Trad Music Summer Camp

Why players plunge into immersive teaching weeks
Episode Trailer

What’s the story with traditional music and dance camps?And with Irish, Scottish and New England fiddling gatherings in every time zones, who heads to these annual events? 

Host Shannon Heaton talks with Mick Moloney, Kathleen Conneely, Seamus Connolly, Lissa Schneckenburger, Robbie O’Connell, Kevin Crawford, Cecilia Farran, Deirdre Cronin, Fiona Howell, and Brennish Thomson about what motivates instructors and students. 

Whether you already play or dance trad (or you’ve never had a Stroopwaffel) these stories might inspire you to pack your own flashlight and tune notebook in search of connection, creativity, and community.


Thank you to everybody for listening. And a special thank you to this month’s supporters: John MacDonald, John Kerr, Sharon Murphy, Paul DeCamp, Billie Neal, and Brian Benscoter.

Episode 20 – Trad Music Summer Camp: why players plunge into immersive teaching weeks.
This Irish Music Stories episode aired September 11, 2018
– transcript edited by John Ploch –

Speakers, in order of appearance:

>> Shannon Heaton:  flute player, singer, composer, teacher, and host of Irish Music Stories 
>> Nigel Heaton:  young announcer for Irish Music Stories
>> Lissa Schneckenburger: Maine-born, Vermont-based New England style fiddle player and singer
>> Kathleen Conneely: Boston-based tin whistle player from Bedford, England
>> Mick Moloney: Folklorist/musician, festival director, producer
>> Robbie O’Connell: Waterford-born singer songwriter 
>> Cecilia Farran FKA Cease Grinwald: Wisconsin-born story teller 
>> Seamus Connolly: Master fiddle player, educator, and festival organizer 
>> Kevin Crawford: Birmingham, England-born flute, whistle, and bodhran player 
>> Deirdre Cronin: Dublin-based Music journalist, writer, and teacher
>> Fiona Howell: Maine-based flute player and singer
>> Brennish Thomson: Photographer/videographer, and fiddle and guitar player

Before I start the show, I wanted to thank everybody for listening. And for sharing episodes with your friends. And a very special thank you to this month’s donors, read by my son Nigel:

>> Nigel: Thank you to John MacDonald, John Kerr, Sharon Murphy, Paul DeCamp, Billie Neal, and Brian Benscoter.

>> Shannon:  If you can kick in, please visit Your support helps me pull together different voices and views of the world—all through an Irish music and dance lens. So, Thank you!

And… I’m Shannon Heaton. And This is Irish Music Stories, the show about traditional music, and the bigger stories behind it….

[ Music: “Pound the Floor,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories

Artist/Composer:  Matt Heaton ]

… like what to take to summer camp.

>> Various voices:  …sleeping bag, bug spray, sunscreen, bathing suit, warm hoodie, flashlight… 

>> Shannon:  Sound familiar? Maybe over the summer you—or your kids—packed bags for YMCA camp, or Wilderness Camp… or Irish music and dance camp.

>> Various voices:  …electric kettle, tea bags, extra strings, rosin, fiddle, dance shoes, extra guitar picks, capo, external phone mic, tune notebook…

>> Shannon:  Search the internet for “traditional music and dance camps” and you’ll find loads of summer events centered around jigs and reels, like Maine Fiddle Camp which Lissa Schneckenburger describes like this:

>> Lissa:  All of the fun of a typical sleep away camp and this awesome community of supportive creative people of all ages.  So, yeah, I, I can’t imagine my life without it.

>> Shannon:  There are trad camps for every taste, temperament, and time zone.  You got your week-long summer camps like the Willie Clancy Summer School, Swannanoa Gathering, Valley of the Moon, Milwaukee Irish Fest Summer School, and Catskills Irish Arts Week.  

[ Music:  “Hometown Lullaby,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories

Artist/Composer:  Matt Heaton ]

There are programs through Fall, Winter and Spring like the O’Flaherty Retreat, the Winter School in Gweedore, Portal Irish Music Week, the Dance Flurry, and Folk College.  There’s Crisol de Cuerda in the Spanish province of Burgos, and an Irish music camp in Takashima, Japan, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Traditional Irish music and dance camps all over the world are easy to find on the internet.  Also easy to find online? Recordings, videos, discussion groups, tune learning apps. Information and community is available 24/7 at the camp of the world wide web.

When Irish camps and festivals started, there was no internet. There was no Mudcat. There was no . There was no Irish Music Stories Podcast.  But now it’s all just a click away. So, why head to summer camp in Miltown Malbay or East Durham, New York? 

For this episode I talk to Kathleen Conneely, Mick Moloney, Robbie O’Connell, Cecilia Farran, Lissa Schneckenburger, Seamus Connolly, Kevin Crawford, Deirdre Cronin, Brennish Thomson, and Fiona Howell to find the deeper story. I dig into the history of these summer schools; how instructors learned and what motivates them—and why people bother with trad camp in the 21st century.


Back in 1951, Comhaltas had just formed to promote Irish traditional music. One of the group’s central missions? Organize an annual festival.

Over a long holiday weekend in May, organizers pulled together an event in Mullingar, with a concert, ceili dance, and closing day of competitions. 

[ Music: “The Collier’s Reel,” from Classics of Irish Piping.

Artist:  Leo Rowsome ]

That first year, they didn’t call it a Fleadh. And they didn’t really call it Comhaltas at first. But over the next few years, individual Comhaltas branches offering year-round instruction popped up all over the world. You can learn more about Comhaltas in Episode 01. But for this show, the punchline is that the annual shindigs got bigger and bigger. And now the summer Fleadh is Ireland’s biggest music festival. In addition to the competitions and formal programming, spontaneous sessions happen all over town. If you’re mad for tunes, it’s a feast of music and dance.

And while the Fleadh isn’t really a teaching weekend per se, it set the summer school stage.  Whistle player Kathleen Conneely remembered a Fleadh she attended with her family. Kathleen lives a few blocks from me—and she’s got teenagers on her street. You can hear them playing outside during our chat.


>> Kathleen:  There was, uh, one time that dad took the whole family along to, uh,a Fleadh Cheoil in Listowell. I can’t remember the year. And we were, we were kids, you know like teens, you know. 

>> Shannon:  And as we’re talking, our kids playing outside—I think it’s, kind of like, perfect soundtrack. 

>> Kathleen:  It is cool. On the hot summer’s day that it is here. Um, it was just amazing.  It was the first time to see music in every corner in this town. And, I remember one night, um, it was late, maybe one or two in the morning, and dad was wandering about (because he’s music mad). And, um, there was a gorgeous, um, fiddle session going on in an archway. And he went back to the B&B where we were staying, and he woke us up and made us…

>> Shannon:  HaHaHa.

>> Kathleen:  …come downstairs so we could watch it. It was like heavenly music, it was beautiful. 

>> Shannon:  Because of these sessions, as much as the competitions, the Fleadh became a destination weekend for families, and younger and younger audiences. Then 22 years later, a team of Clare musicians launched the week-long Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malbay.

It was designed to honor piper Willie Clancy, by bringing together tradition bearers who not only play skillfully, but live generous musical lives. From the start, in 1973, the school was competition-free, evening concerts and ceilidhs were open to the public.

Like at the Fleadh, there were music sessions all over town. I asked Kathleen if she had any early Willie Week memories.

>> Kathleen:  Just before I turned 21, I left home. And I was going to live in Dublin, but I headed to Miltown for the first time.

>> Shannon:  To Willie Week?

>> Kathleen:  Willie Week, yeah. And that was amazing. Um, just to hear the music, you know, heard recorded. And to meet those musicians and see them playing live in the streets. I remember, um, coming out of a pub, um—because they used to close the pubs in the middle of a day then on a Sunday, anyway um, and coming out and just wandering around. And, you know, blinded by the light because you’d been in the dark pub all day. 

[ Music: “Kitty in the Lane,” from Beginish  

Artist:  Paul O’Shaughnessy

Not necessarily drinking, you know, but listening to the great sessions. And, uh, I remember, I’ll never forget coming across, um, Paul O’Shaughnessy, a fiddle player—who I’d heard of but never met. And he was, he was playing with a French piper called Michel Bonhamie. I’ll never forget that. Um, it was just beautiful. Um, just to be exposed to these musicians. I remember, too, seeing a Himalayan uilleann piper at Willie Week that year. I couldn’t believe it. Um, it was just fantastic.

>> Shannon:  Yeah.

>> Kathleen:  Oh yeah, I turned 21 at Willie Week. I remember Jackie Daly played Happy Birthday Day to me. I had my first Sony tape recorder. It was expensive at the time. And um, and I think I came home with about 12 cassette tapes of music, that I still have (laughing).  They may not be in the best of shape, but I still have them. And it was amazing, um, to meet, in person all the musicians I’d heard of, maybe I’d heard recordings of. Um, just an abundance of people, um, and good clean fun, and great music and great joy and, you know, great mood all around. And an abundance of great music. Sessions in the streets, sessions in the pubs and there were no other pubs. Eventually you’d worm your way in, and we were called tapeworms because we’d have our tape recorder right there in the middle of the session.

>> Shannon:  (laughing)

>> Kathleen:  You know, and that was the thing. It wasn’t necessarily playing with—it was being exposed to this fantastic music and listening and recording. So, you could learn from it.

[ Music: “The Blackbird and the Hen, from Uncommon Bonds

Artist:  Mick Moloney ]

>> Shannon:  In 1982, Dr. Mick Moloney brought the Irish summer school party to the campus of a small liberal arts college in the Mountain Highlands of West Virginia. 

When Mick and I were both in the Catskills, we talked about the Catskills Irish Arts Week. But first we chatted about the Elkins, West Virginia festival, because that’s where Irish camps started in the States.

>> Shannon:  All right Mick, so you’re in from Thailand.  You have your Singha t-shirt on in the middle of the Catskills for Irish Arts Week.

>> Mick:  Do I?

>> Shannon:  You do.

>> Mick:  That’s good.

>> Shannon:  We met up early that day. I made us some strong coffee since we’d been up late the night before, and Mick was still jet lagged, coming in from Bangkok. As we chatted, teachers and students bustled past our little nook on their way to breakfast.

>> Shannon:  All right, so these Irish music teaching, immersive experiences,…

>> Mick:  Yeah

>> Shannon:  … I think you started the first one over here.

>> Mick:  I did, and I can’t say it was my idea at all. Um, I used to go down to this, um, festival in the, in the, in the middle of West Virginia and then out of the blue I got a call from a woman who’d just come on board called Margot Blevin.  And this is before the internet. 

When Margot Blevin called me, she didn’t email me—there was no email—and she certainly didn’t call me on any cell phone, because that didn’t exist either. So, it was business the old fashioned way.  She asked me would I be interested in putting together a teaching week. Uh, and we’ve only a budget for three musicians. And I said could you make it for four and add in a dancer.

>> Shannon:  So began Irish Week at the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College. For the first year, Mick taught banjo, mandolin, and guitar along with fiddle player Liz Carroll, accordion player Billy McComiskey, and dancer Donny Golden.

>> Mick:  I talked to Liz and Billy beforehand to say what are we, how are we going to do this now.  We have to have three, they’re telling us there’s three hours in the morning, lunch break, and three hours in the afternoon, five days a week. And we have to teach them how to play Irish music on an instrument. Ah, and we went down—there was 1982—uh, and there were 40 people who signed up for it. What we had to do was figure out, myself and Liz, I remember, how are we going to teach people how to do something, when we don’t even know how we’re doing it ourselves. 

>> Shannon:  Huh

>> Mick:  So, I had to figure out when I play (sings rhythmically)… what the hell am I doing here?  And, and Liz …

>> Shannon:  Because you just figured it out, you weren’t taught.

>> Mick:  I wasn’t taught it. So, we picked it up by imitation, you know, the classic old way that people learned in the community…

>> Shannon:  And still learn.

>> Mick:  …and still learn. So, we had to figure that out, and, and, it was very intriguing. And with that, kind of, as a road map; then it grew and grew and grew.

[ Music: “Abbey Reel,” from Kitchen Session

Artist:  Matt Heaton ]

Suddenly we were confronted with hundreds of people. I mean, the peak enrollment for Irish week was nearly 400. And we were coming—and, and every year I’d pick different people.   I was very conscious of the chemistry of the, you know, when you put people together, uh, the whole notion of who gets on—chemistry. Not that you pick a bunch of patsies who are all gonna, gonna you know, toe the line. That’s not the way we are in our culture. We’re all a bunch of anarchists really.

>> Shannon:  (laughing)

>> Mick:  But um, the one thing was to have, um, people who like to teach.

 >> Shannon:  So, Mick was choosing instructors. Building the community. And building a distinct camp culture.

>> Mick:  And then we had another big decision to make to—could they come and learn multiple instruments in the week? And we decided NO. And that was something that was, was pretty unique about Elkins. If, if somebody wanted to learn to play the fiddle, ah, the went and they learned fiddle for the week. And, they had a total immersion to Liz Carroll, who came for many years.

[ Music: “Reel Beatrice/The Abbey Reel,” from Liz Carroll

Artist:  Liz Carroll & Dáithí Sproule ]

D.C. area flute player John Kerr told me that Augusta Irish Week 1985 is where he first heard Liz Carroll. He told me he has an enduring mental image of her playing in a crowded space in Elkins, the Ice House, maybe, and all he could see was her tapping feet.

Here’s how it was for singer Robbie O’Connell to teach at Elkins. When we chatted about old ballads for Episode 17, Robbie also had great memories of Irish Week.

>> Robbie:  Well, the first time I went there I was absolutely amazed. I think I got 10 hours sleep, no exaggeration.

>> Shannon:  (laughing)

>> Robbie:   Two hours sleep, the night, the first time—I was on a high for about three weeks afterwards.  It was just the most amazing experience.

>> Shannon:  Staying up late, doing Irish music sessions, …

>> Robbie:  Yeah …

>> Shannon:  …meeting people. 

>> Robbie:  Yeah, there was, there was, at that, that time in Elkins they maybe had Bluegrass week and Irish week or Old Timey week and Irish week and maybe three different things going on together. I remember one year there was Gospel singing and the Irish week and it would be like 50-60 people singing songs—Irish songs, like gospel-style. Oh, it was incredible the stuff that was happening. And it was that wonderful coming together while all the different aspects of the music, you know. But just generally to teach at these things, I wish I could have gone to something like that when I was starting out. You can only learn so much from books or recordings, you know, that, that live music thing of sitting down and having somebody show you the right way to do something, instead of learning it the wrong way and having to unlearn it. (laughing) …

>> Shannon:  Yeah

>> Robbie:  …later on, you know.  It cuts to the chase a little bit and I felt, like, it was really important. I know it’s kind of cliche to say give something back, but I loved being able to help people, um, not waste their time doing stuff that they didn’t need to do.

[ Music: “Heartstrings Theme,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories

Artist/Composer:  Matt Heaton ]

>> Shannon:  Passing on tricks and techniques, and songs, and tunes, and steps. At Trad Camp, teachers and students are really focused on this exchange. It can be a rich—and exHAUSting experience.

>> Robbie:  I found it pretty tiring. Uh, it’s hard to, kind of, be hail fellow well met, uh you know, ‘til 2:00 in the morning and then be up teaching a class at 9:00, you know.

>> Shannon:  Right, you’re always accessible to students?

>> Robbie:  Yeah. But in the beginning, in particular, I really loved it. And to watch the way they developed over a few years—you’d get the same students coming from a few years. I remember I got a package in the mail one day from some guy there was like three or four CDs in it.  He said, “I don’t know if you remember me, but I was in your class, like, so many years ago, and I just wanted to thank you, you know—I have a career now.” And you know, it was lovely. I’m not, not trying to take credit for it. But I mean, I got him focused in the way that, you know, he might not have been able to do had he not gone there. And that felt great—I have to say that felt great. 

[ Music: “A Week Before Easter,” from Recollections Vol 1

Artist:  Robbie O’Connell ]

>> Shannon:  And there’s also a big social benefit.

>> Robbie:  Yeah.  It’s reinforcement, because you’re a bit of an oddity when you’re playing music to most people.  

>> Shannon:  So it’s, sort of, you’re not alone?

>> Robbie:  Yeah, it’s a, it’s a affirmation, you know, by your peers. And, and um, I’m sure it’s the same for dancers—anybody in the arts, really. When you meet fellow, uh, spirits that have the same way of looking at, uh, the world as you do, it reinforces, and, you know…

>> Shannon:  It keeps you going.

>> Robbie:  It keeps you going, yeah. 

>> Shannon:  Yeah.

>> Robbie:  So, I think those weeks are wonderful. I wish there were more of them, really, you know?

>> Shannon:  Yeah, so, bringing all these people together in this summer music camp environment.  People are eating together, people are really getting to know each other year after year. And so now suddenly because of the huge, you know, 24/7 camp of the internet, it’s accessible in a new way.

>> Robbie:  Yeah, yeah.  With the, with the camps, the summer camps, um, people getting together for a week, making friends, getting to know people, seeing them again the following year. I don’t know if you get that sense of community. I’m not, I’m not knocking the internet. I think the internet’s great for that kind of thing. But you can’t quite beat the, the experience of live music and being in a room full of people, and the energy that comes from a session.  You wouldn’t get that—you can’t get that on the internet, you know. No matter what you do, you just don’t get it.

>> Shannon:  And yet I think people who interface online a LOT. That does feed them in a real community way, um, that I think they believe is, um, very dynamic as well.

>> Robbie:  Yeah. And you don’t also don’t get judged by the internet.

>> Shannon:  That’s right. And you don’t have to leave your house and it’s affordable.

>> Robbie:  Yeah

>> Shannon:  Yeah.

>> Robbie:  But I mean that, to, to go through that whole experience, that really only happens in a group setting. So, that’s a, that’s a real important part of it. Because if you’re, if you’re consumed by terror to play for people, (laughing) you’re not going to play until you get over it, you know. 

>> Shannon:  Right.

>> Robbie:  I’ve seen it over the years, I’ve seen loads of people like, shaking…

>> Shannon:  Yeah.

>> Robbie:  …but they get through it and they get over it—you encourage them and, you know, a couple of years later there’s no bother. They just do it, you know.

>> Shannon:  Yeah

>> Robbie:  But it’s all something that we all have to go through. 

>> Shannon:  Yeah.

>> Robbie:  I don’t think the internet’s going to teach you that. 

[ Music: “Meaning of Life, from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories

Artist/Composer:  Matt Heaton ]

>> Shannon:  It’s like what my friend Chuck Lawyer said after he attended the O’Flaherty Retreat in Texas.  He told me, “One thing I learned was to not be so afraid to play. I learned that I can go ahead and just start something.”

[ Music:  “Free the Heel,” from Kitchen Session

Artist:  Matt & Shannon Heaton ]

>> Shannon:  Music fan and storyteller Cecilia Farran (rhymes with McFerrin) was also inspired to start something after going to the 1986 Fleadh in Listowell. She’d met flute player John Egan. And she got her own ideas about starting up a summer school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I met Cecilia during the break at a concert this summer and she told me about the inception of the Irish Fest School.

>> Shannon:  Uh, let’s check your level, please state your name.

>> Cecilia:  Um, I’m Cecilia Farran.

>> Shannon:  OK so, I’m so lucky, I’m playing a concert tonight and I happen to run into you, Cecilia and you started the Irish Music School at Irish Fest? 

>> Cecilia:  Yes, the Irish Fest Summer School.

>> Shannon:  Yeah, tell me how that got going.

>> Cecilia:  Well, in 1986 I had accompanied St. James’s Gate from San Antonio, TX to the, uh, Fleadh, uh, in Listowell and then I got to visit with John Egan. And he sat in his parlor, playing with his old arthritic fingers on his flute and pontificating on the importance of getting lift and rhythm and melody. And every tune was different. And I was so inspired. 

[ Music: “Pound the Floor,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories

Artist/Composer:  Matt Heaton ]

>> Shannon: Cecilia (known to many at the time as Cease Grinwald)—she’d had been volunteering for the Milwaukee Irish Fest, this huge public celebration along Lake Michigan. Local musician Ed Ward had started it a couple years earlier and as soon as Cecilia returned from Ireland, she encouraged Ed to start this school.

>> Cecilia:  I knew that Irish Fest had a way to teach people these wonderful things and so I came back and Irish Fest said “Absolutely, we’ll do it!”

>> Shannon:  Like the very first Elkins week, Milwaukee started with a staff of four. John Egan; the guy who had inspired Cecilia in Ireland; his son came to teach flute and singing; Jim Fox taught fiddle and concertina. Kevin Rice taught bodhran and Barbara Slater taught dance classes. The next year, the staff tripled. There were big lectures, small group classes, music, and dance.

>> Cecilia:  There’s sessions at night and there’s classes in everything from music to dancing to knitting to, ah you know, literature. 

>> Shannon:  Nice

>> Cecilia:  And the, now Irish Fest opens on, uh, Thursday nights. And that actually had been an extension of the summer school because we had a huge session of dancers and musicians the very first year on a Thursday night. And we did it at the Park East hotel and the place was crammed. And the next year we went, we have to take this to the grounds. 

>> Shannon:  Nice

>> Cecilia:  So that was an extension of the summer school. What else could you expect from the Irish, you know? That wonderful connection and then going through the music with the connection is just over the top.

>> Shannon:  Well, speaking of connections, I feel so lucky to have met you tonight.

>> Cecilia:  I do too!

>> Shannon:  And I think that, uh, we’re going to start the second half soon.

>> Cecilia:  Here in spring green Wisconsin.

>> Shannon:  Right!  (laughing) But I think we’ll have to cut it short. Thanks for chatting with me.

>> Cecilia:  You’re very welcome.

>> Shannon:  Connecting students with teachers to learn about traditional music and culture. This also inspired fiddle player Alasdair Fraser to start the Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School in the Santa Cruz mountains. 

[ Music: “Adelaide/Keeping up with Christine,” from Ports of Call

Artists/Composer:  Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas ]

But Alasdair also wanted to empower players to find their own creative voices through traditional music. He had developed his individual approach when he moved from Scotland to California. And when he founded Valley of the Moon in 1984, his mission was to encourage participants to create their own, new ideas.  

Valley Of the Moon is a fiddle-centric affair, there are lots of freer “jams” (not strictly traditional sessions). Other fiddle camps have started up since. Like Maine Fiddle Camp, where Lissa Schneckenburger teaches. Lissa found her footing as a young fiddler at Valley of the Moon, and we got to talk fiddle camp one morning, just before her bus was leaving.

>> Shannon:  You ready?

>> Lissa: I think so. 

>> Shannon:  OK. 

>> Lissa:  Oh, you’re so fresh. Good!  Minty!

>> Shannon:  I brushed my teeth for you because we’re sitting on one chair.

[ Music: “John’s Theme, from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories

Artist/Composer:  Matt Heaton ]

>> Shannon:  So, tell me. You’ve been to a lot of fiddle camps and you’ve taught a lot of these teaching weeks.

>> Lissa:  Yeah. 

>> Shannon:  What were the early ones?

>> Lissa:  My hero, Alastair Fraser, had a fiddle camp in California. And so, um, I scrimped and saved and we, um, cobbled together enough money for my dad and me and my brother to go the next summer. So, I guess I was 12. 

>> Shannon:  As a student in those early days, what was your experience the valley of the moon?

>> Lissa:  It was amazing, …

>> Shannon:  Yeah.

>> Lissa:  … just totally, 100% changed my life.  I loved the workshops, and I loved the, the community.  Like, the camp is fiddle-centric. And, and the classes revolve around the fiddlers. And then there’s these extra supplemental, ah, things that you can do throughout the day also in the off periods, where you can go take piano or dancing or singing. Um, and then there’s big, like, camp-wide events. 

You know, I was just a teenager and I was just sooo excited to hang out with other teenagers. And that there were other teenagers that played the fiddle and that they were really good! And that, um, I had to work to keep up!  Like that, that, was really special.  I don’t know if I could have verbalized that when I was that age. But all of these amazing musicians of all ages are coming together from all over the country or all over the world. And, um, everybody’s really good! And that really inspired me, you know, to go home and, and then actually hunker down and like “Oh, OK,” THIS is why I’m practicing. 

>> Shannon:  Hmm

>> Lissa:  This is the music that I love and this is, this is how you get better you work on these things and these things and, um, then there’s a goal. There’s a reason to learn these cool new tunes. Because I know I’m going to see these fun people in a year or whatever at the next festival. And they’re all going to be playing those tunes. And I want to play with them. 

>> Shannon:  Hmm

>> Lissa:  And it made it, uh, really a fun way for me to kind of have a musical focus. 

>> Shannon:  These days Lissa teaches regularly at Maine Fiddle Camp, which runs both weekend and week-long music camps for families.

[ Music: “Eugenia’s Waltz,” from Dance

Artist:  Lissa Schneckenburger ]

>> Lissa:  That’s sort of like a spinoff of my experience of going to the Valley of the Moon when I was a kid. It, um, was started by my fiddle teacher in Maine right after I came back from Valley of the Moon. My whole family was just like raving about it—so excited. And my teacher was like, wait a minute, we have great musicians. We can, we can, we can do that! That camp has been running for a really, really long time too and celebrates, like, a lot of the local culture and traditions and, um, music and dance, which is cool.

>> Shannon:  So, I should let you go. It’s 10:53.

>> Shannon:  Lissa’s bus was about to leave. I asked her if she had any particularly vivid memories of being a student at fiddle camp.

>> Lissa:  I remember sitting in a class and Buddy McMaster was playing this beautiful strathspey. And like, then he would have this really gentle, modest way of talking about it. And then he played a bunch more. And we, we were just sitting there like just spellbound and it was just magical thing to get to experience. I felt like I was just being washed with all of this totally new exciting information. And it, it wasn’t. It was, like, tunes, and, like, things that have been passed down for generations. But to me it felt just like it just like, just like gold.

[ Music: “Meaning of Life,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton ]

>> Shannon:  Learning from tradition bearers. Playing alongside generous musicians and people. This was how Jimmy Ward and Junior Crehan hoped to share the legacy of their friend Willie Clancy when they started Willie Week. And it’s what fiddle player Seamus Connolly imagined, when he started Gaelic Roots. 

Unlike other Irish summer schools that started up in the 90s (like Swannanoa Irish Week and Catskills Irish Arts Week), Gaelic Roots featured music and dance traditions of Ireland, Scotland, Quebec, and Cape Breton, all together. Every time Seamus talks about it, I learn something new about the Gaelic Roots Festival, which ran for 10 years.

>> Seamus Connolly:  Well I had gone to some of the other festivals, and um, which I loved.  I’d gone to Catskills and Swannanoa and, and um, Elkins and all that stuff. So, when I got to think about what we could do that would be different, I thought it was important to bring some of the older musicians from, from Ireland when it was easier to bring them here. When they didn’t have to, uh, get Work Visas and all that.  So, I thought it was important for us living here in America that we would get to meet these people. And, and as a way to say thank you to them for keeping this music alive, and, uh, we brought people from Cape Breton, you know.  People like Buddy McMaster, Karl McKenzie.  We brought the Quebecois musicians down. Hence the title:  The Roots Of The Music.

It was vital they be here and be part of a week where students could get to meet with them. Ask them questions, have a pint with them, you know, …

>> Shannon:  uh huh.

>> Seamus: … just be in their company. They were brought here, just to be here because their presence would mean so much. We needed the students to have the opportunity to meet the older people, have a laugh with them, and a joke with them. I mean, how many people could get up to Donegal to see Proinsias Ó Maonaigh? You know?

>> Shannon:  Right.

>> Seamus:  So, we brought Proinsias here and, and Mairéad came. Oh you know, it was just great having all of those people here. The Bobby Caseys, and the Tommy McCarthys. You know, Johnny O’Leary, and Paddy Cronin was living here. But it was, just like I saw, a panic having those two together—Johnny O’Leary, and Paddy Cronin.

[ Music: “John’s Theme,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton ]

>> Shannon:  So Gaelic Roots brought tradition bearers to the festival and also accomplished younger players to teach classes and perform alongside the older masters. And there were social activities for everybody, including a Boston harbor cruise (with sessions on the ship), and a Red Sox game.

>> Seamus:  It wasn’t just all about music, dance and singing. You know, there was other activities as well, like I mentioned, we went the boat cruise. And, and we, the musicians who taught one particular year, they had the honor of playing the American National Anthem with the Red Sox.  What a great…

>> Shannon:  Right.

>> Seamus:  …on live television.

>> Shannon:  What a nice exchange.

>> Seamus:  And I think that particular night, the Red Sox were losing, so. And the Irish people who were over and the musicians didn’t know anything about baseball.  So, all of a sudden, you could hear the flutes and the accordions up in the, what do you call it?

>> Shannon:  Up in the bleachers.

[ Music: Session Reel

Artists: Baltimore musicians, including Sean McComiskey, Josh Dukes, Laura Byrne (playing the part of Red Sox bleachers musicians) ]

>> Shannon:  That’s fantastic.

>> Seamus:  Yeah, that’s right. There was a great excitement about it. But it all came to an end. After 9/11, unfortunately it was very difficult to get, um, work visas for people then. And it almost became a double budget. They were all extra expenses. So, there came a time and we’d done if for all these years. And, and we don’t regret doing it, and it’s all been documented, and it’s part of history. Um, we do something else like the concert series, so.

[ Music: “Meaning of Life,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton ]

>> Shannon:  Complying with U.S. Visa policies affect a lot of summer schools and outdoor festivals. It can be prohibitively expensive to bring acts to the States from Ireland these days. Even big-budget affairs with corporate sponsorship, like the annual two and a half million-dollar venture of the Milwaukee Irish Fest, have felt the strain. 

And the Gaelic Roots Festival couldn’t withstand it. The summer school ended in 2003. But the Gaelic Roots Concert Series continues at Boston College, with lectures and performances on campus, throughout the school year.

Flute player Kevin Crawford began his teaching journey at Gaelic Roots. Like many traditional musicians, Kevin had learned by listening and watching sessions, and by working with recordings at home. He didn’t go to trad camp. 

I asked him about that first year at Gaelic Roots. (But we were in Brooklyn, so we had wicked strong coffee and Stroopwafels first.)

>> Shannon:  Thanks for the Stroopwafels.

>> Kevin:  You’re very welcome. Don’t tell anybody. They were supposed to be just for me. 

>> Shannon:  OK, great.

[ Music: “John’s Theme,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton ]

>> Shannon:  Well, uh, you’re playing the flute.

>> Kevin:  Right-O

>> Shannon:  And you teach the flute.

>> Kevin:  Yeah, it’s a big part of what I do.

>> Shannon:  Well, it kind of makes sense. I mean, you learned, right?

>> Kevin:  No. Well I did, but I never actually went to a lesson in my life. So, it was actually coming to the States was the first time I was invited to share maybe what I know with folks. Seamus Connolly invited me to do Gaelic roots and I went into the classroom and I; I just did what came naturally, which was play and let everybody sit there and watch—which is all, all I had ever done.  My way of learning was just to sit and watch people that I love and listen to and, and maybe record them and then take that away and do all the work after the fact. So, when I went into their classroom in, in Boston College that’s what I did. I just sat down and played for two hours and then did the same the following day and on the third day somebody piped up, “Are you ever going to get us to take our instruments out of the cases?” I hadn’t even asked them to play. 

>> Shannon:  Hah.

>> Kevin:  Um, and then they were asking questions like “How do you do such and such? I hear on a recording you do this thing, what is that?” I had no idea. I have never examined what I did or how I did it, it just—luckily it fell into place. So, I came away from Gaelic roots and then I spent all of the following year figuring out my own stuff. 

[ Music: “Mountain Lark,” from Carrying the Tune

Artist:  Kevin Crawford ]

>> Shannon:  Over the years Kevin honed his teaching approach. But still, he insists there’s no magic bullet for students.

>> Kevin:  It’s finding the balance. What you don’t want to do is, is I feel anyway, is to give everybody all the information; because I think you have to, you have to want to be hungry for it. You have to want to go and, and figure out stuff for yourself. Um so, I think give them enough to get up and running. You hope the people will just fall in love with the music itself and then want to go on the journey to, to figure it out for themselves. 

I think the really passionate ones, the ones like ourselves, that just can’t do without the music—they’ll flourish if they actually have to do a bit of mining for stuff themselves. 

>> Shannon:  Uh huh.

>> Kevin:  It’s not all about results or … like I really don’t teach people to win competitions either.  I’m teaching them to hopefully…

>> Shannon:  To play.

[phone pings]

Kevin:  …to have a life in music.

>> Shannon:  And to have divinity from above!  Ding!

>> Kevin:  Ding! Exactly—that was such a beautifully-timed ping! 

(Both laughing)

>> Shannon:  That was perfect!

>> Kevin:  A lightbulb moment!

>> Shannon:  I asked Kevin what HIS lightbulb moments, or guiding lights were.

>> Kevin:  My own grounding was always people encouraged me, like. And, and I wasn’t a quick learner, like it took me a long, long time. I was, of the group that I hung around playing music with, I was most definitely the worst. I was the weakest link. It didn’t come quick. But I, I was hungry. I was more passionate than some of the others. So over time I kinda, slow and steady won the race for me.

>> Shannon:  For Kevin, the finish line wasn’t the Main Stage at the Irish Festival. It was being surrounded by the music, and by noble musicians.

>> Kevin:  I just wanted to be in the heart and soul and the center of, of a session and of not just a session in a bar—it was just to be around musicians and feed off of … There was always that something magical. When you get one person playing off another or when you get 20 people playing off another and feeding. It was just I wanted always wanted to be able to participate with musicians and sit in … And I don’t know, …

But it was the constant encouragement, really of players like PJ Crotty and Mike Rafferty in terms of that social kind of, uh, nobility really.  Um, but PJ Crotty he was the really guiding and, um, um kind of shining light for me. Just really inclusive. Um, very funny. He would still get, I suppose, the earnestness of, of what the music was, you know. He’d never make light of where he got tunes from, or how he learnt the tunes.  But, there’d always be a funny story about a tune.  You know, it was never going to be a recital. You were gonna have fun.

>> Shannon:  Encouragement from mentors. And self-directed study. And playing and dancing with a group. These are the major ingredients for Trad music and dance camps. And one of the big destination camps these days is the Celtic Week at the Swannanoa Gathering, on the campus of Warren Wilson College. 

Swannanoa started in the summer of 1992. Founding director Jim Magill had full support from the College president, Doug Orr. And together, they built summer programs (including Celtic Week) with that strong sense of inclusiveness and welcome that Kevin talked about.

>> Kevin:  I mean, I’m very lucky that every year I do The Swannanoa Gathering, eh, down in North Carolina. That’s, you know, a great campus, a very good size where people can kind of always,… you meet everybody throughout the course of the week. It’s not too spread out. Like, there’s a direction, a focus, yeah.

>> Shannon:  There’s less FOMO… (Both Laughing)

>> Kevin:  My God!

>> Shannon:  OK, so fear of missing out is a little silly—and dramatic. But Swannanoa and other campus events—like the O’Flaherty Retreat, or the Acadia Trad School. These offer all of the students much of the same experience, whereas Willie Week and the Catskills and other TOWN-centered gatherings…. well, those can be challenging to navigate.

>> Kevin:  Like the Catskills, you can have good fun. But it’s all based around the pubs. And it’s all—and there’s a lot of coming and going and you miss a lot of stuff. And, ah, and everybody, “Well what did you think of that?” …it’s not… “Oh well actually, I was, I was in, I don’t know, Furlong’s or I was in somewhere else…I was in a different bar.” 

It’s, we all, like we all, it’s like food envy. You always want what’s on somebody else’s plate. It’s the same, it’s too much, you’re like sticking your head in the door.  Oh, no, I’m gone and the next. And before you know it, you’ve missed all the sessions. You’ve just done the whole night wandering. 

>> Shannon:  (laughing) Yeah.

>> Kevin:  Like, just get in…

>> Shannon:  Love the one you’re with?

>> Kevin:  Yeah! (both laughing)

>> Shannon:  Alright, well speaking of loving the one you’re with, …

>> Kevin:  Yeah?

>> Shannon:  I love this!

>> Kevin:  Oh, Shannon…

>> Shannon:  Thanks for chatting!

>> Kevin:  Not at all, not at all.

>> Shannon:  It’s great!

>> Kevin:  Thank you, yeah, beautiful! 

>> Shannon:  From beautiful Brooklyn back to Kathleen Conneely’s lovely home in Medford, I asked Kathleen about this campus structure, since she’s taught tin whistle at Swannanoa for a number of years:

>> Kathleen:  You have to stick with the schedule. There’s a slow jam for the students every night after dinner. Um, then there’s a concert three nights a week and a ceili two nights a week. So, it’s busy, busy, busy. And then you’re doing a potluck one of the nights. Um, you’re more inclined to bump into everybody in a, in a smaller place. Outside of the scheduled, um you know, lectures and concerts and dances, um you know, the sessions are completely spontaneous. Um, and there’s lots of places to go and have them all over the campus. So, you’re not all on top of each other at the same time. But if you want to have a good session with someone you haven’t seen in a year, you can probably make it happen.

>> Shannon:  Hmm.

>> Kathleen:  Um, some of the teachers might get together and have a few tunes on walls and porches.

>> Shannon:  OK, private sessions for the teachers. So, these teaching weeks are for people learning Irish music and dance, right? But a big part of the experience is the instructors. And many of them don’t get to see each other very often. So maybe that’s what the students are there for too. To meet the greater traditional music and dance community. To see and hear what it’s like for people to meet in the music, to meet in the dance on a very high level. Observing sessions can be another great way to learn and to be inspired.

>> Kathleen:  The students are very respectful of, um, allowing us to maybe, um, seize an opportunity, um, to have a session. We may only get together and have one really mighty session once in the week. You know, because it’s busy and you want to spread yourself out and, and it’s great to encourage the students and to join in with them and make them feel good about what they’re learning.  But, um, they’re very respectful of that and they realize, because we’re like a big family, that these people don’t get to see each other very often. And, and they’re happy to maybe sit and listen. 

>> Shannon:  And those instructor sessions, I imagine, um, much like the tape worm that you were back in the day, um, at Willie week when you heard this great session, and you had your tape recorder in there. That’s a great opportunity to learn. Not necessarily just sitting in and playing. Even if you do know the tunes but listening and observing.

>> Kathleen:  Absolutely. Um, and people are, you know, they have their recorders on their phones now, so it’s readily available. Um, and I might be sitting in a session and I’ll have my phone at the ready all the time because there’s tunes I might not know, or you know, it just sounded so beautiful hearing a couple of musicians I haven’t heard in ages. I want to record it and save that memory. So, I’m (chuckling) always recording.  Still, to this day. 

[ Music: “Dermot Grogan’s,” from The Coming of Spring

Artist:  Kathleen Conneely ]

>> Shannon:  Back over to the Catskills. Where Mick and I were recording. And visiting memories of Elkins.

>> Shannon:  Ah, when did Elkins end?  When did Irish Week at Elkins…

>> Mick:  Well for me, I thought 25 years is a long time to be hauling stuff down into the mountains. It was really doing very well. I handed it over to Joanie Madden and then, I think the demographics changed. I mean, a lot, for a lot of those 25 years people came on that journey and it became an annual thing to do, and their friends came. And, and we were all of a certain age, you know, we sort of grew, grew together there.

[ Music: “Hometown Lullaby,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton ]

>> Shannon:  So, after Mick retired as director, flute and whistle player Joanie Madden led the school for six years. In 2012 banjo player Daniel Neely took over. During Dan’s tenure there were some administrative shifts at Davis & Elkins College, and the staff for the heritage weeks was greatly downsized. This led to year-to-year differences on the ground that changed how the week felt. And those immigration policies—well, they encroached on the week’s operations too. 

Also, I wonder, with the internet bringing tunes and information (and even community), are people less inclined to travel to, say, West Virginia?

Dan thinks the digital communities actually promote the teaching weeks more than they hurt them. I asked Mick what he thought about the internet, and the future of Irish summer schools.

>> Shannon: So of course, now year-round, we have access to this information, even to this community via YouTube/social media.

>> Mick: Yeah, we do. And, and of course, the immediate need, ah, to learn a new tune—or even with Skype you don’t have to be near a person, ah, to learn how to, you know, play the fiddle in a certain way. But there’s really nothing to, nothing to equal the, the face to face. You know, body to body. Ah, interaction.

>> Shannon: Say those of us who have had that experience.

>> Mick: Yeah.

>> Shannon: Say those of us who put such a premium on that.

>> Mick: Yeah.

>> Shannon: Say those of us who aren’t digital natives. Do you think it is different for…?

Mick: I don’t think so. I think it’s a very human thing to want to, want to be commune. I think so, and, and anybody who, who has learned digitally will tell you, right away, it feels different to be around a bunch of people. 

>> Shannon:  Yeah.

>> Mick:  It’s just, it’s just the nature of who we are. 

[ Music: “Meaning of Life,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton ]

And ah, most of the, most of the wisdom to this day is still transmitted body to body. Watching. Imitation. And you can do the mechanics of it, I suppose, um you know, in a more technical way, ah, on your own. I mean, all the resources you can possibly imagine are there. But there’s something about the, about the community, just being around people that, that adds another, that adds another dimension.

>> Shannon: As soon as we started talking about extra dimensions, Deirdre Cronin comes in with her own strong coffee. She’s part of the humanities expansion at the Catskills Irish Arts week. I asked her about her role as a writing arts teacher here in this camp setting.

>> Deirdre: I’m teaching creative writing here. It’s a pilot program. And I was her last year to basically cover the festival and write an article about it. And basically, my head was spinning with the wonderful stories I was hearing from people who were coming here for years. 

>> Shannon: Yeah

>> Deirdre: You know, connections to the Catskills. Connections to the festival. I have one student whose his father comes to learn guitar every year and he’s trying to figure out what it means to be Irish American.

>> Shannon:  A huh.

>> Deirdre:  It’s very interesting how that’s happening for him.

>> Shannon:  Hmm.

>> Deirdre:  It’s lovely.

[ Music: “Meaning of Life,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton ]

>> Shannon:  Like many summer trad camps, the Catskills Irish Arts Week has expanded to include painting, writing, crafts, and kid classes. There’s more focus on the humanities and not “just” tunes, or “just” singing, or “just” dancing. 

>> Shannon:  So here we are at the Catskills Irish Arts week, and the last couple years you’ve become quite involved in, um, I think doing these cultural programs.

>> Mick:  It seems when people at the end of a day at four o’clock, when you’ve been learning how to do something, ah, you know how to produce that effect on the, on the upstroke on the fiddle, or whether you’ve, you’ve learned about, you know, when you take a breath in a reel when you’re playing the flute, or whatever. So, at four o’clock what I’ve tried to do is put together something that’s interesting. People can sit back and enjoy, something that’s maybe in the, in the, ah, with a small E educational, but mostly with the big E entertaining. 

>> Shannon:  Small E educational.  Big E entertaining. You notice that Trad Week is spelled with two Es? And with LOTS of people making coffee in the background.

>> Mick:  It’s not just the art form, but it’s the humanities, too. It’s the history, it’s the culture, the context, and, uh, the people, more, most of all, the people. The people who came before us and their stories.  Stories are, it comes down to stories, we all know that you know. Everyone needs to have their story told.

>> Shannon:  So, it’s not just about learning all the tunes?

>> Mick:  No, no it’s not. No. You know, it’s not at all.

>> Shannon:  No.

[ Music: “Slip Jig Dreams,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories Artist/Composer:  Matt Heaton ]

>> Mick:  You know, at a time of fragmentation in society, when, ah, people are atomized, if you want to use, use the word. And alienated, um—to come together into a genuine community. And we came in as an ethnic community. And everyone was welcome now, you didn’t have to be Irish American. But we had that core base of people who were. So, we came in with a strong sense of who we were. And, uh, and maybe if you were involved with something like Swing Dancing, you wouldn’t have that much in common with one another. But if were, if 50% of you were Irish American and kind of tied into family who were connected to a homeland, that’s a kind of a bonding thing, too. And we never wanted to be exclusive in that regard and everybody was welcome. 

And I think it’s nice to be part of a community, and I think the teaching weeks affirm that community, while opening doors to people who are not of that community. We always try to be very ecumenical. And I think, I think we probably were and are. Looking at Arts Week, here now in the Catskills, it has the same vibe to it. It’s very rooted in being Irish. But look at all the people who are not Irish at all—it’s fine. 

>> Shannon:  Yeah

>> Mick:  I like that. I think we all like it.

>> Shannon:  Here’s fiddle player Lissa Schneckenburger again.

>> Lissa:  There’s so many music camps that you can go to—it almost seems like um—I know some people that, like, it’s almost their full-time job. It gives these opportunities to have that inspiration, and that creative, um, jolt.

>> Shannon:  And the vocabulary. 

>> Lissa:  Yeah, yeah sure. Absolutely. 

>> Shannon: And the friendships.

>> Lissa:  Yep, community. I think that’s huge. Like the modern-day community and creativity and tradition. That’s cool. It’s kind of exciting to think like OK what’s going to happen in the next 20 years.

>> Shannon:  It’s likely that the internet will continue to play a role in the dissemination of traditional music and dance. New models for remote learning (like the Online Academy of Irish Music) may continue to develop and expand. Smartphones and recording technology will probably get even more convenient. 

But flutes and fiddles will probably stay the same. And teaching camps?

Kathleen Conneely predicts little change in the years ahead.

>> Shannon:  So, if we had a crystal ball, wonder what Irish camps will look like in 20 years?

>> Kathleen:  Interesting. I don’t think there’ll be much of a change. I just think that, that there are so many wonderful young musicians up and coming, in America, in Ireland, all over the world. Irish music is going to live for a long time and be very healthy and I don’t think that the camps will change. I think that they’ll—as long as people want to play music, there will be camps to facilitate that.

>> Shannon: Yeah, yeah.

>> Kathleen:  Yeah.

>> Shannon:  Fiona, you’ve got a sticker on your flute case, there. 

>> Fiona Howell:  Yes, I do.

>> Shannon:  It says Acadia Trad School, Bar Harbor Maine.

>> Fiona:  Uh huh. 

>> Shannon:  Can you tell me a little about that festival?

>> Fiona:  Ah, it’s a lot of fun. It’s the best week of the year for most of us.

>> Brennish Thomson:  Yeah.

>> Fiona:  We get no sleep at all. Um, it’s basically class from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm and then we have concerts at night from all the faculty, and then jams all night long for a whole week.

>> Brennish:  Bar Harbor week at Acadia Trad school is probably one of the most intense music festivals and learning experiences I go to. It really is nonstop, and you come out of it feeling just massively educated, and enlightened. But at the same time, you are absolutely worn out and need a breather for a while.

>> Shannon:  That’s flute player Fiona Howell and fiddle player Brennish Thomson talking about the Acadia Trad School and reminding us all t o rest up. Because Camp Season is always right around the corner.

[ Music: “Larry Get Out of the Bin / Elzic’s Farewell,” from Rubai

Composer:  Artist: Flook ]

Thank you, dear listeners, for tuning in to this season of Irish Music Stories. Just three more episodes to go for this year. 

Thank you so much to Kathleen Conneely, Mick Moloney, Robbie O’Connell, Cecilia Farran, Lissa Schneckenburger, Seamus Connolly, Kevin Crawford, Deirdre Cronin, Fiona Howell, and Brennish Thomson for the great conversations. And thank you to Matt, William and Christine for the opening montage.

Irish Music Stories is produced by me, Shannon Heaton, with script editing and underscore from Matt Heaton, and underwriter acknowledgment from Nigel.

My thanks again to John MacDonald, John Kerr, Sharon Murphy, Paul DeCamp, Billy Neal, and Brian Benscoter for supporting this episode.

If you can kick in or just share this episode with a friend, please, please visit and hit the DONATE BUTTON. It REALLY helps me keep it going, so thank you.

Next month I’ll explore Irish music and gender. I hope you’ll tune in on Tuesday, October 9th.

Thanks again for listening, everybody!


>>Baseball crowd singing:  So, it’s One, Two, Three strikes you’re out at the old ballgame!

>> Shannon:  Are you trying to tell me that you have a very expensive T-shirt?

>> Mick:  I have a very, very fine T-shirt—a gourmet T-shirt, if I may choose the word.

Bonus Content

Related videos

Companion Chapters

Related essays

Cast of Characters

Episode guests in order of appearance

Lissa Schneckenburger


Maine-born, Vermont-based fiddle player and singer, specializing in Traditional New England Folk Music

Boston-based tin whistle player from Bedford, England who began playing Irish music with her musical family

Mick Moloney


Folklorist/musician and National Heritage Fellow who has taught at universities, directed festivals and arts tours, and recorded and produced numerous albums

Robbie O'Connell


Waterford-born singer songwriter who toured and recorded with his uncles The Clancy Brothers, and went on to perform solo and with The Green Fields of America

Cecilia Farran FKA Cease Grinwald


Wisconsin-born story teller who volunteered for the Milwaukee Irish Fest and encouraged founder Ed Ward to start a school

Master fiddle player, educator, and festival organizer with ten All-Ireland solo fiddle championships, National Heritage Fellowship, and Boston College Faculty Award

Kevin Crawford


Birmingham, England-born flute, whistle, and bodhran player who moved to Clare and then New York, and performs with the band Lúnasa

Deirdre Cronin


Dublin-based music journalist, writer, and teacher

Fiona Howell


Maine-based flute player and singer

Brennish Thomson


Photographer/videographer, and fiddle and guitar player from a family of musicians

The Heaton List