MIAMI, Okla. —
Steeped in the musical tradition of the Emerald Isle, Dearbhail Finnegan and her husband, Robin Slater, have traveled the world performing for the likes of concertgoers and presidents with their traditional Irish sound.
But for six weeks each winter, the Irish natives travel to the United States to take part in a traveling education program known as Cultural Kaleidoscope. Through this program, different countries and cultures are presented to young students, giving a firsthand account on the traditions and history of the selected countries. Thanks to the Miami Arts and Humanities Council, the couple included a stop in Miami.
Through five presentations Thursday and today, Finnegan and Slater will reach every elementary student in the Miami School District with their blend of live music, photography and education about Ireland.
“This is a small part of what we do because we tour so much, but it is a great way to share our real culture with the kids we reach,” Finnegan said. “Many of these kids have a rough idea of where Ireland might be, but they don’t know what we are about. These stops help us get away from Irish stereotypes and show them our tradition and what real life is like at our home.”
During the hourlong presentation, the couple presented a primer of the Gaelic language, a pictorial tour through the cities and countryside of Ireland, and a fast lesson on the bodhran, a traditional Irish drum. Nichols Elementary fourth-grader Ari Landers joined Slater on stage for a demonstration on the drum.
“It isn’t what you would think a drum would be like to play,” Ari said. “We’ve learned in school about different things like their drums, but seeing it up close and playing it was much cooler than just hearing it.”
Bringing the duo to Miami was something on which council secretary Tammy Willcox has worked for more than a year. Willcox first met the couple at a performance at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., and she has stayed in touch with them since then.
“When I met them, I had them in mind for this kind of program for our schools,” Willcox said. “I knew they could make a real connection with our children. They only do this tour for about six weeks a year, so when the opportunity presented itself last year, we jumped on it. It was a long project to organize, but this is worth it. ”
The presentations are part of a planned annual dedication to the efforts of former Miami kindergarten teacher Nancy Gee. Willcox said she would like to see a similar presentations each year that will reach out to Miami students.
“Nancy has always been dedicated to the arts and education for our area children,” Willcox said. “We are going to start this kind of presentation as an annual tradition for our students.”
DEARBHAIL FINNEGAN AND ROBIN SLATER will perform a free public concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the recital hall in Commons Hall at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami.