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Recent Graduates On Tour with Popular Celtic Band

Needfire hires Benjamin Croucher and Magen Miller for 2011 tour

Katrina Leshan (B.M. '13-Guitar Performance & Music Education)
For some Meadows music majors, the future is filled with tuxedoes and concert dress attire, rehearsals in concert halls and standing ovations. For others, a picturesque career involves plaid kilts, outdoor venues and screaming fans. For recent graduates Benjamin Croucher (B.A. ’10 Music Performance) and Magen Miller (B.M. ’10 Music Composition), the latter of these two images is their reality. Along with Associate Professor of Music Kevin Hanlon, Benjamin and Magen were invited to play with Celtic band Needfire by its director, Ed Walewski, for the band’s 2011 tour.

Needfire, based in Texas, was formed in 2005 and since then has risen from a local legend to a nationally-recognized name. Needfire has headlined at large Celtic festivals such as the North Texas Irish Festival (2008) and the Portland Irish Festival in Oregon. This particular tour takes the SMU graduates throughout the southern United States. “It’s a sporadic tour, but we have 36 shows lined up all over the country,” Magen commented.

This gig is not the first time that Benjamin, Magen, and Dr. Hanlon have performed together. “I have performed on a regular basis with Ben since early 2007,” Hanlon said. “He is excellent in many ways, but I especially love the fact that he is committed to listening and responding. I’m also very impressed with Magen’s versatility. She has memorized and mastered a lot of material in a short time for Needfire, which speaks volumes for her work ethic.”

Magen received her training at Meadows in composition, but plays fiddle and keys with the group. Benjamin plays percussion, and Dr. Hanlon plays guitar. When asked what prepared her to perform with Needfire, since she was classically trained at SMU, Magen responded, “Studying with Jamal Mohamed in the World Music Ensemble is what really prepared me for the group. If it wasn’t for Jamal I'd probably still be a pianist!” The Meadows World Music Ensemble meets on a weekly basis and plays a wide variety of music, ranging from traditional Greek music to Middle-Eastern and Asian pieces. Both Magen and Benjamin have been in the World Music Ensemble for several years, and continue to play with it even though they have graduated.

When asked what advice Ben would give to current SMU students, he responded, “Do as much as is humanly possible to explore options relating to and/or outside of your field. Think of ideas as a departure point and go as far as your mind will take you. Propel your art forward with a conscious effort and sound mind.”

Needfire will be performing Saturday, January 29 at the McKinney Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available online here.

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