Biography
The story of my life really is a long and winding one. My first instrument was the accordion. I wanted to play the trumpet, but the nuns told me “ we don’t have one of those - you’re playing the accordion.” That didn’t last long, and I began private lessons on the organ because my father gave up his attempt at it, and we DID have one of those. By age nine I was playing in a rock band with two friends from school, and we actually had some paying events such as Boy Scout meetings. I kept at it through high school and college where I became a music major at Glassboro State in New Jersey. At one point I was hired to be in act with an Elvis impersonator from Las Vegas which was produced by the comedian Rodney Dangerfield. The idea was to stage this show at the new Resorts International casino in Atlantic City NJ but it never materialized. By the late 70’s I had discovered traditional Irish music and the mold was set.
I seemed to drif through many jobs: working in factories making office partitions,teaching music in Vermont, working as a houseparent for severely emotionally disturbed kids. I sold real estate…office supplies..worked inwoodworking shops. I had tried the corporate world, spending some time as a customer service rep. in NYC. I worked on the docks in NJ unloading fishing boats and even signed on scallop boats and went to sea for a brief time. All the while my music was ever present. When I came to Pennsylvania, I would play at the Friday night ceili dances at Philly’s Commodore Barry Irish Center, where I met some remarkable Irish musicians. People like Eddie Cahill, Eugen O’Donnell, Charlie Gaffnee and Kevin McGillian. Eventually I opened my own business making antique reproduction furniture, and in 1990 I was listed in Early American Life magazine’s Directory of American Craftsmen. I was making around $1.30 an hour. Ouch. My wife Marianne saw my total frustration and said “do want you WANT to do.. it will work out” (we were married in 1984). After spending two years restoring our 1740 log house in Berks County PA. I finally started Wireharp Productions having learned to play the legendary wirestrung harp of Ireland which I had made, along with a small harpsichord, and started playing for events at historic sites and mueums. I began a close friendship with the late piper Tomas Standeven, who instilled in me an even deeper appreciation of Gaelic language, culture and traditions. I incorporated what I learned into presentations of both early American music and that of Ireland and the British Isles and in the ensuing years have been honored to perform at some of the most historic places in America. For the past few years I have been lucky enough to perform at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, where I even got to play the harp in the central passage in the mansion, near to the key to the Bastille. A remarkable experience to say the least. Recently I began to add historical entertainments to my performances: the jig puppets and rolleaux trnasparent (a scrolling story in a box. For more info on this amazing forgotten art form go to http://www.thecrankiefactory.com). I am up to nine instruments and these days I am fairly obsessed with the uilleann pipes. For me, being a musician is a non-stop learning experience. That is what makes it both challenging and fun! In 2016, I lost my beloved wife Marianne Scullin to complications from Lyme Disease. She suffered for years from this horrible disease, and I know I will never recover from her loss. She made me a better man in every way imaginable. If you or any family is bitten by a tick please take it seriously. Lack of understanding and misdiagnosis can have devasting effects on you life. It certainly did to ours. For more information see http://www.lymenet.org