Street fiddler finds music helps surpass the mundane

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COLUMBIA - Pat McFarland, also known as Brennes, rides his bike to the bus stop and catches a ride so he can play his music on the streets of downtown Columbia. He likes to work at the corner of Ninth Street and University Avenue, where he plays the fiddle to the busy pedestrians.

“I think music is capable of stimulating parts of the brain, that ordinarily don't get stimulated. It can tap into some levels that are beyond the mundane,” he said.

Brennes said he is doing what he loves, although he still enjoys working with computers, his previous job.

“I still do some programming. I am very interested in artificial intelligence,” he said. 

The reaction to his music varies.

“I think most people don’t even notice, he said. 

But some people interviewed on the street say they pay attention.

Cristina Rivera, a sophomore at the University of Missouri, praised his music and said she is intrigued by his story.

“I wonder what makes him come out here all the time and play. If it’s just a hobby, does he want to play for the students, or if he just wants to play for himself.” 

Naomi Zolier said it is comforting to see people supporting the musician.

“Being able to share that with the rest of the community is very nice to see.”

Originally from Chicago, Brennes moved to Columbia eight years ago. He has played the fiddle for 16 years. He said he is consistently getting better and it is a sound that really challenges him.

“I really enjoy the sound of Irish folk music, that’s actually how I got my fiddle, my first fiddle. A buddy from Ireland sold it to me.”

There have been some issues, however, during some of his performances. Particularly one instance in which a Columbia resident called the police for violating the city’a noise ordinance law.

“I’ve also been escorted by security when I used to play in front of Ellis library,” he said.

Despite the hurdles, Brennes seems to have found his place at the corner of Ninth and University, where pedestrians can expect to see him on their morning commutes.