All in the family

A father/daughter duo enjoys performing together, one gig at a time

Hanna and Sean, daughter and father, enjoy each other’s company on stage.

Credit: Deb Allen
Hanna and Sean, daughter and father, enjoy each other’s company on stage.

Musician Sean McGowan has performed with various bands since he was 14 years old, but he never imagined becoming a duo with his daughter, Hannah.

When the 2008 Olympic Trials came to Eugene, a local committee asked his band to perform at various venues. The problem was Sean’s band had just broken up. Still, he accepted the engagements, though not quite sure how he would fill them.

Then he thought of his 14-year-old daughter, Hannah.

“I’ve always loved music,” said Hannah. “The way I started playing wasn’t that I went to my dad and said, ‘Hey Dad, I want to play music.’ My dad came to me and asked me what instrument I wanted to play.”

Sean remembered reading how Joey Harrington’s mother had made him practice the piano every day after school for 15 minutes. He determined to set up the routine in his own household:

“You come home, you do your homework, then practice 15 minutes, then you go out and play,” said Sean.

Violin was Hannah’s instrument of choice since she was four years old. Sean had her wait another year and at age five, she began lessons.

As a young girl, she remembers days when she would say to her dad, “I don’t want to do it anymore; I don’t like practicing.” Then her dad would always reply, “Okay, well then you can just quit.” But then she’d say, “I don’t want to quit. I’m not a quitter.”

“So, I’d just keep on doing it, and eventually it just became a part of myself,” said Hannah. “I really can’t imagine my life without playing violin now.”

“It wasn’t just being a stage dad,” said Sean. “It was really more that we wanted [our children] to understand the language of music... They both know how to read it and write it and play it. And so great, mission accomplished.”

A connection stemming from the Olympic Trials led them to a gig at The World Music Festival. And from there the calls kept coming. Thus began this unique duo, The McG’s.

The fact that The McG’s are a father/daughter band gets them a lot of attention. Family bands? Yes, they’re out there. But a father/daughter duo? That’s rare.

“It’s kind of a big part of my relationship with him,” said Hannah. “He’s like half my dad and also half my band member.”

Sean and Hannah have been inspired by the upbeat style of Natalie MacMaster and Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions. They’ve chosen to perform a combination of Celtic, old-time, bluegrass, and Americana because “it’s always lively, and it’s always fun.” Most of their venues are pretty laid back, and they like it that way—such as outdoor festivals and pubs.

Their greatest challenge is finding time where their schedules match in order to practice. Sean works as a teaching golf pro, as well as running his business, Remarkable Entertainment Group, an artist management and consulting agency. Hannah is currently attending college. One might guess she would choose to major in Music, but at this point she’s uncertain, realizing the competitive nature of college-level music studies. Because music has always been something comforting for her, Hannah doesn’t want to risk tiring of it because it becomes something stressful.

“If I’m not having a good time, then there’s really no point in me doing it,” shared Hannah.

“As far as being in a band goes, on stage,” said Sean, “this is as much fun as I’ve ever had—playing with Hannah... ’Cause she’s really good, and I’m just kind of the sideman over there trying to keep up.”

Hannah currently teaches violin lessons and is accepting students of all ages, beginners to intermediate. She can be contacted by email at hanamcg@gmail.com or by phone at 541-510-4576.

“If I were to teach a little kid, I would make sure that it was fun as well as instructive,” said Hannah, “because I remember being a really little kid and sitting there for half an hour thinking this was taking forever!”

“For me, it’s been just joy,” said Sean. “I get a lot of joy out of playing music with Hannah, for sure.”

“I’m not going to be here forever, and we’re not going to be a band forever,” continued Sean. “I’m 49, she’s 19. And if she had to get a gig on her own or show up on her own, she’d know what to do.”

Video clips of The McG’s are available at: http://www.reverbnation.com/themcgs

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