Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Teen fiddler changes group's rhythm

By Rob Phillips
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON TWP. - Music is the magic that transforms a shy teen into a bold artist.

Christopher Keeshan practices his fiddle at home.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
Sitting in his living room, Christopher Keeshan remained quiet and reserved during a two-hour interview.

Until he got his fingers on his fiddle's strings.

With the pluck of the first note, a smile grew across his face. His enthusiasm and confidence were obvious as his fingers flew.

"It's a lot of fun," he said of the instrument not normally enjoyed by many people Christopher's age. Now a freshman at Little Miami High School , Christopher, 15, doesn't have access to a string program and never has.

"Everything he has done he has pursued himself," said his father, Jerry .

Christopher took his first piano lesson at 5 years old. He started the snare drum at age 11 in the school band program. His first fiddle lesson came at 12. Alto saxophone started at 13, with tenor, baritone and soprano saxophone following.

While playing the saxophone for the Little Miami marching, concert and jazz bands, Christopher was forced to find other venues to practice and perform his favorite instrument - the Celtic fiddle.

So he and his father began playing together at family gatherings and eventually, libraries, museums and nursing homes.

"I like to make people happy," said Christopher. "The most rewarding experience was playing at the nursing home."

Christopher's fiddle teacher of more than three years, Kitty McIntyre of Famous Old Time Music Co., said she's glad he has gotten the chance to learn the fiddle along with a wide range of music.

"When I was a kid, you did classical music or nothing," she said. "I wish that I realized there was something else out there and that I could play fiddle."

Christopher was asked to join Heritage Music and Friends chamber group. The group members, who include his father, are all more than 30 years older than Christopher.

"He is very sweet-natured," said Catherine Estill, a co-founder of the group. "He always seems willing to do about anything we throw at him."

The group recently performed at the opening of the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center in Dayton.

"It was really exciting," Christopher said. The trio played before visitors waiting for a tour of the new center.

Estill said that Christopher and his father introduced her to fiddle music.

"The fiddle was something that we had not done before," she said. Heritage Music primarily plays chamber music, including folk and light classical.

Just as Christopher was inspired by his father to begin playing the fiddle, he now motivates his father to continue.

"He's just a lot of fun to play with," Jerry Keeshan said. "It's an escapism for me."

And the shared interest has turned into a father-son bonding routine. In the summer, when Keeshan has time off from his full-time job of being a surgical nurse, the two have what they call a "fiddle camp."

"We just play nonstop all week long it seems like," Christopher said, smiling.

As for the future, Christopher said he has no intention of pursuing a professional career in music, rather just keep it a hobby.

"It's just something fun I like to do," he said.

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