Rob Steinhofer on Button Accordian, Vocals, and "dem Bones" (top)
As a wee trout, Rob's ear for Irish tunes was grabbed by the "Leprechaun Song" on one of those yellow Disney 45 rpm records. Much later, his Celtic music demon was unleashed in a close concert encounter with the Silly Wizard Band. Aided and abetted by a junk shop button accordion, Rob was led by the wise fairies to his first Milwaukee IRISH FEST, discovered his dance partner for life, Denise Benoit, and was immediately captured by this musical world.
Madison and the Mickie's Tavern session was the breeding ground for Rob's Celtic music capers which lead to a stand with the KIL DARA and BANNA bands. By then it was (way past) time for a career course correction and he gladly exchanged his masters degree in mechanical engineering for the honorable title of Accordion and Concertina Repair Specialist. Now mix in ancestral links to the Scandinavian accordion and the heart of a riverboat captain and you get a unique button accordion style and a hell of a good time at the annual Irish Session Cruz on Rob's Mississippi houseboat.
A perpetual student of the B/C Irish box and traveler of traditional Irish session, Rob gratefully acknowledges the many great box players and fellow sessioneers that have shared a tune. He currently teaches the B/C Button Accordion and introduction to Playing Music in Traditional Irish Sessions at the IRISH FEST School of Music.
Rob has found his place, for now, as manager and straight guy on button accordion in the WEST of ENNIS band. Hanging with this bunch of constantly maturing amateur musicians is the place to be. WEST Of ENNIS is the gumbo pot dishing out the best of Celtic music, song and ballads of yesterday and today to Milwaukee and beyond!
Dave Moss on Vocals, Whistle, Button Accordian (top)
David's musical fate was sealed when his wife, Colleen, bought him a pennywhistle 'cause it seemed like a low-risk investment, compared to other musical instruments. After several years, he has finally figured out which end to blow into, and now there's no stopping him.
An emergency physician who's seen his share of blood and guts, David still gets queasy when he sees close-ups of George W. Bush's nasal hair.
David's got four children, and after much cajoling, he was able to persuade his two sons to join West of Ennis as occasional fill-in guitarists by convincing them it was either that or castration. (The two boys now are missing one testicle apiece but they did finally agree to play with the band.) He has not been able to come up with a similar threat that would work for his daughters....
David also plays with The O'Shyttes, an Irish rock and bluegrass band.
Denise Benoit on Bodhran, Vocals, Fiddle (top)
Denise Benoit, a Milwaukee native, has been playing bodhran for over 10 years.
True to her French-Canadian ancestry, she throws some foot -percussion into the
mix, and is making progress on the fiddle as well. After a couple years drumming
next to Ed Paloucek on fiddle for the weekly dancing at Nash's Irish Castle, she
was sufficiently awed and inspired to take up the bow. Poor Ed got to hear her
very first screeches across the strings and never even winced (visibly). Being
the perpetual student of life, Denise is also in the Celtic Studies Program at
UWM, and regrets that she will actually graduate "one of these years."
Denise's courtship with Rob began in an IrishFest Summer School set-dance
class in 1995, where one of them made the (wonderful) mistake of making eye
contact during the long-swing. Don't try it unless you're in for the long haul!
Their marriage advice: don't buy too large of a bed, and keep separate money!
Kevin O'Halloran on Vocals, Guitar,Bouzouki, Banjo,Low D whistle (top)
No bio for Kevin yet, we have instructed Clare (his "watch dog") to use her ferocious licking toungue to assault him every day until he comes up with one. By day Kevin is an orthopedic surgeon, by night he splits time between his family and West of Ennis. We are lucky to have him in our band, he adds inspiration and great energy in addition to wide range of musical talents, the only drawback being we may need to hire a roadie to help haul & keep in tune all of his instruments...
Kevin Wissink on Fiddle (top)
Kevin's first instruments were clarinet & piano in the 4th grade, well sort of... those reeds just kept breaking, and the tunes in beginning piano books aren't too exciting. He first heard fiddles, banjos and the like in his college days, when he took up mandolin and banjo for a couple years, playing american fiddle tunes. It was during this time he got taken with the sound of the fiddle and celtic music and put the mandolin & banjo aside.
Moving to Madison, WI he discovered the vibrant musical community on the Isthmus, and had his first fiddle instruction, under Martin Dowling in '92. Another discovery was Irish Fest in Miwaukee, and that has been an annual pilgrimage every year since (and also resulted in long lasting friendships).
Encouraged by the Irish musicians in Madison, he made his first overseas adventure attending Willie Clancy week in Miltown Malbay, and the South Sligo Summer School in Tubbercurry. While there he found out about the Fiddle week in Glencolumbcille, Donegal and went to that as well. He has also taken classes/workshops with James Kelly, Liz Carroll, Maire O'Keeffe, Tommy Peoples and studied for one week in Alaska under Randall Bays. While living in Red Wing, MN, Kevin made trips to Minneapolis for bowing help from Django Amerson of 5 Mile Chase. His first performing schedule on fiddle was in '98-'00 with Stone Ring of Madison.
Having limited time to devote to music, Kevin is an experienced Web Developer and Consultant, he currently does website work (designed & created this website), violin & bow repair, and gives fiddle lessons in Madison.
Mark Polczynski on Wooden Flute, Uillean pipes, Penny whistle, Harmonica (top)
Mark bought his first Chieftains LP (Chieftains I) back in 1977 on his first visit to Ireland with his lovely and charming wife Maureen. Along with the LP came a pennywhistle, which now rests in an honored place in some drawer somewhere in the basement with his Model 1958 Hohner harmonica.
About twenty (!) years later on a second visit to Ireland with his lovely wife and handsome son Michael, Mark hooked up with Irish (Up Mayo!) flute maker Michael Cronnolly. Well, one thing led to another, and Mark became the owner of a Cronnolly flute and the webmaster for Michael's flute business (http://irishflutes.net).
Back about the turn of the millennium, on one of his bi-annual board of director meetings with Cronnolly (a poitin brewer of local renown, go here for his recipe: http://irishflutes.net/mef/poitin.htm), Mark visited uilleann pipe maker Charles Roberts up in Sligo. Charles took a liking to Mark's charming naiveté, and cranked out a set of uillean pipes for Mark in six months, certainly an all-time record for any pipemaker in any millennium. Extraneous pipe drones, regulators, etc., have been arriving in Elm Grove continuously over the ensuing years.
Mark's favorite Irish band is West of Ennis, and his favorite Irish vocalist is Dave Moss. During the day, Mark is an electrical engineer (PhD-EE, We Are Marquette!). For much more fascinating information about Mark, check out his website: http://irishflutes.net/underhill.