Friday, June 5, 2009

Dan’s Squeezebox

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.
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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

22 comments:

dani jones said...

Congrats to your son! And oh wow... I'm listening to him play on his myspace just now and he's just wonderful! I wish him all the best of luck.

Steve said...

Wonderful! When the topic of music in the studio came up a while back, I could have mentioned that John Whelan and Seamus Egan (Solas) are constants. Now I've bookmarked Dan's sites. Thanks for sharing this look into the life of your family. Dan has a bright future rolling out before him.

Andrew Wales said...

Amazing story and drawings. You must be so proud!

Mary Bullock said...

What a proud Papa you are! Congratulations to you and your son. As the Irish saying goes . . ."May God hold you in the palm of His hand . . "

Ginger*:) said...

Congratulations Dan and family!

Quite an accomplishment. Last night I watched a Squeeze Box being made. Fascinating... there is a lot of stuff inside that box!

jaylake said...

That's awesome. Very good for Dan, and for you guys as his parents. I love how the creative urge finds its own impulse.

Pete said...

I had an Uncle who played the accordian. He lugged through Europe and to the Philipines as a soldier in WWII and I still have it. Benny's flop house band was apparently popular with the troops. I never got the music gene and musicians are like magicians to me! Best wishes to Dan!

Erik Bongers said...

Congratulations to Dan!
Well, the fact he didn't go for drawing but for music kind of proves that it's not the talent you inherit but the creative drive and it will seed and grow in which ever way it wants to.

TomHart said...

James -

As a proud parent myself, I smiled with deep understanding as I read your post. Thanks so much for sharing. Congratulations to Dan and to you all! As a friend of mine once remarked, every stage of our kids' lives are equally wonderful - whether it's the first step of the toddler, or the first step with the college degree in hand.

I'm sure that Dan's as proud of you and his Mom as you both are of him.

craigstephens said...

Congratulations to your whole family! It's wonderful to see a kid become interested in something and then follow up on it with enduring passion. Fantastic things are possible!

i, me said...

Congrats! and best wishes to your son. Its a wonderful time in life..

Larry said...

Best of luck to you Dan...

Here's one I like: What's the difference between an accordion and a trampoline?
You take your shoes off before you jump up and down on a trampoline.

Congratulations to you James and your wife Jeanette for raising such a fine young man.

Scott Daly said...

Congratulations to you and your son! Both are quite an achievement and you must be very proud.

cegebe said...

Congratulations to your son! I am enjoying that wonderful music of his on Myspace now.

I still have an old, worn and battered copy of Let's Go Europe that has been my faithful companion on several trips around this chunk of land. If he needs a few tips about Denmark, just let me know ;-)

Jean Spitzer said...

Mazel tov to your son and his parents!

Jeremy Elder said...

That's great! I love seeing people fulfill their passions.

Shawn Escott said...

I checked out his website, he is REALLY good! Congratulations to him! It's inspiring and touching to see how you encouraged him to do what he loved. You are a good dad! And your drawings have captured the past and memories that mean so much.

Andy Mac said...

Any chance he will be playing in Scotland?

Samizdat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Lawson said...

Your pride shines through this lovely article. You both seem to have done a wonderful job raising a fine young man.
Congratulations to you all!

bajel said...

that's the best blog entry ever. you are an awesome dad. also thanks for sharing all of your knowledge. reading your blog is like going back to art school without all the money, and walking. so thanks again!

Frank P. Ordaz said...

James,

What a tender and proud moment for you and your whole family! Thankyou for sharing this short tribute as I sense we will be hearing much more from your gifted son who will lighten the weary traveler with a tune . I will check out his MySpace. Does he do a rendition of "Purple Haze" accordian style?

As I remember , you have 2 of the best behaved boys I have seen in a long time! Blessings to you and yours Jim...May God protect him as he travels overseas....