Tag Archives: Riley School of Irish Music

Hamstertown Ball

“You can think and you can fight, but the world’s always movin’, and if you wanna stay ahead you gotta dance.”
— Terry Pratchett

riley-school-turns-20Yesterday a number of us gathered at the local Irish Heritage Center to celebrate a very special birthday.  Our beloved Riley School of Irish Music turns 20 this year and to mark the occasion, we put on a ceili, which could be described as like a wedding, only without the happy couple.  There was music from our ceili band, much dancing, called and instructed by the one and only Éamonn  de Cógáin, lots of food and drink to be had, and all in all was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.
It is difficult to describe the place the Riley School has held in my life personally, and in the collective life of our family.  The music my kids (one more than the other) and I have learned and played over the years has changed us all for the better.  We have life long friendships now which we’d have never found without this school.  I began at the school as a mere parent accompanying my child to fiddle lessons – and I found my tunes and my tribe.  This music has taught me many things which apply to a life well lived and art well made.  I’ve learned to be less shy, to laugh more, to make mistakes and keep on playing.  My son has gone on to pursue music as a profession and my daughter can still pluck out a few tunes on the banjo.  (Party tricks do come in handy and one must always be ready to surprise people.)  We are better because of this little school which teaches what some might call a simple folk music.  Which I suppose it is.  But it’s complexity is to measured by the effect it has on the lives it touches.  dancers-learn-their-3s-and-7sMusicians play so that dancers might dance, at least in the Irish tradition.  It was lovely to have such intrepid souls out to dance this day, many mere beginners.

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But soon our caller Éamonn had everyone laughing and trying steps and smiling and dancing.

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With all of the malcontent the recent political happenings has dredged up, I have been thinking a lot about the place of music and artfull-ness, and dancing and laughing in the face of all of it.  I imagine that those who played Irish music over in Ireland during the troubles certainly must have played in spite of, or perhaps because of, difficult times.  And we do too, now, in these difficult times. To be fair, I suppose many voters do not think we are in difficult times with our new leadership choice.  Though I certainly do.

And so, it is more important than ever to dance.  To play our favorite tunes with vim and vigor.  To paint the brightest of pictures.  After all, we are all running along on the hamster-wheel of life.

I hear told that there was a similar dance, also with a band, in the town square of HamsterTown.  One wonders what tunes they danced to that day, and whether their caller could even hold a candle to our Éamonn.  I imagine, he’d have given him a run for his money…

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spin

When it rains it pours, so the old saying goes, and it’s been pouring here.  I am in the midst of what I knew would be a busy, active time and I am just riding the waves as they come.  Last weekend was the Esme Kenney Memorial Benefit Concert.  It was, for lack of a more descriptive or colorful word, amazing.  Musicians Kim Taylor, Over-the-Rhine, Ric Hordinski, The Hiders, Jay Bolotin, and a few Riley School of Irish Music folks combined their talents to create an evening of fundraising, community, memorial and love, the likes of which I have never seen.  Artists from all genres donated items and gift certificates to outfit a spectacular silent auction.  Our committee, working so hard to make this incredible installation a reality, is now helping artist Jessie Henson get all of the pieces in place to get glass blown and steel fabricated to get the work built.  It’s a wild ride and it is giving all of us grieving for Esme a place to put our energies.  Something positive to hang onto and work for in the midst of the upcoming 1 year anniversary and impending criminal trial.  The night was full of magic and tears and special moments.  Jack not only played with Jeni and Simone from Riley School, but was invited by Kim to play a song with her.  I cried.

Meanwhile, the project I am proud to be a part of down at ArtWorks is now underway.  Below is a 3-d model that tina built to indicate all of the various pieces that will be incorporated into this huge relief mural (22 feet wide, 13 feet tall – ginormous!)  We have been handed what seems to be a dream team of teenagers who are our apprentice artists.  They are brilliant and are already working together to put their talents to work on Tina’s design.  Tina and I are working together to formulate further development of the overall design and to get the kids prepared for their in-process presentation to the folks at the Convention Center next week.  I think they will do a great job.

There are parts of this design that will involve painted portraits of historical figures from Cincinnati, while other parts will be made up of mixed media techniques to create more textural areas of interest.  Below are some “bricks” that will comprise a wall area in one part.

This is a rendering of Jennie Davis Porter, known for spearheading educational opportunities for african american children in the 1800’s.  As we explore Cincinnati’s history through this project, I’ll keep you posted and introduce you to our team of artists.  Busy as we will likely be, it’s already proving to be a tremendous amount of fun!

The ArtWorks project is not my only iron in the fire.  I am also continuing my work in the world of keeping a sketchbook.  Tonight is what we hope will be the final home-based pilot workshop for Drawing Down the Vision. We have polished our process enough to take it live to companies who are looking to inject some creativity into their work place.  Workshop participants will arrive to find their supplies wrapped up in cool little pods that I built.  They’ll get some fun pens, a small sketchbook to start collecting ideas in a new way, along with the “Atlas” which will guide them through the various exercises we have developed.  Adam and I are looking forward to a fun evening of drawing and looking at communication and productivity from a different perspective.

Next week I will be the visiting artist at UC’s Clermont campus in their Art Department.  I’ll be lecturing and then providing a workshop for a group of students in a drawing class.  This is such a tremendous opportunity and I am really looking forward to sharing my approach to the documentation of life and work via the sketchbook.  In a few weeks, I am back to where I essentially began to go public with all of this sketchy-ness in the first place, the Art Academy of Cincinnati.  Bookmaker Cody Calhoun and I will be co-teaching the “Make a Book/ Fill a Book” course which essentially combines my class with hers.  This will be new to both of us and we are really excited to get started!  The class is apparently full with a wait list so our students appear to be as excited as we are.

All of this is really extroverted and it’s good exercise for someone who generally likes to keep things fairly quiet.  But shy as I am, I do love people.  And I am currently working with some amazing people and getting the chance to present to lots of others who are interested in what I do.  It’s humbling and fabulous.  And I am grateful for it.

I’ll keep you posted in the weeks to come.

Playing Catch Up

It’s hard to believe sometimes how time flies.  I know that sounds pretty cliche’ but there it is.  20 days have gone by since our country’s miraculous election and things have been rather busy round here at Chez Bogard.  Busy is good.

Yesterday I took a friend of mine to the Cincinnati Art Museum to see Madcap Puppet Theater’s production of The Firebird. This show was done in the style of shadow puppetry using light and flat puppets to create the illusion of space.  What was interesting to me about this particular production was the use of color.  The puppets were created with a heavy duty plastic and painted with the “stained glass” paints that are found at the crafty stores.  The effect was exquisite and magical.  Adults and kids alike at the show were enchanted.  Being a member of the Cincinnati Area Puppetry Guild, I knew some of the performers and got to go backstage after the show to see how it all works.  Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me but here is a shot from my phone taken during the post-show Q&A.

The holidays are officially upon us and they seem to come earlier every year.  Case in point, we had the Riley School of Irish Music‘s 3rd annual Peace and Merriment Concert on Saturday night.  We did it early this year to avoid clashing with too many other Christmas-ey shin-digs coming up and also to coincide with the end of fall quarter at the school.  Students and Instructors alike performed various holiday/ harvest related tunes and the audience seemed to enjoy themselves.  I hid in the back row of the ceili band performance and played my tunes as best I could.  Stage-fright is less and less an issue with me as time rolls on, but I still am not keen on the idea of playing in front of people.  Below is a shot of some of the Riley kids who are not shy about playing for people.  They pretty much rock, those kids!

As Riley School finished up, it occurred to me that a number of things are freeing up precious time for me in the coming weeks.  The Carnegie Center has changed its regular Family Saturday activities from Dec. 13 to Dec. 6  to accommodate a participatory arts day planned for that day.  I won’t be able to make it that day so  I’ll see all of my regular Family Saturday folks again in January!  Meanwhile, this past week was my final class for the semester at the Art Academy.  I am slated to teach the class again in the Spring, Feb 21- March 6. (6 weeks this time!)  I will post details for registration when I have them.  My hope is that I will have some returning students next time who will keep pushing the limits of tending their sketchbooks. Spring will also be a perfect time for taking any interested students slightly farther afield for a day (or 2?) to practice their sketching skills.  I have for some time entertained the idea of leading a travel sketchbook course.  I have a handful of folks who have expressed interest in participating and so I’ve begun to make plans.  I will be sure to post any destination ideas I have here and would love any feedback or requests for fun places to visit and draw.  Anyone up for Madison, Indiana?

So with some extra hours available to me I plan to play in the studio with wax and clay, reacquaint myself with my own neglected sketchbook (update my Daily Dog collection), and perhaps finish a pair of socks I have been knitting for far too long.  I have a new heater in the studio which should help take some of the chill out of the space (thanks to Dave for that suggestion!)

Although I haven’t been too active at the wax table in recent weeks, I have been working on some clay tiles I plan to install as a back splash in our new kitchen.  I am making them in pieces which will eventually come together to create an artistic take on the foot print of the Ohio River in our region (approximately from the Indiana border out to Maysville, Ky, a favorite river town of ours).  Kudos to my kayaker hubby for that brilliant idea.  It seems to be turning out nicely….

Last but certainly not least in today’s post, some wonderful doggie news:  The puppies have graduated out of their kennel and are now sleeping upstairs with us at night!  For some months now they have had the run of the upstairs hallway when we would leave the house.  They just chill out on their beds in Tony’s office and wait for us to come home.  At night however we were still putting them into their kennels to avoid morning chaos.  Last week we decided to try putting them to bed upstairs with us after a long walk to see how they would do.  Amazingly, they did great!  They have learned fairly quickly to just lie down in their beds when we are in ours and that just because we get up to go to the bathroom, doesn’t mean they need to get up too. (Caskie learned this years ago and likes to sleep in Maddie’s room).  It’s working out wonderfully.  During the day, their recent favorite hang out is in the kitchen…. sprawled out on the heated concrete floor!

Days Like This

Yesterday I downloaded my friend Kim Taylor‘s latest EP, The Greatest Story.  It’s 5 songs are soulful and playful and tearful and wonderful.  Seems like the perfect music for this amazing season.  Check out her website and get yourself a copy of her work.  I think you’ll love it.

Meanwhile my own work is plugging right along.  I have been teaching my Keeping a Journal Sketchbook class at the Art Academy in recent weeks and it is going extremely well.  This being the second time I have presented this particular class, I am more relaxed and more creative in my approach to teaching.  I think this may be rubbing off on to the students.  They are so enthusiastic that a few of them want to keep the class going another couple of sessions.  So the folks at the Art Academy have been gracious enough to let us officially extend the class for those who are able to keep meeting.

As I present this class to more and more students, it’s becoming clear to me that there is more to the process of keeping an artful  life-chronicle than first meets the eye.  We do more in this class than simply open our books to write, draw and glue stuff down.  As happened in my spring class, friendships are being forged.  Students are opening up to sides of their own creativity they never knew existed.  They are commiting, or re-commiting, to making an artful way of life a priority.  Surrounded by their enthusiasm and joyful art-making, my own making has received a shot in the arm.  Work begets work.  I know this, but it still amazes me when I see it and feel the phenomenon in action.

One of my former students, and now friend, introduced me to the work and writing of Jennifer Louden, the Comfort Queen.  Her blog is delightful.  Reading it I get the sense that I have sat down with a fellow artist to tackle the Fear-of-The-Unknown in our art process.  I get the sense that she feels the same fear in her work everyday and simply does what we all must do; show up, feel the fear, and do it anyway.  I encourage anyone needing an art nudge to check out her website.

One of the often discussed themes in my class at the Art Academy, as well as among my fellow artists and myself, is that of how to get started. The ol’ zero to 60 phenomenon.  Most of us have other jobs (many cases multiple!), families who rely on us, households to run, lives to lead.  Rare is the artist who wakes up and makes art, day in and day out without fail.  Frankly, I don’t know anyone like that.  How does one find the time, energy and inspiration to work on art at the end of a jam packed day or week?  How do we get the art motor running anyway?  I have my own answers to these questions and am always interested in hearing how other creatives get out of their own way.

Along with my ever present sketchbook and the act of walking my dogs, I have recently been writing letters and post cards to people I know will love to receive them.  I get out the collagey materials and glue weird images to envelopes.  I make little sketches and add them into letters.  Sometimes I use a typewriter…. yep, a real old fashioned one that hiccups its way around the words giving the whole thing a whisical quality that I love. I slip in a little glitter now and then.  None of this takes a terribly long time and the benefits are far reaching.  The art supplies are coaxed out of stagnancy and ideas begin flowing.  It’s a snowball sort of effect and I am rolling with it right now.  This simple act of doing something remotely artful is the back door to the more “serious” work that may or may not be around the corner. The other day I had a fire going in the studio fire place, the wax table was on and I was mixing new colors, sticky things were drying on postcards and in my sketchbook.  It all felt a bit like a complicated dance but there I was, just dancing.

Today my creativity finds itself mostly out in the kitchen where I am busy readying Chez Bogard for the annual Riley School of Irish Music Halloween Party.  Chili, cider, mad amounts of chocolate chip cookies are in the works.  I still need to get my new vampire teeth fitted.  I shall be a Vampire, to suck the very marrow out of life…. mwa ha ha.  But I digress….

Have a safe, happy, fun, CREATIVE Halloween.

Here’s the latest waxy work…

cookie cutter days

My Grandma Kelley loved fall.  She used to say that on cool, crisp fall days, it was like the trees were cut out of the sky with a cookie cutter.  Everything in full relief.  In recent weeks we have been fortunate to have one of the most beautiful fall seasons I can remember.  The only downside to all this pretty weather is that we desperately could use some rain.  I’m sure it will come in time….

With all this pretty weather has come the usual busy-ness that comes with autumn.  A couple of weeks ago the Fam and I went to Rabbit Hash Kentucky for some local riverside music and a chance to meet their mayoral candidates.

Rabbit Hash is a tiny, charming, historic town that has literally gone to the dogs.  There are 16 candidates for mayor, only 2 of whom are not dogs (the other 2 are a cat and a miniature donkey).  Here’s a couple of pages from my sketchbook….

Anyone can vote in Rabbit Hash for only a dollar a vote.  And, you can vote as much as you want, for as many candidates as you’d like.  All proceeds go to the Rabbit Hash Historical Society.  We felt a million miles away from the more serious political races bombarding us from every direction in the real world just across the river.  It was a great escape.  Though even this race has its political paraphenalia for avid collectors to gather…

With fall inevitably comes the start of school.  My kids are back at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, and loving the balance their school provides between academics and the arts.  This is not just an art school.  Instead, this place puts the same emphasis throughout the school day on the arts as it does on things like chemistry, history, and language arts classes.  After school, kids at SCPA juggle their at times lofty academic load with rehearsals for plays, concerts and other art work.  We have, to say the least, been busy juggling it all.

I am again teaching down at the Carnegie Center at Family Saturdays, each second Saturday of the month.  This is a fun opportunity for families to make art together.  Each month there is a different theme to work with and this month we made masks.  Sadly, I forgot my camera that day.  But as usual, the kids (and parents!) came up with some cool stuff to take home!

The Carnegie is not the only place I teach.  I am delighted to be back at the Art Academy of Cincinnati this fall again offering my class Starting (and Keeping) and Journal Sketchbook.  I have a small class this time of only 5 people, but after only one class together, I can tell they are a special bunch.  This past Thursday we met for our first session and worked on “messing up” some brand new journals with paint, glue and some powerful quotes that will remind these students that no one else can make a journal like they can.  They are already seeing the differences in their individual styles.  Some may not have even thought of themselves as having an artistic style of their own.  I am excited to continue working with them in their books with collage, drawing, watercolors and writing and I hope to inspire them to continue working in their books long after our 4 week class has ended. My own sketch book has been pretty lonely lately and I have renewed inspiration, thanks to my students, to get drawing again!

Meanwhile, things have been pretty busy in the music world here as well.  Friday night Cherish the Ladies came to Dayton, Ohio, along with some other Irish Music talents like Bohola, Maura O’Connell and Dermot Henry.  The concert was amazing, as expected, and the following day, the Ladies came down to the Riley School to offer workshops in everything from singing to fiddle to flute/whistle, accordion, mandolin…. well the usual!  Cherish the Ladies is led by flute and whistle player extraordinaire, Joanie Madden.  I have had classes with her before at Augusta and it was such a treat to see her again and learn a few new tunes on flute and whistle.  Amazingly, Joanie remembered me as “the one who was drawing all the time”.  By the end of the day, after lessons from not only Joanie, but my beloved weekly instructor John Skelton as well, my head was nearly to bursting with tunes.  It was a good day.

So here it is, a breathtakingly beautiful fall Sunday.  I am off to head out to enjoy it.  I am outside more than in here on the computer lately, and that just feels right.  But as usual… I’ll continue to keep you posted, just maybe not as often!

GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY!!!!!

Meet Chip

This is Chip.  He is a baby squirrel that fell from a tall tree in the neighbor’s yard of my friends the Copley/Boegli family.  Perhaps you’ll remember the Copley name from name from previous blogs.... Dave Copley is my beloved flute maker extraordinaire.  He and his family are an integral part of the Riley School family as his wife, Marlene Boegli, not only makes all the silver hardware for Copley-Boegli flutes, but she cooks delicious homemade food for the Riley clan every week.  I went over to their farmy-like place for a visit today to see what creatures are afoot there recently.  Marlene is not only a brilliant silver-smith and a great cook, but she is also one of those animal whisperer types to whom many homeless, hapless fourlegged creatures find their way.  Chip, at 5 weeks old, is one of them.

Just yesterday he opened his eyes and is beginning to wander around a bit, looking a little like a little drunkard.  Marlene explained that since squirrels are so high up in the wild, they take their time growing and gaining weight and stay quite still to avoid falls like the one Chip got himself into.  Despite his plunge, he is doing well, putting on some chunkiness with Marlene’s magical mixture of kitten formula, egg yolk and cream (or some such concoction).

We talked about what good it does to even save a baby squirrel.  There are surely enough to go around here in Cincinnati.  But there is something precious about a baby anything and Marlene knows her wild animals.  I am guessing that Chip will get nursed into adulthood by the Copley-Boegli’s to make it thru the winter, then hit the wild side of life outdoors in the spring, always knowing where to come home to for nourishment and love.  I figure Marlene will get her animal talents certified sometime soon and become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator so she can take in more than just the odd squirrel…. or duck….

This india runner duck was hit by a car near their house and is on the mend.  A new farm home awaits him when he is ready.  The never ending stream of critters at the Copley-Boegli’s is a joy to behold.  I have tons of pictures from which to sketch.  Sometimes animals just wiggle too much to catch them real time.  I have found that with my own pack-o-pups!

Happy St. Pat’s

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This weekend is a busy one for those in the Irish Music business. The Riley School kids performed yesterday at the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Celtic Lands Festival, and will do so again today. Many of the older kids, who generally take charge in these sorts of venues, were off playing their own professional gigs. This left the leadership position to my son Jack and his fiddling friend Robert. They carried themselves with grace and poise, developed a set list that enabled even the newest beginners to play, and answered questions from the audience after the performance. They represented themselves, and the Riley School like true professionals. I couldn’t help feeling a little bit proud. Meanwhile, advanced beginners like myself get to just hang out and session with other musicians at our display table as we show off what we do at the Riley School and why we love it. It’s like practice, only more public. The school as a whole will perform today at 1:45. I think this may be the first year I am not feeling any trepidation about going up on stage. Not that I feel so confident about my playing, I think it’s all the puppeteering I have been doing.

Speaking of puppets, I took a few hours away from the St. Pat’s music scene to attend Larry Smith Day. This was a commemoration event in honor of local puppet pioneer, childhood hero and broadcasting legend, Larry Smith. I did not spend my early childhood here but those who did remember Larry and his puppet friends with great fondness as a part of their after school television routine.

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The crowd was treated to shows from puppet greats Kevin Frisch and Wayne Martin, both of whom consider Larry a mentor. Cincinnati has a rich puppet history that continues to develop today through the efforts of the Cincinnati Area Puppetry Guild, of which Larry Smith was the founder and I personally am proud to be a member.

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Above is Kevin operating a marionette who is operating his own marionette. A good time was had by the entire “gang”.

My artist friend Dan Carlson sent me a scan of some recent dog sketches he has been working on. He considers them “just sketches” but to me they are lovely finished drawings that are full of personality and life. Dan’s drawings are often studies for paintings and illustrations he is working on or even potential 3-d figures. I am excited to see what he does with these little guys!

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My own dogs are lucky to get their daily walk in past weeks with my life in the world of my “real job”. I haven’t had as much time as I’d like recently to sit and draw. I am also not feeling like the best house-mom either. But I think the notion of feast or famine is a common theme in the life of an artist. The trick is maintaining some semblance of balance both in the busy times and later, when things inevitably stagnate a bit. Today I am off to soak up (and maybe play) some more Irish Music. The muddy paw prints on the floor and the ever looming dust bunnies in my house will have to wait a while longer. I’ll have the sketchbook with me as always if I ever sit still long enough to draw in it!