Growing up in Ireland's rural County Mayo, David Munnelly didn't learn music, he absorbed it.
The 31-year-old button accordion player and Irish music star grew up in a musical household where playing was "as natural as drinking a cup of tea."
At age 7, he picked up the accordion, and now, years later, he has yet to put it down. Still, the idea of playing music for a living wasn't widely accepted.
"For me to come up and say I want to be a commercial musician, people laughed at me," he said.
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Today, he has toured extensively with The Chieftains, played at the Kennedy Center and taped specials for PBS and BBC. The David Munnelly Band will play a special St. Patrick's Day celebration Saturday at the Gallo Center for the Arts.
Munnelly, who is known as "the bullet from Belmullet" after his hometown, said performing abroad for St. Patrick's Day always is an interesting experience. He said the holiday is even bigger in the United States than in Ireland.
"It's always amazing to see how the Americans approach the Irish culture; The interest is phenomenal. The difference is the way the Irish look at Irish culture vs. the way foreigners look at Irish culture," he said.
"It's like a sweet shop. When you're a kid, you look around and say wouldn't it be great to live there. But when you're older and go into the sweet shop, all you want is a ham sandwich."
Munnelly's traditional sound blends jazz and the music of Irish-American dance halls of the 1920s and '30s.
That mix, he said, sets them apart from the stereotypical Irish sound. So when he takes the stage with his five-piece band, don't expect to hear "Danny Boy."
"It's very different than the other music; it's Irish tunes and tunes we compose with a jazz influence," he said. "My grandparents talked about old recordings from America when I was a kid. So when I got old enough to research it, I discovered this new sound."