Scythian Gifts St. Patrick's Day Show to Its Biggest Fans

If you're Scythian, a Celtic rock band known for bringing legions of MerleFest fans to their feet since 2007, St. Patrick's Day is your Super Bowl.

And this one's big.


It's not a well-paid gig at a club in Manhattan or Washington, D.C., from where the band members mostly hail.

It's much bigger than that.

The band will no doubt play to an audience of adoring fans -- possibly its biggest, but these fans won't be paying a dime.

This one is on Scythian, and the band wouldn't have it any other way.

This one is special. Super special.

Thursday, March 17, Scythian will perform two private shows at Melmark, a not-for-profit organization providing residential, educational and therapeutic services for children and adults with autism, intellectual disabilities, brain injuries and other neurological and genetic diagnoses with service divisions outside Philadelphia and Boston.

For free.

"We are so excited that we will be playing at a grand place called Melmark for St. Patrick's Day," said Danylo "Dan" Fedoryka. "This is going to be so different than any other St. Patrick's Day."

Some of the students have Down Syndrome, others cerebral palsy. Others face challenges caused by traumatic brain injuries or are diagnosed on the Autism spectrum. All have a physical or developmental disability. More important, they all LOVE Scythian.

Melmark is also home to the Joybells, the incredible bell choir that has recently played for the World Congress of Families and on the "Today" show.

Over the past year Fedoryka and his brother Alexander, co-founders of Scythian, have formed a bond with Melmark's Pennsylvania students, especially the members of the Joybells, who performed for the Pope's recent visit to Philadelphia.

Dan met them there for the first time.

"I made it back stage to hang out with the Joybells and they were so incredibly excited. They were more excited about meeting Scythian than the Pope," Dan says still incredulous at the memory. "They dance to our music after their program and they just love us. They are so awesome."

Scythian, which means "nomad" in Ukranian (where the Fedorykas have their roots), has been described as fusing Celtic and Americana music with thunderous energy into what the band's members call "immigrant rock."

Alexander plays fiddle, mandolin and bass and Dan plays on rhythm guitar and accordion. Rounding out the band are their sister, Larissa, and Josef "Joe" Crosby fiddle and bass and Tim Hepburn on drums and percussion.

The Melmark show came together after the band decided to forego a gig it was planning for St. Patty's Day in Manhattan.

"Everything panned out for the routing for us because we're playing Harrah's Casino in Chester (Pennsylvania) on the 18th. Alex said let's do a show at Melmark. The other guys said yes, please, let's do it."

Catie Parker, music therapist for the adult day program and assistant director of the Joybells, says the Melmark students were beyond thrilled when they learned their favorite band was coming to play for them. "I've heard about it every day," she said with a laugh. "They are so excited!"

Full disclosure, Parker, who is a musician in her own right, is the reason the members of Scythian met the Joybells in the first place. Parker has been on three call backs for the NBC competition, "The Voice," and her band, Little Hill Trio, performed at Scythian's debut festival, Appaloosa Roots, over Labor Day Weekend 2015 and is scheduled to perform at the festival again this year.

"She loves our music," Dan said. "It was through her that (Melmark) happened,"

The feeling is mutual. "Donating their Super Bowl is so incredibly generous," Parker says. "They are the nicest guys. Alexander surprised all the Joybells with Scythian lunch boxes at Christmas."

For the individuals with whom she works, Parker says music transcends all boundaries. She thinks they respond to Scythian's unique sound because their music has been around for hundreds of years.

"It's folk music that is part of a lot of different cultures," she said. "For example, the drum beats have roots in Africa. Music has a powerful effect on the brain and that is true for people with developmental disabilities."

Scythian is as excited to perform for the residents and students of Melmark as its audience.

"My favorite part of making music is to just see people being happy," Dan says. "That's why I do it. I enjoy music, but not enough to get in car and be gone from home over a half the year. I feel this show at Melmark is going to be that on steroids. They show me how to be happy."