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Musical heir to the O’Shea Irish Dance throne

January 30, 2018

The bright, colorful stage lights turn on, focusing toward a young girl standing at the back of the stage. The man behind the piano begins the introduction, stumbles, but continues playing. The girl begins to sing in her lovely mezzo-soprano as the other musicians join in behind her. They continue to play but it is obvious the musicians are struggling, the piano stops and the tune comes to a crashing halt.

The only girl in a band of 6 men, Adrienne O’Shea is used to being overlooked. They don’t mean to ignore her. They all care about her and have known her for a very long time, especially her father Cormac O’Se who plays the accordion in the band, but it’s easy to forget who is really in charge of the tune. Not the musicians, but the soloist.

“This would be easier to play this in D,” says one of the musicians to the band, ignoring Adrienne still standing center stage. The other musicians begin to chime in with agreement. Adrienne clears her throat and turns to face them. Steeling herself for possible pushback, she straightens her shoulders. “It’s much easier for me to sing this in E. This is my song, I’m the soloist, and this is where my range is.” There is a pause. The musicians begin to nod and the tune starts up, once again, in the key of E.

“That frustration of trying to get them to listen to what I’m saying has prepared me, I think, for just dealing with a lot of people in life especially as a musician,” Adrienne said.

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Becoming a professional Irish musician

At just 16 years old, Adrienne O’Shea is already working towards her dream of becoming a professional Irish musician. She plays the wooden flute, tin whistle and piano, and is also an extremely talented singer. Adrienne is in a few ensembles through The Center For Irish Music in St. Paul and she has also been in a band in several professional Irish dance shows such as “The Celtic Holiday Hooley” and “Kickin’ It Irish”.

“It’s helped me meet a ton of people that like even though we live on different parts of the globe we’re always gonna end up running into each other or meeting each other or playing with each other and I think that’s gonna build such a great community for me as I try and do this in the real world,” Adrienne said.

Adrienne has competed in both music and dance competitions around the globe, which has awarded her lots of friendships and connections which will prove beneficial in the future as she builds her blossoming career as an Irish musician.

“Having my dad being a musician too and helping me makes those connections and meet people has prepared me for this disaster of an undertaking” said Adrienne with a laugh.

Adrienne’s father, Cormac O’se, is a world renouned accordion player. He travels worldwide to play at Irish dance competitions and sometimes brings Adrienne with him which has given her the opportunity to make beneficial connections.

“Most of his [Cormac’s] music is really intertwined with the dancing because he plays for dance competitions and stuff. His music has not been like performance based, its all been surrounding the dancing which I think is really cool but I think I want there to be a certain separation for me. I want to be a dance teacher when I need to be a teacher and run my school but also I want to be able to go and tour for a couple weeks and play independently once and a while but then combine music and dance when I need to,” Adrienne said.

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Life as the dance teacher’s daughter

Adrienne is the eldest daughter of Cormac (O’se) and Natalie O’Shea, directors of O’Shea Irish Dance at the Celtic Junction in St. Paul. Adrienne is a dancer at the school and plans to take over her parents dance school someday. She is currently working toward becoming a TCRG or an official Irish Step Dancing teacher.

“It [her parents being dance teachers] has given me countless opportunities. Like I’ve never had to pay for classes or anything and things are always at my fingertips, which I think is amazing and it has given me this wonderful platform and it continues too. Honestly, I can’t even process how lucky I was to have that kind of family and that kind of base,” Adrienne said.

However, life as the dance teachers daughter is not easy.

People always, always watch you, especially being the daughter of two dance teachers. And your last name carries so much weight, so that weight is all on your shoulders, and sometimes it is so difficult to deal with.”

— Adrienne O'Shea

“People always, always watch you, especially being the daughter of two dance teachers. And your last name carries so much weight, so that weight is all on your shoulders, and sometimes it is so difficult to deal with,” Adrienne said.

That kind of pressure can be extremely stressful and uncomfortable at times. However, Adrienne handles the pressure on her strong shoulders with grace and poise. She never holds back a comforting smile and is quick to come up with solutions if there is conflict in a group.

“I see why it’s really important in becoming a dance teacher to take all of the grades  exams because it really tests your proficiency and your ability and your knowledge of the basics because that’s the foundation for everything, even though they’re going to be really hard and I’m not going to want to do them sometimes,” Adrienne said with a laugh.

In order for her to run her parents dance school someday, she has to complete what are called the “grades” competitions. The first three grades competitions test the basics of Irish Dance but get progressively more difficult until the final competition, number 12. Though rigorous and challenging, the final payout, running her own dance school and continuing her family’s legacy, outweighs the frustration and stress that is sure to come as she continues to move through the grades competitions.

Adrienne’s future as a musician and dance teacher is extremely bright. Her many talents and perseverance are sure to change the Irish music and dance community in Minnesota, the Midwest and globally for the better.

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