String Academy sponsors summer Celtic tour

Jigs, reels, ballads and airs; drums, drones, dance and song. String and guitar players throughout the area will be taking a musical tour through Ireland, Scotland, Brittany and Wales as they explore traditional and modern Celtic music in a summer-long class sponsored by Fort Hays State University's Western Kansas String Academy.

Weekly sessions of the tour will be conducted on Tuesday mornings beginning June 3. Dates are June 3, 10, 17, 24; July 1, 8, 15; and Aug. 5 and Aug. 12.

Open to guitar, mandolin, violin, viola, cello and bass players of all ages, and most abilities, the class combines weekly sessions to learn Celtic music with the unique opportunity of studying and playing alongside a performing artist and professional band that specialize in the Celtic-Irish style.

Marianne Payette Carter, a folk musician from Lawrence, and her Celtic band, Rowan, will assist with the academy’s summer program.

"We been playing alternative strings music for several summers now," said Cathy Drabkin, executive director of WKSA, "but this is the first time we'll get to work alongside professional musicians." Carter will be arranging some of the music that students learn during their weekly rehearsals and then will lead a workshop for the students on July 29, focusing on giving the tunes an authentic Celtic style.

Carter has traveled extensively to such lands as Bali, Newfoundland, Morocco, Ireland, North Africa and India, giving her music unique perspective and a lively world beat. As a solo artist, she performs as a singer and songwriter and as "Matty Striker" at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. Recently, through a research grant and the "Paretsky Award for Creativity" from the University of Kansas, Carter was able to study the rich musical traditions of Brittany, the Celtic region of France.

Carter is a past winner of the Kansas State Fiddling and Picking Championship's vocal division and the Kaw Valley Songwriters competition. She has released two solo CDs of Celtic music and performs fiddle, guitar, bodhran (Irish drum) and vocals with Rowan as well as teaching at Prairie Music, her studio in Lawrence.

Students who participate in the weekly rehearsals and workshop then have the opportunity to perform on stage with Rowan on Aug. 22, when Carter and fellow band members Doug Harvey (cittern, guitar, whistle and vocals) and Lance Zed (fiddle, concertina and vocals) perform at the Fox Theater as part of the Hays Arts Council's Gallery Walk.

"Rowan is recognized regionally as an adventurous trio, talented, versatile and highly entertaining," said Drabkin. "The culminating concert promises to be a fun activity for our students and a great musical offering for the whole community."

Registration for Celtic Tour (due May 20) is open to any bowed or plucked string player of any age throughout the region. Financial assistance is available for qualified families. Funding for the program is provided, in part, by the Kansas Arts Commission, Yamaha Strings, KC Strings, Midwest Music Inc. and Tom’s Music House. For a brochure or more information, contact Cathy Drabkin at (785) 628-5363 or

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Kent Steward, Director   |  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |