in Gaelic, and played some original work too.  They will be in Dubuque in a couple of weeks, so we may make the trip to that Irish Fest to see them again.

Second, the Elders played on the main stage (@TheEldersBand) and they were another surprise.  I’d expected something more traditional, and got plenty of that, but in a much more progressive sort of beat.  Their website calls them “Celtic pop” and with all the different instruments, songs, and voices that intertwined beautifully, it was awesome to be able to sit out amongst the crowd and just take in their music.  While the Screaming Orphans were much more in your face, The Elders music just washed over you.  

And finally, my favorite, Gaelic Storm (@GaelicStorm).  This was my first time seeing Screaming Orphans and The Elders, I was introduced to Gaelic Storm here at Iowa Irish Fest, and they are one of the big reasons I keep coming back.  Their recorded music is always fun to listen to, but they do such a grand job putting on a live show.  We talk about passions and following your dreams in education, this group is that definition in real life.  From the first song to the last, from the great music to the screw ups you see, they laugh and smile and dance and you can tell, this is what they love to do.  They too will be in Dubuque. This trip may need to happen after all! 🙂

As I write this, thinking about school, about the changes that continue to be put on us, and how that feels, I think back to these three shows in particular.  The love of the music, the culture, of their group members was all evident in each show.  The love of performing for an audience and showing they are masters of their craft was evident as well.  How does this translate into education?  Well, I’m not fluent in Gaelic, so I can’t help you there, but I can tell you that I love what I do.  I want to be there with my students, with the other staff, and build a relationship base where we can try some crazy things without getting too worked up.  And if we fail, miss a line or a beat, we laugh, we learn, and we move forward.  In the end, if we can create an atmosphere we we aren’t afraid to be who we are, that’s the start of doing something great!

Next year is the 10th year of the Iowa Irish Festival, and unless my daughters decide to screw things up with their own schedules (which they’ve been known to do), we’ll be there, eating Shepard’s Pie, drinking a black and tan, and right down up front when Gaelic Storm starts up!  It’s a tradition, a way to refill the soul, and celebrate all that is good in Iowa and with being Irish! 🙂

So, thank you to Gaelic Storm, The Elders and the Screaming Orphans for doing what you love and sharing that passion with us.

And come join us up front if you’d like, there’s always room for another friend!