A multiple All-Ireland medalist, Alex Boatright is committed to making traditional Irish music accessible to students of all levels. With All-Ireland winning students, Alex is a sought after teacher on the East Coast. Growing up in Asheville, NC, Alex studied intensively with harpist and concertina player Grainne Hambly of Co. Mayo, Ireland, and travelled to New York to study with famed fiddle pedagogues Rose Flanagan and Brian Conway.
In addition to her studies as a traditional musician, Alex performs regularly on classical cello and holds a Masters of Music degree in Cello Performance from the University of Maryland. Her teaching style fuses the practical practice techniques and pedagogical foundations of classical training with proper technique and styling of traditional music to help students achieve fluidity and comfort in a traditional sound at a high level.
Billy McComiskey, winner of a 2016 National Heritage Fellowship Award, first came to Washington DC in 1974 to play for a ceili at the invitation of Lou Thompson. He returned in January 1975 at Lou's and Hugh Kelly's invitation for a week-long gig at The Dubliner Pub on Capitol Hill with fiddler Brendan Mulvihill, and a week later returned to New York and enlisted singer-guitarist Andy O'Brien from Kerry, to form the trio that would eventually come to be called The Irish Tradition, Washington's first Irish traditional music ensemble. The Irish Tradition played together for another 10 years, recording three albums, Catchin’ the Tune, The Corner House and The Times We’ve Had and firmly establishing Irish traditional music in the DC area.
Billy has been living in Baltimore since 1980. He's been playing, teaching, performing, sharing, and promoting Irish traditional music throughout that time, all the while holding a job, and raising and educating three fine sons (all of whom play the music at a high level) with his wife Annie. He can truly be said to be the prime mover behind Baltimore becoming one of the finest cities for Irish music in America today.
Billy won the senior All Ireland Championship for the button accordion in 1986, only the second American to be so honored. No American boxplayer has won it since. Billy has played all over The United States, Canada, Ireland, England, and Scotland with some of the finest musicians in Irish music today. He continues to play, record and perform with such celebrated groups as Trian, The Greenfields of America, and The Pride of New York. In addition to his ensemble work, Billy has released two solo accordion albums, Makin’ the Rounds in 1981 and Outside the Box in 2010. In 2011 Billy was named the Irish Echo's Irish Musician of the Year.
Keith Carr, MAD Week's Managing Director, plays tenor banjo and ten-string Irish bouzouki. Growing up in a family of prominent professional musicians in New York equipped him with extensive classical training in several instruments. His musical background also includes many years as a performing jazz/rock/fingerstyle guitarist. He moved to Washington thirty-some years ago to pursue a career as a nature conservationist. He recently retired and is now able to devote his time to what he loves most: performing and teaching Irish traditional music.
Keith teaches bouzouki, guitar, and mandolin; he is on the faculty of the Washington Conservatory of Music; he teaches at various Irish music camps and workshops; and he gives private lessons. With flautist Tina Eck he is half of the Irish traditional music duo Lilt, which has released three recordings: Irish Traditional Music, Onward and Little Falls (www.liltirishmusic.com). He often performs with other prominent traditional musicians in the Washington area, and he plays regularly with the multi-genre contradance band The Love Mongrels. He lives in Falls Church, Virginia.
Guitar and bouzouki player Zan McLeod's musical heritage began with his grandfather, Ed Stacy, who played Appalachian music on the banjo and mandolin. Zan, a North Carolina native, started his own music career playing in the style of the great Southern Rock bands of the early 70s. After moving to Chapel Hill in 1976, he started playing acoustic music. He recorded and toured with local Chapel Hill favorite Mike Cross. In 1979, on a trip to Nashville, Mike and Zan met Triona NiDhomnaill of the legendary Bothy Band. Together Triona and Zan formed the innovative and groundbreaking band Touchstone. In 1988, Zan moved north to Washington DC. There he connected with his Irish musician friends again and began an exciting and hectic 10 year period of touring and recording.
His solo CD, Highland Soul, was recorded by Zan, and its success inspired him to become an audio engineer. Upon graduating from the Omega School of Recording in 1997, he created and established his own home studio, Tonehouse. He has produced more than twenty CDs at Tonehouse for many of Washington's emerging local artists. Zan performs as a freelance musician with many of the most talented and innovative musicians around.
Zan is also a respected and experienced workshop leader and instructor. He has taught for years at Augusta Irish Week, Gaelic Roots at Boston College, Common Ground, and the Swannanoa Gathering. In 2001, he released an instructional video on the Irish Bouzouki for Homespun Tapes.
Fiddler Joe DeZarn, like many who play traditional music, comes from a very musical family. His grandfather, Bill DeZarn, was a noted fiddler in his native Kentucky before the family migrated to Virginia, where Joe was born. Joe believes that those with the good fortune to have traditional music in their lives know a path to a deep well of fun, self-expression, and connection to culture. He plays the fiddle for the love of these things.
His chief interest is traditional dance music, with a particular focus on Irish music: reels, jigs, slip jigs, slides, polkas, hornpipes, and waltzes. He also has an impressive repertoire of American fiddle tunes and traditional music from Quebec.
Joe plays with the dance band Rambling House for ceilis and New England-style contra dances and is a charter member of the renowned Boston-based fiddle orchestra, Childsplay.
MAD Week's Dance Director Shannon Dunne is best known for her percussive dancing, specifically sean-nós dancing, which she has performed at theaters and festivals all over North America and Ireland while touring with Childsplay, Kitchen Quartet, The Wren Girls: American Women in Sean-nós Dance, and as a principal dancer for Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble from 2007-2010. She has studied Connemara sean-nós dance with Paidraic O'Hoibicin, Roisin NiMhanin, Mick Mulkerrin, and Mairead Casey, Clare battering with Aidan Vaughan, and Munster (old-style) step dance with Patrick O'Dea. She also studied flatfooting/clogging with Eileen Carson, Megan Downes, and Christine Galante.
She is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the 2008 Dance Fellowship and multiple Folk Arts Grants from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. She is on the roster of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, and was the recipient of a 2006 Performers Grant from the University of Milwaukee.
Shannon is the founder/director of Shannon Dunne Dance (www.shannondunnedance.com), a multigenerational sean nós/set dance group dedicated to the preserving the steps and values of the dance forms.
Sandy Hoar has been playing and singing music since she was very young; Celtic music with a number of local groups for several decades, including the Irish Breakfast Band, 1999 Wammie winner for best Celtic release for their first CD and nominated for their second one in 2005. She has been doing handicrafts her entire life and has taught various craft workshops for all ages. Sandy has exhibited different crafts annually at a DC Art Exhibit at George Washington University. She has been doing Celtic crafts for a decade and loves sharing often neglected Irish handicrafts with others, especially children. She has presented Irish crafts several times at a regional Irish music festival. She teaches a number of different Irish handicrafts to adults and children each year for MAD week and is excited to be sharing some new skills this year. She teaches some of the same crafts to children as a representative for the Irish Embassy for the annual Kids Euro Festival.
Sandy also is a nationally certified Physician Assistant in Primary Care, with specialty training in public health, pain medicine, infectious disease, and tropical medicine. She teaches at the George Washington University as an Assistant Clinical Professor in the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health and has domestic and international public health projects, and has received an international award in Public Health. She has created curricula, written and published on subjects ranging from working with children in public health, to unexpected sources of caffeine. Sandy also provides direct care to uninsured patients at the Holy Cross Health Center. She keeps a very busy schedule giving local, regional, national, and international presentations on medicine and public health. She is a former EMT and Instructor, Instructor-Trainer in all areas of first aid and CPR with the American Red Cross. She has been the Health Officer for MAD Week since its inception and looks forward to another healthy week of fun.
Donna Long grew up in Los Angeles where she was introduced to music at a young age by her father, Byron Long, a jazz and classical pianist. After moving to Baltimore in the early 1980s a chance meeting with Irish fiddler Brendan Mulvihill inspired her to learn the fiddle and also accompany him on the piano. They played as a duo for ten years and recorded two albums together, The Steeplechase and The Morning Dew. A member of Cherish the Ladies for nine years, Donna recorded the group on occasion. Donna currently performs with many artists from the Baltimore-Washington area and also with Irish fiddler James Kelly, with whom she has just released a CD. Donna currently teaches piano and fiddle in the Baltimore/DC area and won a Maryland State Arts Council Teacher/Apprentice Grant for 2010 with her student, Matthew Mulqueen. Her first solo piano CD, Handprints, was released in 2003 to critical acclaim. Donna’s son Jesse Smith is a renowned traditional Irish fiddler currently living in Dublin.
Dr. Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin was named as the inaugural holder of The Johnson Chair in Québec and Canadian Irish Studies at Concordia University, Montréal, in 2009. Prior to that, from 2000-09 he was The Jefferson Smurfit Professor of Irish Studies and Professor of Music at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. A five-time All Ireland Champion uilleann piper and concertina player, Gearóid has presented more than 1,000 concerts on four continents during the past thirty years. He is also an advisor for the Centre for Irish Studies at the National University of Ireland-Galway and is involved with several research collaboratives in the European Union and North America.
In Jully 2016, his long awaited book Flowing Tides: History and Memory in an Irish Soundscape was published by Oxford University Press. In addition to his previous book A Pocket History of Irish Traditional Music (O’Brien Press, Dublin), he has published numerous book chapters, academic articles, encyclopedia entries, and liner essays on Irish music and cultural history. His commercial recordings include: Traditional Music from Clare and Beyond (1996); Tracin’ – Traditional Music from the West of Ireland (1999, with fiddler Patrick Orceau); The Independence Suite – Traditional Music from Ireland, Scotland and Cape Breton (2004); and the ethnographic recording Paddy Murphy: Field Recordings from a Pioneer of the Irish Concertina (2007), which was also published as a digital archive (2008).
Jesse Winch is MAD Week's Artistic Director. He was born and raised in the Bronx in an immigrant neighborhood, and is regarded as one of the top bodhran (Irish drum) players and teachers in traditional Irish music. He also plays bouzouki, guitar, and harmonica, and was a founding member of the band Celtic Thunder.
As a ten-year-old, Jesse took up the drums and two years later started playing with his father and button-accordion player P.J. Conway for house parties and parish dances. He played in his first ceili band in the late 1950s under the tutelage of the legendary Felix Dolan. The bands Felix organized won many first-place prizes at New York feiseanna. Jesse went on to play drums with the Joe Nellany Band, Paddy Noonan, Paulie Ryan, and several other Irish dance bands in New York in the early 1960s, playing such historic venues as the New York City Center, The Yorkville Casino, The Jaeger House, and others.
In the late 1960s Jesse was introduced to the bodhran at an Irish Northern Aid benefit by Brian Heron, grandson of James Connolly, the great Irish patriot. In succeeding years, Jesse started playing the bodhran with encouragement and inspiration from such players as Peadar Mercier, Robin Morton, Seamus Begley (while visiting Washington on the 1976 Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann [CCE] tour) and DeDanann's Johnny McDonagh. Jesse played with James Keane's Ellis Island Band at the National Folk Festival in 1986 and 1987 as part of an all-star line-up that included Jack Coen, Mike Preston, Andy McGann, Paddy Reynolds, and Mattie Connolly, with Seamus Connolly joining the group in the second year.
Jesse is a founding member, with his brother Terry, of the award-winning band Celtic Thunder, and also plays regularly in the DC area with Narrowbacks, the Bog Wanderers Ceili Band, and the Irish Inn Mates. Jesse has recorded with Celtic Thunder, Jerry O'Sullivan, The Clancy Brothers and Robbie O'Connell, Johnny Cunningham, Linda Hickman, and many others. Jesse has served on the teaching staff at the Augusta Heritage Center’s Irish Week in Elkins, WV, teaching bodhran and ceili band, a class he created; at the Swannanoa Gathering’s Celtic Week in Asheville, NC; at the Annual Convention of the North American Province of CCE; and regularly for the Washington Conservatory of Music at Glen Echo Park, Maryland.
Jesse, former cathaoirleach (chairman) of the O’Neill Malcom Branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCÉ), the worldwide traditional Irish music society, was elected to the CCÉ Mid-Atlantic Region Hall of Fame in 2012.
Peter Brice sings old songs in a traditional style, and plays Irish traditional music on the button accordion. A native Annapolitan and an exponent of Baltimore's Irish traditional music community, Peter's work blends singing and musicianship with musicology and history, humor and colorful design, and a vision for traditional culture as a foundation for a n intellectual life. His playing reflects his admiration for Galway accordionists such as Joe Cooley, Kevin Keegan, and Raymond Roland—a style into which he was initiated by Brooklyn-born accordionist Billy McComiskey. A lifelong singer, Peter has married a repertoire of American historical songs with a wide-ranging English-language style that he gleaned from his teachers Dónal Maguire and the late Louis Killen.
He is a former vice-chair of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann’s O’Neill-Malcom Branch in Washington, D.C. and a past co-coordinator of the Washington Folk Festival. He founded the Baltimore Singers Club with singers Andy O’Brien and Pat Egan to promote traditional singing in Maryland, and was a founding member of the Old Bay Ceili Band. In 2014, he and his mentor Billy McComiskey were recognized by the Maryland State Arts Council as a traditional arts master-apprentice pair. He has independently written over $18,000 in arts grants for Maryland's Irish traditional music community. A graduate of the Peabody Conservatory Preparatory program, Peter also holds a BA in Irish Traditional Music and Dance from the University of Limerick. He is the founder and director New Century American Irish-Arts Company (newcenturyirisharts.com), which fosters traditional artists and their programs in the United States.
MAD Week Founding Director Mitch Fanning is not only a consummate fiddle player, but an inspiring fiddle and violin teacher who can rightly take credit for gracing our area with hundreds of young musicians. He has himself studied violin at Catholic University’s School of Music, where he received a Bachelor’s of Music degree in violin performance in 1982. He studied Irish music with Brendan Mulvihill and others, and in 2014 was awarded a TTCT (Teastas Teagaisc Ceolta Tire), a diploma given to master teachers of Irish music by the CCE in Ireland. Mitch is also founder and director of Musical Arts and Dance (MAD) Week, a now-celebrated school of instruction whose faculty, for one incredible week, includes a galaxy of Irish music stars. He also directs The Bog Band, a talented group of young musicians who are mad for trad Irish music. A frequent participant in festivals and sessions in Ireland, Mitch performs closer to home at events throughout the Washington metro area—he can be heard, for example, every Monday night with his fellow "Inn Mates" at the Irish Inn at Glen Echo. Mitch is also a faculty member of Washington Conservatory of Music, where he teaches traditional Irish fiddle classes designed for violinists.
Maddy O'Neill-Dean has been playing music since she was a kid growing up in an Irish neighborhood in the Bronx, NY. The daughter of immigrants from County Tyrone, Maddy spent her early years step dancing, singing Clancy Brothers songs, and playing the guitar!
She is passionate about making music with kids and their families. And she is passionate about Irish music. For over 15 years Maddy has been involved with community music making - playing the guitar and singing for families in various venues throughout the DC area. In addition to the guitar, Maddy plays the bodhran, ukulele, the hammered dulcimer, and the mountain dulcimer.
However, her real expertise is the art of having fun with music.
Maddy is past Chair of the O'Neill-Malcom Branch of CCE and previous Director of the CCE Irish Folk Festival.
Maddy is also the Director of Music With Maddy, the founder of the Irish band Mad for the Road, and performs with the Irish Breakfast Band.
A 4-time All-Ireland Fiddle Champion, Dylan Foley was a student of the great Rose Flanagan (the original fiddler in Cherish the Ladies) and counts Joanie Madden, Brian Conway, Mike McHale, and Monsignor Charlie Coen among his primary influences. He is a vibrant stylist whose playing has been called “impeccable and spirited.” Dylan has played on Jay Unger’s Dancing On the Air show on WAMC four times. Dylan has also performed with Mick Moloney, Joanie Madden, Bobby Hicks, Matt Molloy and Sharon Shannon.
He has also taught and performed at the Catskills Irish Arts Week, CCE MAD week and Elkins Irish Week. In March 2012, Foley released his debut solo album, “Hup!” featuring Brendan Dolan (piano) and Josh Dukes. Dylan, in March 2013 recorded an album with a stunning quartet, “The Yanks” made up of Isaac Alderson, Dan Gurney and Sean Earnest. Their album has been called “Outrageously good… This new Yanks album is a brilliant debut that features some of the best young trad players you’ll find anywhere.”- The Irish Echo. They are now touring frequently around the US. In 2014 The Yanks -- with Dylan -- recorded a follow-up double CD, "Haymaker". And most recently, Dylan and Josh Dukes again teamed up for the critically acclaimed CD "The New York Connection". These days Dylan teaches privately, plays concerts, sessions and ceili’s around the greater NY area, and often visits Washington DC where he is a very welcome guest at our local sessions.
“One the finest Irish fiddlers of his generation.” – Brian Conway
With more than fifty years of dance under his feet,
Kevin Doyle of Rhode Island, USA, is a 2014 National Heritage Fellow in Irish step dance. The National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship is the highest honor awarded in the United States to a traditional folk artist. Kevin is a leading exponent of Irish dance as brought to America by his mother from County Roscommon in the 1930s. For young Kevin, the American melting pot already had cooked up a taste for step and percussive dancing that welcomed the Irish, who took to tap dance and the performance opportunities that vaudeville and musical theatre in the 20th century presented.
While competing in Irish feis in the 1960s and earning US Irish Dance Champion honors, Kevin added American tap to his repertoire, studying with the legendary Theresa Landry. With tradition on his side, Kevin has tap danced through every decade of his life: the waltz clog; Tea for Two; the military tap, and more. He is a sought-after performer, teacher, choreographer, and creative collaborator. He has contributed to the award winning television series Along the Blackstone, which documents the cultural traditions of the Blackstone River Valley, the newest American National Historical Park, and region where Kevin advanced his skills in Irish step dance and American tap. The series won Kevin a shared Telly Award.
In his performances and workshops, Kevin explores the steps that travelled from Ireland to meet American tap routines. As a master teacher, he conveys a living social and performance genre in American dance. Kevin is the recipient of national and regional awards and grants (RI State Council on the Arts 2013 Folk Arts Fellowship and Southern New England Folk & Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program-Dance Master) that honor his place and his footprint on the American stage and its dance performance legacy.
Josh Dukes is an All Ireland Champion accompanist and a highly sought after music teacher in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. A multi-instrumentalist whose talents embrace the ceili drums, guitar, bouzouki, bodhran, flute, and tin whistle, Josh has established a reputation for providing sensitive, tasteful support for traditional Irish music.
As a young high school student, Josh studied the oboe, tenor/alto saxophone, drum set and baritone horn. Outside of the classroom, he learned the art of ancient rudimental drumming under the tutelage of Dominick Cuccia, a widely respected instructor/performer in the fife and drum community. In 1997, Josh enlisted in the Army and has since earned the rank of Master Sergeant , currently serving as one of three Drum Majors for the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, "The Official Escort to the President", the only military unit of its kind.
Josh continues to perform Irish music, having shared the stage with such renowned musicians including John Doyle, Paddy Keenan, Billy and Sean McComiskey, Brendan Mulvihill, Kevin Crawford, Zan McLeod, and Myron Bretholz, and he can be seen playing ceili drums regularly with The Old Bay Ceili Band. Josh lives in greater D.C. Area with his wife Judy and two daughters, Mya and Olivia.
Bob Engelman is an author, an environmental researcher and a musician. Born and raised in the DC area, he has worked as a journalist in Latin America, Kansas City, Denver, and Washington. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Scientific American, and his scientific work has been published in Nature. He speaks regularly in the U.S. and abroad on such topics as climate change, population, reproductive health and gender. His book More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want won a Global Media Award from the Population Institute. As a senior fellow and president emeritus of the Worldwatch Institute he currently directs a project assessing scientific research on family planning and environmental sustainability.
Bob’s musical interest began with piano lessons as a child, and he performed in the DC area as a singer and guitarist in the 1960s and ‘70s. Studying hammer dulcimer in the mid-‘70s, he encountered the music of O’Carolan, which launched a passion for Irish traditional music that has continued since. An adult learner on violin, he has studied the fiddle music of Donegal with the late James Byrne, Caoimhín Mac Aoidh, Siobhan Peoples and other masters of the genre.
Local history has long been an avocational interests for Bob. In 1986 the Washington Post Magazine published his article “Washington Before Washington” on the prehistory of the Washington area. At home and in frequent travels to Ireland he continues to pursue research on the intersection of Irish and Maryland history since the 17th century. He lives with his wife Colleen Cordes in Takoma Park.
New York born fiddler Brian Conway is a leading exponent of the tastefully ornamented Sligo fiddling style made famous by the late Michael Coleman. The winner of two All- Ireland junior titles in 1973 and 1974 and the All-Ireland senior championship of 1986, Brian's early studies were with his father Jim of Plumbridge County Tyrone and with Limerick born fiddler/teacher Martin Mulvihill. However, it was the legendary fiddler and composer Martin Wynne who taught him the real secrets of the County Sligo style. Later, Brian met and befriended the great Andy McGann of New York a direct student of Michael Coleman, who further shaped his precision and skill on the instrument.
In 1979, Brian recorded a duet album, The Apple In Winter (Green Linnet) with fellow New York fiddler Tony Demarco. He released his debut solo CD, First through the Gate, on the Smithsonian-Folkways label in July 2002. This CD was voted the prestigious Album of the Year by the Irish Echo. Brian is also featured on the CD, My Love is in America, recorded at the Boston College Irish Fiddle Festival, and on the documentary "Shore to Shore" which highlights traditional Irish music in New York. He is considered one of the musical rocks of the New York area.
Brian remains faithful to the rich tradition handed down to him. The distinctness of his tone, the lift of his playing, and the deft ornamentation he brings to the tunes have placed him among the finest Irish fiddlers of any style, Sligo or otherwise. He has performed all over North America from San Francisco to New York and places in between such as Chicago, Milwaukee and Colorado. His talents have also been enthusiastically received throughout Ireland and the rest of Europe. His current CD, First through the Gate, exemplifies the versatility that characterizes his concert performances and festival appearances. He is also a noted instructor who has mentored many fine fiddle players, including several who have gone on to win All-Ireland championships.
In 2007, Brian released a CD titled A Tribute to Andy McGann on the prestigious Irish LabelCló Iar-Chonnachta. This CD pairs up Irish Music legends Joe Burke and Felix Dolan along with Brian in a CD which has received glowing accolades since it's release in the summer of 2007. Brian followed this CD with a much anticipated new Solo CD titled "Consider the Source" in deference to the rich environment from which Brian learned his music. This CD was released in 2008 on the Cló Iar-Chonnachta Label. This CD features guest appearances by music greats Niamh Parsons, Dan Milner, Billy McComiskey, Joannie Madden, Felix Dolan, and Brendan Dolan. Earle Hitchner of the Irish Echo described this CD as "Easily one of the best releases this year".
Tony DeMarco: Irish fiddler. If that sounds slightly off, you have only to listen to the music on his recordings to be cured of any preconceptions about the importance of ethnic purity in traditional music. There may have been a time when Irish music in New York City was played exclusively by Irish immigrants and their offspring, while their Italian neighbors strummed mandolins and sang opera. But the Big Apple really is a melting pot, at least for some of its disparate immigrant elements. Before World War II it really wasn’t very common for Italian and Irish Americans to marry each other. By the 1950s, however, this kind of ethnic mixing was fairly normal in Tony’s native Brooklyn, where the Italians and Irish lived side by side and attended the same parish churches.
Tony was born on May 20, 1955, the second of three children raised in East Flatbush by Paul DeMarco and his wife, the former Patricia Dempsey. Paul, a grandson of Italian immigrants, was a teenage lightweight boxing star who turned down an offer to turn pro and work with lightweight champ Paddy “Billygoat” DeMarco in order to pursue a more conventional career on Wall Street. Tony’s maternal grandfather Jimmy Dempsey was a New York City cop and a son of Irish immigrants who married Philomena “Minnie” Fenimore, one of several Italian-American siblings who married into Brooklyn Irish families.
Musical ability runs on both sides of Tony’s family. During the Prohibition years, Minnie Dempsey’s Italian immigrant father ran a speakeasy in East New York, where he played the piano and mandolin. Tony’s paternal uncle Louie DeMarco was a singer who performed with 1950s doo-wop groups, including “Dickie Dell and the Ding Dongs.” Tony’s cousin John Pattitucci, from the Fenimore side of the family, is a leading professional bass player who has recorded with jazz stars Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter. But Tony definitely found his way to Irish traditional music via a different path than the one trod by musicians raised in Irish immigrant households.
More typical young Irish traditional musicians in New York in the 1970s had at least one parent born in Ireland. They may well have attended step dancing classes with one of the many dance schools in the region, and most likely went to group music classes conducted in the Bronx, Brooklyn, New Jersey, or Long Island by Pete Kelly, Martin Mulvihill, and Maureen Glynn. They would have joined a branch of the international Irish traditional music organization Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and competed each year at the regional fleadh cheoil at Manhattan College in the Bronx. If they placed high enough, they would go on to the big show, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann—the All-Ireland Fleadh—from which not a few returned home with the coveted title of “All-Ireland champion” on the fiddle, button accordion, tin whistle, or other instrument.
Tony had a different background altogether. As he puts it: “I never grew up with the competitive Comhaltas scene—I came through the hippie scene, the folkie scene.” He tells the story of how he took up the fiddle and discovered Irish music in his own contribution to these notes, but it is worth repeating here that his first exposure to Irish traditional music was through a Folkways recording of the County Sligo fiddler Michael Gorman. Tony had many other musical influences before this, and would have many more afterward, but for him the appeal of the Sligo fiddle style would never fade.
- Don Meade
Tina Eck plays the Irish wooden flute and tin whistle. Originally from Germany and now working as a Washington-based radio news correspondent, she discovered her passion for Irish traditional music in a local pub in Washington DC in the 1990s. She has since performed at countless sessions, festivals, dances, and concerts. She has traveled to Ireland frequently and has learned technique and repertoire from some of the best traditional flute players in Ireland and the U.S. She is on the faculty of the Washington Conservatory of Music program at Glen Echo Park, and she also gives private flute and whistle lessons. She recently earned the TTCT (Teastas Teagaisc Ceolta Tire)Teacher Certification Diploma from Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann. In 2011 Tina was awarded a Maryland State Arts Council Grant for Solo World Music Performance. With bouzouki player/banjoist Keith Carr, she plays with the Irish traditional music duo Lilt, which has released three recordings: Irish Traditional Music, Onward and Little Falls (www.liltirishmusic.com). She also performs regularly with the dance band Rambling House, The Irish Inn Mates, and The Flaming Shillelaghs. Tina lives in Cabin John, Maryland.
Creative artist Kieran Jordan is a dynamic performer, teacher, director, choreographer, and writer in the field of Irish dance. Based in Boston, Massachusetts, she has established a professional freelance career spanning more than 15 years.
Kieran’s dancing reflects her broad interests and experience, ranging from traditional Irish dance to contemporary modern dance. She has a particular passion for sean-nós dance — the improvised “old-style” tradition from Ireland — and through her innovative recordings, teaching programs, and performance projects, she has played a major role in introducing it to the US.
A life-long Irish step dancer, Kieran has performed at concerts and festivals throughout North America and Europe, combining her nimble footwork and sean-nós dance musicality with a warm and uplifting presence. Her dancing has been described as fluid and elegant, subtle and sweet, with rock-solid grooves and guts underneath. “Wonderfully expressive” (The Living Tradition) and “playfully theatrical” (The Boston Globe), Kieran creates soulful and memorable moments on stage.
Kieran has collaborated with some of today’s finest performers in Celtic music, including Liz Carroll, Hanneke Cassel, Danú, John Doyle, Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas, Matt and Shannon Heaton, Sean McComiskey and Cleek Schrey, Solas, Téada and others. In 2009, she performed as part of a Boston gala for Ireland’s then president Dr. Mary McAleese.
She has produced two DVDs on old-style Irish dance — a documentary called Secrets of the Sole, with dancers Kevin Doyle and Aidan Vaughan, and a sean-nós dance instructional video called Musical Feet! Her percussive footwork can be heard on several audio recordings as well, and is featured throughout the 2011 CD by Triptych (Laura Risk, Kieran Jordan, Paddy League).
Kieran was honored with a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship in 2008 and a Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grant in 2010. She has a Master’s Degree in Contemporary Dance from the University of Limerick, Ireland, and a B.A. from Boston College in English literature and Irish Studies. She also holds An Coimisiun le Rince Gaelacha TCRG certification for teaching Irish Dance.
Don Meade grew up in southern California in the 1960s and, like many Irish-Americans of the time, was introduced to Irish music by the recordings of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. He got his first harmonica in 1965 and started trying to play the melodies he’d learned from those LP’s. After moving to New York City in 1976, he encountered musicians from the older Irish instrumental tradition and became a regular attendee at the weekly sessions at the former Eagle Tavern, where he drew particular inspiration from the late Longford fiddle great Paddy Reynolds.
In addition to learning the tenor banjo and fiddle, Don tried to apply his harmonica skills to traditional dance music but was frustrated by the limitations of the little ten-hole diatonic mouth organs he had been playing. The recordings of Cavan-born harmonica virtuoso Eddie Clarke opened his ears to the greater possibilities of the chromatic instrument. While tremendously inspired by Clarke’s approach, Don was also influenced by Irish two-row button accordionists, whose techniques for playing the music of fiddle, flute and pipes on the button box he tried to adapt to the chromatic harmonica, a free-reed instrument of similar construction. Playing on a chromatic harmonica, Don won the senior mouth organ championship in 1987 at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. Perhaps not coincidentally, the mouth organ competition at the fleadh has since been restricted to diatonic players!
Don currently leads a weekly session at the Landmark Tavern in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen district, and plays frequently at dances, festivals and sessions throughout the New York area. He is also well known as the producer, since 1985, of a series of Irish traditional music concerts formerly presented at the Eagle Tavern and Blarney Star bar and currently at New York University’s Glucksman Ireland House. He served for six years as the Artistic Director of Catskills Irish Arts Week, and is still on the teaching staff of that annual program of music classes, concerts, dances and sessions, now in its 20th year. Don was a traditional music columnist for ten years for the Irish Voice newspaper and has contributed articles to Current Musicology, New York Irish History, The Companion to Irish Traditional Music and New Hibernia Review.
Dan Milner teaches Finding Your Own Voice in Traditional Irish Song, a fun, enlightening class focusing on repertoire-building and improving individual singing technique. Highly regarded here and in Ireland as a singer, author and collector, his book (The Bonnie Bunch of Roses) and recordings (including Irish Ballads & Songs of the Sea and the twice Indie-nominated Irish Pirate Ballads) are considered classics of the Celtic canon. Dr. Dan is a cultural geographer at St. John's University in New York and a former columnist for Irish Music Magazine.
Jennifer O’Riordan is a native of Cork, Ireland. As a lecturer at the Catholic University of America, she teaches various levels of Irish Language and Culture to a growing body of students. Jennifer also teaches French for the department of Modern Languages, and she works in the Certificate program for European Studies, where she has designed a course module on migration and multiculturalism, examining their impact on contemporary notions of national identity in Ireland.
Additionally, Jennifer is involved in the expatriate Irish community throughout Washington, DC. For the past two years, she has regularly offered classes in the Irish language for adult learners in the DC region. Prior to teaching, Jennifer was employed as a development consultant for the United Nations and the Institute for Security Studies in Ethiopia, South Africa and Tanzania.
Mike Schaeffer’s first contact with the Irish language was while he was growing up in the Washington, DC inner city Irish community drawing ancestry mostly from southwest Ireland, Clashmealcon, Co. Kerry in his case. He was fascinated by the sound fragments of Irish that he heard from older family members and friends, but no one would ever tell him what they meant. It wasn’t until about 20 years later that he became associated with the local Conradh na Gaeilge (Irish League) branch and adult education courses offered in Northern Virginia. That gave him access to native speakers in Virginia and nearly seven years of homeschooling in Irish. The Conradh led to a still-active reading and discussion group for both old and new works in the Irish language. Mike has taught short courses in Irish for the last number of years at the local annual CCÉ festival and translated many old songs and airs into modern English. He also plays uilleann pipes and low whistles for Cool McFinn, a locally based group, and at sessions.
Jackie O’Riley is one of the foremost traditional Irish dancers in New England. A teacher and performer of old-style step dancing and sean-nós dancing, her dancing has a light and fluid touch, underscored by strong rhythm, and an infectious joy for sharing this living tradition. Jackie performs at festivals and venues throughout the country, was an original member of the touring sean-nós dance show Atlantic Steps, and was featured on Irish television's TG4 coverage of the 2014 sean-nós dancing Oireachtas. Jackie has shared the stage and collaborated with performers including Kevin Doyle, Kieran Jordan, Brian Cunningham, Nic Gareiss, Seamus Begley, Matt Cranitch, Oisín Mac Diarmada, and many others. She has studied with dance masters including Patrick O'Dea, Peggy McTeggart, and Aidan Vaughn. Jackie directs and teaches an award-winning non-competitive Irish dance program for children based in Boston, now in its sixth year. www.jackieoriley.com
Pádraig McEneany is one of the most popular and sought after Set Dance Masters on the Irish dance scene. Pádraig hails from South Armagh, his wife Róisín from Dublin, but together they make their home in Termonfechin, Co Louth and have been dancing together since they met 24 years ago. Indeed it was through dancing that they first met, when mutual friends paired them together as the “perfect couple” on and off the dance floor. Both of them studied Irish Dancing, but when they met legendary set dance Master Connie Ryan, they both were hooked on the Traditional Sets of Ireland. They were members of the Slivenamon Set Dancers who toured throughout the United States in 1988 and 1991. They have also performed at various functions and numerous television programs including the “Come Dance with me in Ireland” series of videos. They have produced two DVD/CD packages entitled “The Full Set” 1&2 with their group “Faoi Do Chois” (On your feet). They continue to teach weekly workshops throughout Ireland and also have held master classes in the USA, UK, Italy, France, Dubai, Germany, Denmark, Canada, Corsica and others. They are known for their fancy footwork and attention to detail in maintaining the special features of each individual set. They cater for dancers of all ages and abilities in a relaxed and friendly manner.
Laurence Nugent carries on a great tradition of virtuoso playing on both sides of the Atlantic. As a well-established performer and recording artist, he has performed with scores of top musicians including The Chieftains, Van Morrison, Martin Hayes, Arty McGlinn, Paddy Keenan. Laurence has toured extensively throughout Ireland, the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan. He has been a featured performer at most major Irish music festivals including: Milwaukee Irish Fest, San Francisco Irish Fest, the Glen Echo Festival in Washington DC, the Willie Clancy Summer School in Ireland, and the International Flute Festival De Cornouaille Quimper in France, etc. His playing has been heard extensively on the radio both the US and Ireland including: National Public Radio, A Prairie Home Companion, The Studs Terkel Show, and Ireland's national radio network RTE.
The new CD "White Island" is a culmination of recording sessions over the last seven years. The musicians performing with Laurence on "White Island" include: Michael McGoldrick flute, Liz Carroll fiddle, Steve Cooney guitar, Pat McManus guitar and fiddle, Fintan McManus bouzouki, Larry Gray cello and bass, David Curley guitar, Cary Novotny guitar, Matheu Watson guitar, Isaac Alderson flute, Sean Gavin pipes and flute, Jackie Moran percussion, Kyle Turner synthesizer and voice. This new CD joins Laurence's past catalog of work, the critically acclaimed CDs he recorded for the Shanachie record label "Laurence Nugent, Two For Two", and "The Windy Gap", where he was joined by Irish music legends like Kevin Burke, Martin Hayes, Liz Carroll, and Arty McGlynn.
Laurence comes from the village of Lack in County Fermanagh, an area of Northern Ireland that is steeped in the traditional arts of music, singing and storytelling. Nugent is a name long associated with fine traditional music in Fermanagh. Laurence's father, the late Sean Nugent, a teacher and composer, was at the helm of the All-Ireland winning "The Pride of Erin Ceili Band". He taught Laurence, his siblings, and also hundreds of other musicians performing today. Like many young musicians of his generation, Laurence entered regional and national competitions held under the auspices of Comhaltas. He took first prize in junior competitions three times in the late 80s, before going on to win the senior All-Ireland Championships in 1994 and 1995 at the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann.
"One of Irish music's recognized master musicians." -Irish Music Magazine
"At its best, traditional Irish music alternately soothes the soul and inflames one's passion, and few musicians do both as effortlessly as Nugent does." -Dan Keening, The Chicago Tribune
Laurence's website is at https://laurencenugent.com
Noel Fahey is a native of County Meath, Ireland, and has lived in the United States for 40 years. Having retired from work in the financial sector last year, he turned his attention from a vocation to his avocation – Irish music and the Irish language. As well as learning to play the concertina, he has embarked on a major multimedia project under the working title "Irish for the Non-Irish Irish Musician." The planned end product is a three-volume work tied to an on-line compendium of video and audio performances of traditional instrumental music and of songs in the Irish language. The idea is to provide the large community of Irish musicians throughout the world with an understanding of the Irish language foundation of both instrumental and vocal music and of the social milieu in which the music is played.
As well as a lifelong interest in Irish music, Noel has a bachelors in History and Modern Irish and a Masters in Old Irish from the National University of Ireland, Galway, as well as an MBA from the University of Chicago. During his time in Galway, Noel lived for a year in the Conamara Irish-speaking district. Twenty years ago, he translated in verse the bawdy-comic epic Irish poem from the 1790s, Brian Merriman's Cúirt an Mheán Oíche (The Midnight Court). The translation is available on-line at www.midnight-court.com.
Musical Arts & Dance
MAD Week Faculty for 2017
MAD Week in the News
In 1976, Karen Ashbrook built her first hammered dulcimer as a high school project. She attended the Eastman Preparatory School in Rochester, NY. In search of Irish music, she went overseas and spent five years playing in Europe and Asia, traversing the globe twice.
With her delicate touch, trademark shimmering lilt, and ear for authentic ornamentation, Karen Ashbrook is considered one of the finest Irish hammered dulcimer players anywhere. Add her wooden flute and pennywhistle playing, and you have the consummate Irish musician. Irish reviewer John O'Regan calls her recordings "Celtic music for the mind and body.
"Karen has long been something of a heroine to me... Her style is at times traditional, then moves surprisingly at a tangent, making it more interesting in an unexpected way. And her whistle playing is excellent." — Irish Edition (Philadelphia)
Based in the Washington, DC area, Karen teaches and performs Celtic, contra dance, and Jewish music. These days she primarily performs as a duo with her husband Paul Oorts, playing his native Belgian and French music, and as a trio in Pavilion 3 with percussionist Steve Bloom added. She has several recordings, both solo and with the group Ceoltoiri, on the Maggie's Music label. Karen plays the hammered dulcimer in the Irish Tradition book/CD set from Oak Publications, a standard text in dulcimer literature. She appears at numerous folk music camps and festivals around the country. Performance highlights include RTE 1-Irish National Television, the Smithsonian Institution, National Geographic, and playing at the White House for President Bill Clinton. Karen also plays with Cabaret Sauvignon. Check out her 4/13/01 performance at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage
Karen's newest CD, Spring Will Come, is a live recording marking her 30th anniversary as a dulcimer player, teacher, and advocate, and celebrates her rich musical partnerships with Ceoltoiri, David Scheim, and Pavilion 3.
In addition to her performing and recording career, Karen has done much to promote traditional Irish music and arts to the next generation of Irish musicians. Karen has taught and coached two-time All-Ireland winner Arjuna Balaranjan (miscellaneous Instrument, 2 different age groups). Karen compiled The Hedge School Tune Book, the compendium of traditional Irish dance tunes that is used by children’s sessions throughout the area. Karen runs a series of “Hedge School” summer camps for children of all ages each summer. She also ran a children’s session for ten years at various venues in the DC area. For details about summer camps as well as a downloadable version of The Hedge School Tune Book, please visit her website at www.karenashbrook.com.