Annual Irish music concert doubles as a food drive


Ariane Jasmine, Brett Knighten, Skyler Diehl and Diane Taylor pose inside the residence hall at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River campus on Tuesday. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Clarion Peninsula)

Next month, musicians John Walsh, Rose Flanagan and Pat Broaders will perform together for the second time at Kenai Peninsula College for the annual Winter Traditional Irish Music Concert. This year, the concert will also be a food drive to support the college pantry, which was recently revitalized thanks to two student volunteers.

Originally from Ireland, Walsh plays the tenor banjo and currently travels the country with his wife, “living freely and playing music when he can”. Before hitting the road in his RV, Walsh lived in Alaska for 30 years where he raised his family and worked as a commercial fisherman. Walsh frequently returns to Alaska to play music and has been a cornerstone of the Winter Concert since its inception.

Flanagan was also born in Ireland, but grew up in the Bronx, where she and her brother learned to play the violin from an early age. She currently teaches violin at her own music school in New York. Flanagan and Walsh first came into contact 10 years ago when Flanagan taught at Alaska Fiddle Camp. Last year, Walsh invited Flanagan to perform with him at the Winter Concert, and it was such a hit that the invitation was extended this year as well.

Broaders is from Ranenagh, Ireland, very close to where Walsh grew up. However, the two did not meet until they moved to the United States. Broaders has been singing and playing the bouzouki for 40 years, a traditional Greek instrument that became an integral part of Irish music around the 1960s. Currently residing in Minnesota, Broaders recently released a record, “The Joyful Hour”, featuring his group Open the Door for Three. He will be making his third appearance at KPC’s winter concert.

The concert has long been a popular local event and attracts large numbers of people every year, attracting hundreds of people from all over the peninsula. Flanagan says the audience last year was “phenomenal” and all three musicians are excited to return. Broaders said Irish music is a genre that revolves around sharing, whether it’s sharing tunes with other musicians or sharing a meal after a performance, and bringing the community together.

With the theme of sharing and community in mind, college students incorporated a food drive into this year’s concert for the first time. The event will be free to the public, as always, and the college encourages people to bring non-perishable food items as donations. Donations will be used to launch the KPC Residence Pantry, which makes these items available to all students, some of whom may struggle to obtain food otherwise.

According to a investigation published by Temple University in 2018, more than a third of students have food safety issues, and KPC is no exception to this unfortunate statistic. To alleviate this problem, KPC students Ariane Jasmine and Brett Knighten recently decided to revitalize the campus pantry. Currently, the pantry is located in a small room in one of the residence’s dorms and contains only a handful of items. According to Knighten, the pantry has been around for a while, but Jasmine says its current state is “pretty dismal”.

Diane Taylor, director of the college’s learning center, says she’s thrilled to see Jasmine and Knighten “bringing life back” to the pantry and is helping them organize the service project. Taylor says she’s tried to set up a pantry on campus in the past, but to no avail. Because the initiative this time comes from the students, Taylor says it’s much more likely that it will take off.

Knighten is a resident assistant at the residence, while Jasmine is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. The two plan to run the pantry as part of a coordinated effort between resident assistants and honor society members. In addition to providing food for students, Jasmine and Knighten also hope to fight the stigma surrounding the need to have access to a pantry.

Ideas the three came up with during a brainstorming session included an open-door policy for the pantry a few days a week, where students can just walk in and grab anything they need without having to ask. to no one. Many people are too embarrassed to ask, Taylor says, and an open-door policy would help with that. Another idea from Taylor was to put fresh foods like bananas and oranges in the sitting areas of the residence hall, allowing students to simply grab a piece of fruit as they passed by. Taylor already does this in the learning center with coffee, fruit, pastries and other simple items that she says can make a big difference.

While still in the early planning stages of the project, Taylor and the students see the upcoming Irish music concert as a great opportunity to fill the pantry. From there, they hope to work with the local Kenai Peninsula Food Bank to maintain a steady supply of food.

The winter concert will take place on Friday, February 1 at 7 p.m. in the Ward Building at KPC’s Kenai River Campus.

• By BRIAN MAZUREK, Clarion Peninsula


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