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Conversations with Sean Mawhirter

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sean Mawhirter.

Hi Sean, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I grew up in Wichita with very little interest in music until a neighbor turned me onto guitar at age 15. Back then, I suspected that this was something that would take up a lot of free time, however, I never would’ve dreamed that I’d be calling it a career. After moving to Lawrence after college, I toiled under other people’s bands that never seemed to go anywhere. This period lasted almost exactly a decade and was succeeded by a 4-year stretch in the Des Moines metro with my wife who was attending grad school. As it would happen, we returned to Lawrence and I decided to give “bandleading” a shot.

This April marked the decade anniversary of the move-back and that decision. I have learned a lot from mistakes in that time and have emerged from it very grateful for the people and places that have held so many great memories.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
There are plenty of difficulties in leading projects. It must be why more people don’t do it! It took me a lot of time developing repertoire (transcribing, arranging, scoring) while learning the scene. Honestly, chemistry plays a big role in a performance and I feel like I’ve only recently connected with the right blend of talent/enthusiasm. For instance, I can’t imagine having put any of this together without my dear flutist friend Guy Montes. Life is a lot easier with friends – he has been a big one considering all the bad ideas and wrong chords that he’s heard come out of me!

Obviously, living in Lawrence does me no favors in making a living. While there are some great comforts in a college town, it also sees an overabundance of supply while not offering much of an audience for “Adult” music. Needless to say, I’ve gotten to know every inch of highway K-10.

Financially, I don’t know how anybody can start up something without enduring some losses. I’ve had my share but now I take comfort in the occasional offer that I turn down. Assuming a certain level of worth would have never been a priority before-I would have done anything just to play!

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
As with most people, I have varied tastes. What has guided me is a fairly simple matter of stamina. The music I play is something that I could never tire of. These songs are familiar friends that I can find ways of making new conversations with. What I’ve found myself busiest with are 2 Latin bands: Cucharada (tango) & Mundo Nouvo (salsa). Spanish singing may not appeal to some but music that blends the cerebral and visceral -in a comfortable way- is irresistible to me and really explains itself.

Also, I’ve had the opportunity to travel quite a bit over the years…but there are certain parts of Latin America that keep me coming back. I recently re-married to a Dominican woman and have made a second home on the eastern side of the island.

Although I play in listening situations as well, it’s the dance shows that make me most proud. As a matter of fact, I also DJ most weekends at wedding receptions and corporate parties. I never take for granted the joy in celebration with movement.

Alright so before we go can you talk to us a bit about how people can work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
While I have gotten busy again with wedding work, the dance bands have come back more slowly.-in fits and starts. It seems as though that is the case with most of the professional musicians in KC. Nothing can resume until the venues get back on their feet.

For instance, I recently came to terms with a wonderful opportunity to regularly book both the tango and salsa band on the same night. Unfortunately, however, it has stalled out as “tentative”. I am confident that it will happen someday but the economy needs to rebound a bit.

A re-birth of social dancing in KC is possible but not inevitable. I promise to do my part in giving folks a reason to come out!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Top Left (with guitar) – Jason Dailey, Top Right (DJing) – Trina Baker

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