Monday, August 04, 2014

Studio2stage 2014

Have you ever seen your child in their element...where they are using the skills they've acquired, demonstrating skills you had no idea they had acquired, learning new skills and are utterly and completely happy doing the work necessary even if it is more than they've ever worked before?

The past ten days I've watched Haley working the hardest she's ever worked in her life while being the happiest I've ever seen her!

A number of months ago, Haley's fiddle teacher, Brian Conway, sent me a link to a website ( asking for young Irish dancers and musicians to audition for their camp with the goal of putting together a full scale Irish dance show in 9 days while teaching the young people about the different aspects of life as touring Irish performers with a dance show.

Brian was aware they were looking for ages 15 and up but suggested I send an email to see if they would make an exception for Haley. I sent the email and Jim Murrihy suggested she send in an audition and they would decide from there. I received an email a few weeks later saying Haley was the 1st musician selected but because of her age they would require her to stay off campus (something I had suggested when I originally emailed him). We were very lucky to have friends, Mike and Norine, who offered us a place to stay only a few minutes drive from the university.

About a month ago, we received a number of files via Dropbox with scores, music, arrangements, etc…of all the newly composed material Haley had to learn. Initially, I was a little worried it might be too much for her with all her other obligations at the time (classical repertoire/technique, Fleadh tunes, Irish lesson music, new and old music for the multiple gigs she had with various other musicians in that months' time, etc…). I learned about that time that Haley was the only "young" melody player accepted for the camp so was also worried she might be overwhelmed having to learn and rehearse all the music for the entire two hour show. They were originally looking for 20 musicians but ended up only choosing four then using the music director, Anthony, on piano and music assistant, Sully, on accordion.

She and I looked at all the music, printed out the scores, listened to the midi's then came up with a plan for her to learn a new tune every couple days while keeping those she had previously learned practiced. Once she had all the tunes down, she began practicing them with the arrangement midi's so she'd have them up to tempo and play them the correct number of repetitions plus know where her melody fit in with the background music. By the first day of camp, she had the music in her head and under her fingers.

(I am hoping Haley posts a blog on this experience because I did a lot of driving back and forth to drop her off and pick her up but did not spend much time at camp with her.)

On Saturday morning, we arrived at the college, got her registered, then took a tour. She met all the people in charge and the other musicians then I left her to rehearse for the rest of the day. When I went back to pick her up, she was so excited. She loved the music director and liked all the other musicians plus had met a number of the dancers. She enjoyed the rehearsals and the music director was thrilled with her hard work and talent.

The Studio2stage young musicians.
Sunday, I dropped her off early then picked her up around 5pm so we could go see Altan in a concert about an hour north in NY. We had a nice supper with Andy, Mike, and Cindy...with an absolutely fabulous dessert while we watched the concert. The concert was fabulous!

During the intermission Haley went up to talk to Mairead, the singer/fiddle player who we'd met a couple years ago in OH. I wasn't sure Mairead would remember her but she did and after the show, Mairead came out to ask Haley to play a couple tunes for the other band members. Haley had a blast fiddling for them (and whoever else came into the room) on Mairead's fiddle!

On Monday, the assistant music director/accordion player, Sully, was to arrive around 3pm so the band rehearsed all morning then I took Haley shopping to look for a second costume because those they had brought were too large for her. We did not have any luck. I took her back to the college in the late afternoon and the now complete band rehearsed until about 9pm. Tuesday was a little shorter day. I made a run toward home where I met Newt for a nice "mother/son lunch" and he brought me some of Haley's shoes and dresses then I stopped at a couple boutiques near home to get some dresses to try as costumes before going back to pick up Haley. The production staff was very excited because the musicians had all the music learned and ready to go. We went through costume possibilities for Haley, picked something, and she was interviewed for the studio2stage musicians' video blog.

Haley trying out a different instrument.
Band rehearsal

Wednesday was the first run-through of the entire show with musicians and dancers. From now on, the musicians would rehearse on their riser on the stage and the dancers would be moved from their rehearsal building onto the stage as well. It was a very long day. Haley was there for 12 hours with short breaks for lunch and supper. I only saw the very end of rehearsals when I went to pick her up but everyone was excited it went so well and they were a few days ahead of schedule. You can just see the top of Haley's head and her eyes in the group selfie they took afterward.

S2S group selfie!
Thursday morning, we arrived early so they could film the "studio" part of their project for Friday. Afterward, Haley went off to rehearsals. In the evening, they ran their first dress rehearsal. It was another long day but after all the rehearsing there was a Hawaiian Luau for everyone complete with food, costumes, and games. I picked Haley up really late, around 10:30pm. She was so excited about everything she'd done all day.
On Friday, the entire group went by train into NYC for a "Mission to Manhattan." I went along as a chaperone and was able to observe the performers interacting with each other. What a great group of young people! We rode the train into the city then walked to Bryant Park for the first part of the mission. They performed a number together, musicians and dancers in the park. Afterward the dancers were split into three different groups. One group, our group, went to Times Square to perform a number for the camera, another group went to Union Square, and the third group to Washington Park.

Haley and Sully playing for the dancers.
The Times Square crew.
Heading back to Kean University after the mission.
The groups all arrived back to the college at different times and our group was back first so they had some down time waiting for the others. After supper it was more rehearsal time until about 10pm.

Saturday was probably the longest day. Music rehearsals and dress rehearsals all day long with short breaks between. I went to get Haley at 10pm but we didn't get out of there until almost eleven. Everyone was very excited about the upcoming show the following day. Sunday I didn't see Haley all day. I dropped her off in the morning for rehearsals and the rest of her day was filled with hanging out with her new friends, getting made up and dressed, and heading over to the show. 

We arrived early for the show and thank goodness we did! It was packed in the lobby of the theater! They had video with each performer's face running over and over with music. The show was fabulous! I was amazed by what they were all able to accomplish in only nine days!  I had seen a few of the dances each night I went to pick up Haley but I was blown away...everyone in costume performing their best with showmanship and smiles all around! 

Haley was absolutely beautiful. She walked the stage making cute faces and bouncing/tapping to the music during her solo. It brought tears to my eyes…my baby out there "owning the stage." She fiddled for the majority of the show (with an occasional break during a song or part of a dance) and she didn't miss a beat, kept the melody going, when Sully had mic difficulties and had to step off stage for a short time. (The first three photos below were taken by Matt Ferrara Photography…awesome!)

Here are a few pics of Haley with her fellow staff members after the show. She was so excited with the performance but at the same time sad to leave her friends. There were "good-byes" and hugs all around, pictures taken, contact information exchanged, and check-out to do before we left. Haley stayed awake (on adrenaline, I think) talking and replaying her experiences to me the entire 2 hours home. I cannot even put into words how much fun she had…she never complained about having to play for so many hours each day or said she was tired. Every morning, she woke up full of energy and excited to have another day. I am so grateful to the staff for taking a chance on her and giving her this opportunity.

She now wants to be a performer in a show someday at least for a little while. She enjoyed the camaraderie and cooperation involved in putting together a show and seeing the results.

We are glad to be home…something we have not been much this month. Our next adventure begins in a little over a week when we head to Ireland. Haley is hoping to see a couple of her Irish friends, especially Sully, at the All Ireland in a couple weeks!

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