May 19, 2009
Next spring, Nan McEntire will be packing up her boots and umbrella and moving, temporarily, to the Emerald Isle. An associate professor of English and women's studies at Indiana State University, McEntire has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship to research traditional Irish music at the University of Limerick during the spring semester of 2010.
"It's a great opportunity to be immersed in a field that I love," McEntire said.
For McEntire, that love encompasses folklore and ethnomusicology-the study of how music functions in culture. Sponsored by the University of Limerick, she will focus her studies on tune acquisition in the Shannon Region of Ireland.
"Since the ‘70s I've been immersed in Celtic music-teaching it, performing it," she said.
"There's been a huge revival of Irish traditional music, not just in Ireland but throughout the western world. It's exciting to be studying something that's a vibrant part of today's culture."
McEntire will work closely with the faculty at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. Her research will take the form of ethnographic field work as she talks with musicians in Limerick and surrounding areas.
"I'll be interviewing musicians young and old in different settings, both urban and rural," she said.
The way music is learned is changing due to advances in technology and communication, McEntire said. Traditional Irish music has historically been contained in specific regions, even to the point that particular styles of playing were associated with those regions.
Now all that has changed as tunes are easily accessible on the internet to musicians around the world.
"I'm curious to see if regional differences are eroding as the acquisition of music becomes more global," McEntire said. "It is truly a changing world."
McEntire lived in the Orkney Islands of Scotland during the late 1970s where she learned Irish and Scottish tunes from Hugh Inkster. A respected local musician, Inkster played the fiddle and whistle while McEntire played whistle and guitar. She continued to play with various groups after returning to the U.S.
"I've always found Celtic music uplifting," McEntire said, adding that she looks forward to again immersing herself in the musical traditions of another country. "Music opens doors. It provides a friendly access to other cultures."
McEntire earned a Ph.D. from Indiana University in folklore and ethnomusicology, focusing her dissertation on a detailed analysis of the ballads and songs of a North Sea island family. She earned a master's degree in English from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Keuka College in Keuka Park, N.Y.
She joined the ISU faculty in 1998. She was awarded the Educational Excellence Award from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2001 and the Caleb Mills Distinguished Teaching Award in 2004. McEntire serves as director of the ISU Folklore Archives and edits The Folklore Historian, an international journal. She also directs the Hoosier Folklore Society and organizes folklore conferences on the ISU campus.
Though she won't leave for Ireland for another semester, McEntire is already planning for her time abroad.
"It's always an adventure to live in a new country," she said. "I'm looking forward to being a temporary citizen of Ireland."
Contact: Nan McEntire, associate professor of English and director of Folklore Archives, Indiana State University, 812-237-3134 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Nan McEntire (submitted photo by David Stanley)
Next spring, Nan McEntire will be packing up her boots and umbrella and moving, temporarily, to the Emerald Isle. McEntire has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship to research traditional Irish music at the University of Limerick during the spring semester of 2010.