Read this blog as an Enewsletter: https://mailchi.mp/jamieoreilly/jamie-o-special-edition-featured-artists-at-roots-salon
“Some call it selective biography. The anecdotal stories you’re raised hearing serve as a reasonable source for who you are, presumably fulfilling your need to know from whence you came. But they are fragments: The people. The places. The culture. The religion. The cities. The universities. The parishes. The deeds done. The things won. The tragedies. The losses. Humor and adventure. The languages spoken. And the work done. Nobody inherits a whole picture. It is your story to tell.”Jamie O’Reilly Chicago Arts Journal, 2014
A Note from Jamie
Artists with Stories to Tell
As 2024 unfolds, I’ll be hosting Roots Salons in February, March, May, July and autumn at Tre Kronor Bistro. A major arts weekly will be doing a story on Roots and a journalist will attend the February and March Salons. Woman’s Heart, the February 25th Roots Salon has a rare spin to it, as I host two longtime artists with rich creative legacies.
Reserve your seat here for the February Salon. – jamie
About the artists
I met Jimmy Conway when I taught Self-producing in the Arts at Gallery 37. A self-producer he is! His weekly calendar is packed with gigs, teaching Irish music, and leading traditional music sessions at the Irish Heritage Center. To watch Jimmy play is pure gold, as he moves from one instrument to the next: whistles, flute, and harmonica. Whether leading a reel, swinging a country tune, or digging into a blues-ballad, his playing is soulful and enticing. February 25, Jimmy will accompany me on a set of songs, and play solo.
Donna Urbikas and I became friends when when our kids attended the same grade school. We saw one another over the years and caught up on life. She came to my concerts. It was in encountering her personal history as the daughter, and half sister of WWII Stalin work camp survivors, and reading her powerful book My Sister’s Mother that I understood the breath of her talent as a storyteller. Hearing Donna read excerpts from her book at the Polish Museum, surrounded by artifacts and mementos, made for an unforgettable afternoon. She has written a new memoir piece for February 25.
My friend, James “Jimmy” Conway is an Irish-American musician based in Chicago, Illinois, and is particularly known for playing traditional Irish music on the harmonica and tin whistle. He also plays guitar, bodhran, and plays folk and country blues music. Jason Ricci said of Conway’s playing, “This guy is the king of tongue switching (playing out of both sides of your mouth) – his octave leaps, effortless complex melodies, and chords are mind melting to the harmonica player while natural to the listener.”
The son of an Irish immigrant mother, Conway began playing tin whistle and guitar as a child, studied classical music at Columbia College, and learned harmonica from Junior Wells, Sugar Blue, and Howard Levy. In 2003, Conway was the recipient of a “master artist” grant from the Illinois Arts Council to teach Irish tin whistle as part of the Ethnic & Folk Arts Master/Apprentice Program. The Hohner company has also recognized Conway’s expertise; he is a Hohner harmonica endorser.
Born in Coventry, England, Danuta (“Donna”) Solecka Urbikas immigrated to the USA with her parents and sister in 1952, settling in Chicago, Illinois, and growing up in the Polish community. After attending Catholic grade schools and a public high school in Chicago, she graduated from the University of Illinois – Chicago Circle with a degree in biology and began teaching high school biology. She is a graduate from the University of Chicago’s Certificate Writing Program and has participated in many writing workshops and conferences.Her stirring memoir My Sister’s Mother recounts her family history – her Polish-born mother and half-sister endured dehumanizing conditions during World War II as slave laborers in Siberia – and her own survivor’s story.
Donna is an award-winning author and finalist in the Chicago Writers Association, Society of Midland Authors, Midwest Book Awards (as part of the Midwest Independent Publishers Association), and Bronze Winner of Foreword INDIES Book Award. Read about Donna here: https://danutaurbikas.com/biography/