Debbie Kreiser

Irish whistles, Petal

Debbie Kreiser has always loved music, and needs to be around it—otherwise, she gets what she calls “grumpy.” But it took a while for her to find the right environment for her personality within the larger world of music. Her parents, both originally from New York, had moved from Virginia to Jackson, Mississippi in 1971; her father was a forester. She was five years old and soon taking piano lessons. She loved practicing but hated performing. Recitals were torture, despite the fact that her teacher always brought cake and a wonderful sherbert punch! Starting in junior high school, Debbie played clarinet in the band. She loved the people and the relationships, but still dreaded performances, especially solos.

Debbie enrolled at the University of Southern Mississippi, starting a relationship that lasts to this day. She wasn’t sure what to major in but believed music ought to be her focus somehow. Music industry turned out to not be the answer, so she tried music education for two years. Performances still daunted her. She found out about the English Language Institute and switched to a program that would allow her to teach English to foreign students. She was still playing a variety of instruments, but now for fun, a great improvement. She ended up teaching at the ELI for sixteen years until a furlough based on budget cuts dovetailed nicely with the arrival of her daughter.

One weekend, Debbie was visiting her mother in the Jackson area and attended a Celtic fest there. She learned that there was an Irish dance group at USM. She started taking Irish dance lessons there. The teacher quit, and Debbie took over, despite being a beginner. She kept learning more about Irish dancing and Irish music while in Jackson to visit her mother. She taught the USM Irish Dance Society for some five years, though periodically frustrated by the inconstant enthusiasms of university students.

Debbie had been to Ireland with the USM marching band and visited again for her honeymoon. Since she played clarinet, it was easy to pick up the pennywhistle. In Dublin, she found these in baskets at checkout counters of many small shops for four dollars each! Back home she started working with guitarist Daniel Cornett and fiddler Bill Rogers, closed out the dance group (though this may return under the auspices of a local YMCA), and formed the ensemble Celtic Crossroads. Nowadays the group plays at festivals and occasionally in restaurants. It’s a special and satisfying musical experience, based on ensemble playing of fun music that calls out to her. They enjoy the sparkling medleys of jigs and reels and other genres. And the dance is still there, in the tempos of the pieces—you can’t help but move when you hear Celtic Crossroads play.

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