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/Peninsula Clarion)

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/Peninsula Clarion)

Annual Irish music concert doubles as food drive

  • By BRIAN MAZUREK Peninsula Clarion
  • Tuesday, January 22, 2019 11:31pm
  • News

Next month, Musicians John Walsh, Rose Flanagan and Pat Broaders will be performing together for the second time at Kenai Peninsula College for the annual Winter Concert of Traditional Irish Music. This year the concert will also be a food drive to support the college’s food 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 returns to Alaska to play music frequently, and has been the 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 fiddle from a young age. She currently teaches the fiddle at her own music school in New York. Flanagan and Walsh first got in touch 10 years ago when Flanagan taught at the Alaska Fiddle Camp. Last year, Walsh invited Flanagan to perform with him at the Winter Concert, and it was such a success that the invitation was extended this year as well.

Broaders is from Ranenagh, Ireland, very close to where Walsh grew up. The two did not meet, however, until both had moved to the U.S. Broaders sings and has been playing the bouzouki for 40 years, which is 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,” with 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 brings a big turnout every year, drawing hundreds of people from around the peninsula. Flanagan says that the audience last year was “phenomenal,” and all three musicians are excited to return. Broaders said that Irish music is a genre that revolves around sharing, whether it is 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, students at the college have incorporated a food drive for the first time into this year’s concert. The event will be free to the public as always, and the college is encouraging people to bring non-perishable food items as donations. The donations will be used to kick-start the food pantry in KPC’s residence hall, which makes these items available to all students, some of whom might struggle with obtaining food otherwise.

According to a survey published by Temple University in 2018, more than a third of college students struggle with food security, and KPC is no exception to this unfortunate statistic. In an effort to alleviate this problem, KPC students Ariane Jasmine and Brett Knighten recently decided to revitalize the campus’s food pantry. Right now, the food pantry is located in a small room in one of the dorms of the residence hall and only has a handful of items. The food pantry has been around for a while according to Knighten, but Jasmine says that its current state is “pretty dismal.”

Diane Taylor, the director of the Learning Center at the college, says she is excited to see Jasmine and Knighten “breathe life” back into the food pantry and has been helping them organize the service project. Taylor says that she has tried to set up a food pantry on campus in the past, but to no avail. Because the initiative is coming from students this time, Taylor says it is much more likely to get off the ground.

Knighten is a resident assistant at the residence hall, while Jasmine is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. The two plan to run the food pantry as a coordinated effort between the resident assistants and honor society members. Beyond just providing food for students, Jasmine and Knighten also hope to combat the stigma that surrounds needing access to a food pantry.

Ideas that the three had during a brainstorming session included an open door policy for the food pantry a few days a week, where students can simply walk in and grab something they need without having to ask anyone. A lot of people are too embarrassed to actually ask, says Taylor, and an open door policy would help with that. Another idea from Taylor was to put fresh food like bananas and oranges in the sitting areas of the residence hall, making it possible for students to simply grab a piece of fruit as they walk 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 phase of the project, Taylor and the students see the upcoming Irish Music Concert as a great opportunity to stock up the food pantry. From there, they hope to work with the local Kenai Peninsula Food Bank to keep a regular supply of food available.

The Winter Concert will take place Friday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. in the Ward Building of KPC’s Kenai River Campus.

• By BRIAN MAZUREK, Peninsula Clarion

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