What do you do when you’ve got a group of irrepressible kids who will do anything to get what they want? It’s hard to argue when what these young people want is to inspire others with the magic of the Emerald Isle.
Musicians Tes Slominski and Sara Read were working with a handful of devoted young fiddle students in 1999 when the idea of starting an Irish music school came up. The nine students, ranging in age from six to19, were working hard to raise money so they could take an educational trip to Ireland.
These young musicians took to the streets seeking donations, performing benefit concerts, and busking on the mall. They realized, though, that in asking others to support them, they needed to offer something to the community in return. The result was the creation of The Blue Ridge Irish Music School.
Although not the traditional bricks-and-mortar school, BRIMS serves as a community resource that supports an introduction to Irish culture through classes, concerts, and dances. A new six-week session of BRIMS music classes begins in Charlottesville on April 11. Sessions include lessons in Irish tin whistle, fiddle, and bodhran (pronounced BAH-ron, an Irish frame drum). Irish language classes and singing in Irish are also offered. Stepdance classes start this week, too, at the Rockfish Valley Community Center in Nellysford.
Because Irish music is an oral tradition, musicians usually learn to play by ear, rather than by reading music on a page. So once a month, tune learning sessions are offered to give new musicians the chance to practice learning by ear and get used to working with musicians playing a variety of instruments. All musicians are welcome at these sessions, regardless of whether they are members of BRIMS or take classes with the school.
BRIMS also holds a monthly ceili (pronounced KAY-lee), a traditional Irish social dance complete with live music and a caller. Ceilis are similar to square or contra dancing in which couples set up in squares or in lines. Geared to dancers of all ages and levels of experience, BRIMS ceilis are open to everyone and are very accommodating to families.
BRIMS represents a social tradition that brings members of the community together. We applaud the young people who just had to have this inspiration in Charlottesville.
Charlottesville music classes are held on Thursdays at Church of the Incarnation located behind Toys R Us. Stepdance classes are on Wednesdays at the Rockfish Valley Community Center on Rt. 151 in Nellysford. Cost of classes is $60 for the 6-week series, $40 for members. Ceilis are held on the first Sunday of the month at Greenwood Community Center from 6:30-9:30pm. Cost is $8 per person, $4 for kids 8-16, $20 for a family. Members get a discount. Tune learning sessions are held every third Tuesday and cost $5 per session. Call for location. 980-BRIM.