Local lawyer and wife celebrate Irish heritage with music

March 14, 2014
Jennifer and Jack Puskar perform at Downey’s House in Robinson Township two years ago. The couple perform traditional Celtic music with traditional Irish instruments. The weekend leading up to St. Patrick’s Day is always their busiest.

Washington-based attorney Jack Puskar may be a little hoarse next week.

Like many Irish-Americans, Puskar and his wife, Jennifer, will be busy celebrating St. Patrick’s’ Day this weekend. While the Puskars will pass from pub to pub, you won’t find them sampling green beer.

Instead, the Finleyville couple will serenade hordes of partiers with Irish drinking songs, ballads and more traditional genres.

“The singing lawyer and the dancing office manager,” Puskar said of their group, Pint & a Half. “It’s a lot of fun and a great way to meet people.”

The couple formed Pint & a Half three years ago; however, Puskar has performed traditional Irish music and other genres by himself for years, and has performed traditional Celtic songs at funerals, wakes, special Masses and weddings.

At one point, his weekend and late-night performances across the Pittsburgh area helped him through law school at the University of Pittsburgh.

“A lot of my law school colleagues partied on the weekends,” Puskar said. “Instead of partying, I paid my bills.”

He also used his performances as an outlet. In his mid-30s, Puskar made the decision to enroll in law school and performing helped to alleviate stress.

His music also led him to Jennifer. The couple met at one of his performances in 2009.

“It was parade day (the day of the Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day parade), and my daughter and I were at one of his shows. She went on stage and started dancing with (Jack),” Jennifer Puskar said.

“We started talking and the rest is history,” he added.

The pair were married later that year, and slowly, Jennifer and her now 10-year-old daughter, Glory Friedl, joined in Jack’s performances.

“It started out with a few songs and grew from there,” Puskar said. “I taught (Jennifer) to play a bodhran, an Irish drum, and I play the guitar.”

Puskar said several of his songs are in Gaelic, the Celtic language of the British Isles, but he sings them phonetically.

“The language is very difficult to master,” he said.

And while it’s more of a Scottish tradition, Puskar normally wears a kilt for performances. His wife can be found wearing a long dress, which is more traditional for Irish performers.

“People seem to enjoy it,” he said of the kilt.

The couple try to perform once a month, with the exception of St. Patrick’s Day weekend. This weekend’s lineup included Sports Grille in Cranberry Friday night, a performance today at Coach’s Bottleshop and Grille in Pittsburgh from 1 to 4 p.m. and stops at Downey’s House in Robinson Saturday and Monday, St. Patrick’s Day, from 8 p.m. to midnight.

“Tuesday should be fun,” Jennifer said of finally getting a break.

Although it’s all in good fun, the couple agree their music and heritage are the glue that keeps them together.

“It was the music that brought us together,” Puskar said. “It’s the reason we still perform.”

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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