My son Dan plays Irish accordion. Which is funny, because Jeanette and I aren’t Irish, and we’re not musicians either.
Dan figured out how to play the squeezebox on his own, starting when we gave him a toy accordion at age four. He played it and played it until it broke. He listened over and over to a CD called “The Big Squeeze” while reading Hardy Boys books.
So we did what every sensible parent should do…we kept him up late in pubs.
At age seven he got to meet some Irish squeezebox heroes—Father Charlie Coen, Billy McComiskey, and John Whelan. They became musical mentors and set him on the right path. He bought a real accordion with his lawn mowing money. I did this life portrait of him when he was 11. Since then he won the North American Irish accordion championship six times.
Now he’s twice that age, 22 years old. Yesterday he graduated from Harvard College with a concentration in music.
The commencement ceremony was full of pomp and pageantry. It was funny to see all the alumni, with their bow ties and panama hats.
What’s next for Dan? Well, he collects accordion jokes. One of his favorites is: “What’s the definition of an optimist?” “An accordion player with a business card.”
This summer he will travel throughout Europe as a writer-reporter for the Let’s Go travel guide book company. He did this the previous two summers in Thailand and Greece.
For the remainder of 2009-2010 he’ll be on a fellowship in Ireland, where he’ll learn more about the music tradition from the legendary players there. He is grateful to the Shaw and Payne Foundations for providing the fellowship opportunities.
Within the last month he has played for the president of Ireland and for the passersby on the sidewalks of Cambridge (for which he needed a busker’s license.) Congratulations, Dan, and may you always bring the gift of music to confirm the joys and to lighten the sorrows of all sorts of people.
Dan's new travel blog "Have Accordion Will Travel" link.
Dan's website: dangurney.net.
Hear him playing at his MySpace music page.
His band is called "The Hay Brigade," and they were interviewed on PRI's The World.
Listen to the Hay Brigade at their MySpace page.
Read his amazing travel blog posts about the Monk from Sukhothai. and The Hotel of the One-Eyed Cats