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Bracken family full of talent

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a reprint of an article that ran on our former website. We are in the process of moving everything to one place. We hope you enjoy reading the story again. 

By ELIZABETH SCHAFER, Associate Editor

People say that children are a reflection of their parents. If this theory is true, then Daniel Bracken and his children are no exceptions. Beyond his own musical talents, his children are equally talented — in writing, performing musically, and even a little bit of acting.

Taking the time in their youth, Bracken  instilled the importance of music. It started for Dan with his father’s jazz records and Motown in his youth. His adulthood brought him to Mount Pleasant, where he raised his family —  Benji, Kathleen, Daniel and Micah.

Central Michigan University actually brought Bracken to town. He has worked in the IT Department for 20-plus years.  He also plays and is highly involved with local music.

He performs regularly at the Mt. Pleasant Brewing Company on Pickard Street, where he hosts the “Second Thursday Songwriters” series. As the title states, it is held on the second Thursday of every month. The music is generally acoustic, but the talent is diverse. Each musician who performs has his own niche.

Mainly, you get to hear Dan play his songs, along with two other frequent players, Michelle Chenard, and Pete Kehoe. All three are amazing musicians, but what really connects them to the crowd is their voices.

Dan’s style and cultural preference is so versatile you can’t really break it down into one genre. His father gave him an interest in jazz, which you can clearly sense within his songs. His youth was influenced by Motown and Rock & Roll. But his ethnic roots are Irish.

This summer he is going on tour with a band from Remus, MI, called the Rhythm Billies, an American folk group.

“I’ve been invited to play guitar on tour with the Rhythm Billies, an old-time American stringband,” Bracken explained. “These guys are mostly the early organizers of the Wheatland Organization. The music is mostly from the 1920s and ‘30s with a few ancient fiddle tunes and contemporary tunes thrown in for good measure. We’ll be in Ireland July 3-15, 2011.”

Bracken considers the invitation both an honor and an amazing opportunity.

Bracken has been going to the Wheatland Music Festival for most, if not all, of the 33 years the festival has been running. Remus is about 25 miles from Mount Pleasant, and the festival usually runs the first weekend of September with music, art, food, and an all around good time. Camping is available and suggested. Some years, attendance has been as high as 10,000. There are three stages, and the event is really family friendly as well. Bracken has been involved in many aspects of the festival since the early 1980s.

Like his involvement in Wheatland, he also was one of the founding members of “Our Front Porch” on WCMU public radio 89.5, which is the local NPR (National Public Radio) affiliate.

“ ‘Our Front Porch’ is now one of the most popular programs on the station,”  Bracken proudly reported. “I began as a production assistant and recording engineer, but ended up as technical director and co-producer. It was distributed nationally to over 100 stations between 1984 and 1989.“

Devoting the rest of his career to Central Michigan University, Bracken said he really enjoys playing music best. That’s evident to anyone who has ever had the chance to see him perform.

“Therapy. It’s more fun and cheaper than counseling,” he joked. “Seriously, it’s simply where I find joy.”

And Dan has managed to share that joy with his family.

Each of his four children is uniquely talented. The eldest son, Benji, is a musician in California. Kathleen was the lead singer of a Michigan band called “Those Transatlantics” and she recently started a solo album. Daniel Jr. is part of the band “Anathallo,” which is mostly comprised of people from Mt. Pleasant. Anathallo is also a very popular band. The group has toured Europe and Japan and has a large fan following. Finally, the youngest son, Micah, is showing promise of his own in his band, “The New Daydreamers.” You can see what The Brackens are up to at www.thosebrackens.com.

With influences like Randy Stonehill, Neil Young, David Wilcox, Van Morrison, and James Taylor, Dan Bracken’s music is relaxing and something you would want to pop in and take on a long drive. You feel like you are receiving a gift, and the amount of talent this one man, let alone his family, has is amazing contribution to the Mt. Pleasant music scene.

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