Brenda Scearcy and Jim Loewenherz have been playing Irish music since the 1980's. Brenda's fascination with Irish music began because of a random act of kindness on her friend's part. She had visited England and Scotland in the early 1980s and had returned to the U.S. with spare British change, no more than a few pounds total. In 1987 her friend Catherine Hall planned a trip to Ireland, so Brenda gave her the bits of British coinage and a few pound notes to spend there. Catherine returned with a pennywhistle, a very sweet-sounding one, for Brenda, and a tape of the Bothy Band. That was all it took.
Jim played with a group of versatile friends who enjoyed bluegrass. When one of their members, Scott Midler, got excited about Irish music and suggested they learn to play it, the others agreed. They heard about the Augusta Heritage Center's "Irish Week" music camp at Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia and all decided to go. (Brenda, not in their group, independently registered for a week of Irish chaos as well.) The total immersion methods and 20-hour days there, spread over several summers, taught them a bit about Irish music. Also, they were both fortunate to study with wonderful teachers, especially Joannie Madden on pennywhistle and Billy McComiskey on button accordion.
Somewhere in there, about 1989, Brenda and Jim began playing together. They share similar ideas about Irish music, probably because of the integrity of their teachers. They were taught much more than how to play their instruments. Their teachers encouraged them to be careful, authentic, and respectful in their approach, and to listen well to subtleties. Traditional music's survival depends on these lovely details.