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School of Music

Ímar Folk Band Praises BYU Folk Ensembles in BRAVO! Masterclass

Before Taking the Stage, Ímar Band Members Met with BYU Folk Ensemble Students, Listening and Giving Feedback on Their Music

Ímar Performs for Students in Their Folk Music Masterclass. Photo by Emma Olson, CFAC External Relations.

Folk music aficionados got a special treat when Ímar, a Glasgow-based Irish traditional music band, performed on the BYU stage. Along with their evening performance as part of the Bravo! Performing Arts Series, the five members of Ímar spent an hour with students in the BYU Celtic Ensemble and Mountain Strings, giving feedback and answering questions.

The five-piece group plays instruments that are unique to or made famous by Irish traditional music. As the band introduced themselves, they also introduced and explained their instruments—both the instrument history and how they’re played.

Using these unique instruments, the band played a couple of tunes for the students. “It’s so valuable for the students to actually see groups like this in action,” said Mark Geslison, director of the attending student folk music ensembles. “A lot of what we wanted to do here today was to talk about what they do and how to achieve that.”

Ryan Murphy of Ímar Shows His Instrument to Students. Photo by Emma Olson, CFAC External Relations.

Members of Ímar answered student questions about the techniques with which they play and how they make decisions as a group. Kate Reich, a senior studying violin performance, asked about their process of learning how to play folk music. Tomás Callister, who plays the fiddle for the band, answered: “You have to learn music like this by listening to it. You can’t learn it from sheet music. Ultimately, it’s about how you want to play the music.”

As a classically trained violinist, Reich only began playing folk music when she joined the Celtic Ensemble three years ago. “I just listen to a ton of music and try to copy what I’m hearing,” Reich said. “It’s completely different from anything I do in the classical realm because this kind of music is so based on oral tradition. It’s different but it’s amazing.”

Both student ensembles had the opportunity to play and receive feedback from Ímar. After watching Mountain Strings, the band members noted they were impressed with the passion and excitement that permeated the group.

Many performers who come for the BRAVO! Professional Performing Arts Series participate in masterclasses for students before their evening performances. For students and faculty, these experiential learning opportunities are a priceless way to learn from industry professionals. “We want to see these people in action,” Geslison said. “Not just from videos or audio files. I want students to learn what the professionals do, to build their platform and base on which to stand, and then go forward from there.”