From Coney Street to Carnegie Hall – York busker goes global

Dan Foster performing at the Teelin Irish Dance Company’s Celtic Storm Show to a capacity audience at the Weinberg Center, Frederick, Maryland, in February 2018. Picture: Scott Ortel

He used to busk on the streets of York. But in a few days’ time he will perform at one of the world’s most prestigious venues for live music.

Ten years ago Dan Foster was a familiar sight in the city centre, playing jigs, reels and hornpipes as passers-by dropped coins into his violin case.

Now he has been invited to play Irish fiddle at Carnegie Hall, sharing the stage at the Weill Recital Hall with the New York Concerti Sinfonietta for their 10th anniversary concert on Friday, June 1.

Dan looks back on his busking days in York with fondess.

“I miss busking on the streets of my hometown,” he said. “It’s a great way to watch the world go by.”

He is thrilled to be given the opportunity to play at New York’s Carnegie Hall, saying the acoustics will be a bit different from his favourite busking spot in ‘Olde York’, outside Café Rouge in Low Petergate.

“It still hasn’t sunk in,” Dan told YorkMix. “I made a promise to myself that if I was to go live thousands of miles away from my family, at the very least, I needed to go and do a good job over there.”

Intricacies of the Irish fiddle

Flashback… Busking on Coney Street, York, with guitarist Paul Young in August 2014

Dan, aged 28, was born in York and attended English Martyrs’ RC Primary School, Millthorpe School and York College.

His journey to one of the Big Apple’s most famous venues has been built on his passion for Irish music and plenty of practice. After all, as the old adage goes “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Answer: “Practice, practice, practice”.

He started mastering the intricacies of Irish fiddle in Manchester while studying law at the city’s university.

He became a regular at lively pub sessions where he shared tunes with master musicians such as Michael McGoldrick, Emma Sweeney and Simon Doyle.

Dan decided that his future lay with music rather than a career in the legal profession. So he quit his law degree and spent four years studying folk music at Newcastle University.

His musical studies took him to Limerick where he met his future wife, Courtney Jay, an elite Irish step-dancer. Later she set up a dance school in her home state of Connecticut – a long-standing ambition of hers.

Travels round America

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Dan followed Courtney to America, and they married three years ago. He now earns his living as a freelance musician.

He plays fiddle for Caravan Of Thieves, a popular gypsy-folk-swing outfit fronted by Fuzz Sangiovanni, of Deep Banana Blackout fame, and his wife Carrie.

Dan is also a member of the emerging folk trio Daymark, with Will Woodson (border pipes/flute) and Eric McDonald (guitar/vocals).

Dan travels throughout North America playing for Irish dancers at important competitions and last year earned a prestigious Oireachtas call-up for the Mid-Atlantic Region.

He has also forged a formidable reputation as a teacher of folk fiddle. For the last two years Dan has taken part in an acclaimed scheme run by the Southern New England Folk & Traditional Arts Program where he, as a master fiddle player, teaches an apprentice, preparing them for a showcase concert.

Before emigrating to America, he gave a solo violin recital at English Martyrs’, his former primary school, that had pupils dancing in the aisles.