Uilleann piper Ryan Behnke of Hastings is a professional performer as well as teaching the fine art of playing the iconic Irish pipes. Ryan began playing uilleann pipes here in the Twin Cities, has become a contributing member of the Great Northern Irish Pipers Club, and holds a Masters in Traditional Music Performance from UL, University of Limerick in Ireland. Ryan performs with the Twin Cities based “Unwelcome Visitors” and the Texas based “Three Pints and a Glass.” Ryan used his IMDA Educational Grant for tuition for reed making classes at the Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malby, Co. Clare, Ireland this past summer.
While Ryan also plays the Highland Great Pipes, his focus in recent years has been on the uilleann pipes. He became interested in the study of reed making when, as an intermediate piper, he struggled with his instrument, wasting half a year not playing his instrument “because it was unbearable to play.” He tells us that his “chanter was very temperamental and I could never get it reeded right.” His struggle to find the right reed and reed maker drastically stunted his growth as a musician.
By way of background, Ryan tells us that “the main problem is that all Uilleann pipe changers are different and to fit a reed to the chanter appropriately one needs to have the instrument and the player.” That’s challenging as most reed makers live very far away. Ryan used an earlier IMDA Educational Grant for the purchase of a reed making kit and wanted to continue to develop his skill. He has been able to create some nice reeds for his own use and has helped counsel other local, new pipers to get the most out of their reeds.
Ryan’s hope is “to improve this skill that I may be a of better service to local pipers and help strengthen the Minnesota Uilleann piping tradition.” He also hopes “to save any new pipers from being in the dark and not getting the most out of their instruments.” He feels that the pipes are a very daunting instrument and it is best to remove as many roadblocks as possible!
The Irish Music and Dance Association is pleased to help this devoted young musician continue to develop his skills and share his knowledge with our local community.