Now in its fourteenth year, CCÉ MAD Week will again feature an exceptional faculty in all areas of study:
Fiddle (Advanced) - Liz Carroll
Fiddle (Advanced) - Brian Conway
Fiddle (Intermediate) - Liz Knowles
Fiddle (Intermediate) - Mitch Fanning
Fiddle (Adult Beginner) - Donna Long
Flute & Tin Whistle (Advanced) - Josh Dukes
Flute & Tin Whistle (Intermediate) - Laura Byrne
Tin Whistle (Beginner) - Karen Ashbrook
Singing - Brian Ó hAirt
Concertina - Alex Boatright
Piano - Donna Long
Bodhran - Anna Colliton
Tenor Banjo & Mandolin - Keith Carr
Guitar (DADGAD Tuning) - Zan McLeod
Guitar (Standard & Dropped D Tuning) - Conor Hearn
Accordion - Sean McComiskey
Youth Camp (Fiddle) - Joe DeZarn
Celtic Crafts and Staff Medical Officer - Sandy Hoar
Ceili Band - Jesse Winch
Irish Language - Mike Schaeffer
Music Theory - Peter Brice
Liz Carroll is an Irish fiddler, composer, and recording artist - and a teacher at 2019 MAD Week!! She is the first Irish-American musician to be nominated for a Grammy, and the first American-born composer honored with the Cumadóir TG4, Ireland’s most significant traditional music prize. Liz has toured as a solo artist and with the Greenfields of America, Trian, as the duo Liz Carroll & John Doyle, String Sisters, and now as a duo with guitarist and pianist Jake Charron. She is featured on fourteen albums and has appeared on many more, and her duet album with Jake Charron, Half Day Road, is to be released in February, 2019. Liz was born in Chicago of Irish parents, and still lives just outside her hometown.
MAD WEEK 2019 FIDDLE TEACHER, Brian Conway, premier Irish-American fiddler, performs with a skill, grace and force that are steeped in tradition but distinctively his own. Well known in the Irish/Celtic community, Conway has won numerous All-Ireland fiddling competitions, and has been called one of the best fiddlers of his generation. Nothing is missed or missing in Brian Conway's Sligo-style fiddling.
– "Certainly one of the finest Irish-American musician fiddlers..." Dirty Linen Magazine
Liz Knowles has brought her distinctive Irish fiddle music to concert stages and festivals across the world. Her auspicious beginnings as the fiddler for Riverdance and as soloist on the soundtrack for the film Michael Collins established her as a virtuosic and versatile performer, and she has since performed as soloist with such orchestras as the New York Pops and the Cincinnati Pops. Liz was a member of the renowned Cherish the Ladies and today she performs with another all-star female super-group, the highly acclaimed String Sisters. She toured for four wonderful years in Europe, Asia and South America as performer, artistic and music director of the wildly popular show Celtic Legends, an Irish music and dance show.
Liz is a well-known and sought-after teacher of Irish music. She has taught at the Catskills Irish Arts Week, the Swannanoa Gathering for their Celtic and Fiddle weeks, the O'Flaherty Irish Weekend, and has taught at many Irish piping festivals and tionols across the US and in Ireland, to name a few.
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 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.
Donna learned to play the piano from her father, jazz pianist Byron Long. When she moved to Baltimore, she took two years of Music and Arts education at Catonsville Community College, and learned to play the fiddle from Brendan Mulvihill. Brendan and Donna performed as a Fiddle/Piano duo for 10 years in the Baltitmore/Washington area and produced two CDs, "The Steeplechase" and "The Morning Dew." Donna was also a former member of the internationally acclaimed group Cherish the Ladies, and recorded five CDs with them. In addition, she also has a solo piano CD called "Handprints". In the year 2000 the Smithsonian Institution asked Donna to represent Irish music in the series "Piano Traditions", celebrating 300 years of the piano.
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 earned the rank of Master Sergeant , 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 before his retirement from the Army.
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.
Laura Byrne is highly regarded on both sides of the Atlantic for her mastery of the Irish traditional flute and whistle. Laura began studying flute at age 9 in her native Vermont, continued her studies at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore where she earned Bachelor’s degrees in both flute performance and music education in 1995. Though classically trained, she chose to devote her musical career to Irish traditional music, committing herself to the playing of the older generation of musicians through her many trips to Ireland and from close study of the emigrees to the United States. Laura has performed at countless festivals, ceilis and concerts in the U.S., Canada and Ireland including venues such as the Kennedy Center, Birchmere, several National Folk Festivals and the Catskills Irish Arts Week in East Durham, NY. She performs frequently with Baltimore greats Billy McComiskey, Donna Long and Jim Eagan. Laura was featured on the Eva Cassidy remix album Wonderful World (2004). In 2014 Laura was a featured performer with the English choir Libera at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC which was released as a DVD recording and broadcast worldwide. Laura has recorded two solo albums Tune for the Road (2005) and Lucky Day in (2010) which received great reviews, and were highly praised by Irish Music Magazine. She is a member of The Old Bay Ceili Band which released an album Crabs in the Skillet (2011). She most recently released a duo recording with New York based fiddler Rose Flanagan Forget Me Not (2014). Laura is a two time grant recipient of the Maryland Traditions Master Apprentice award - as a ballad singer apprentice in 2007, and then in 2011 as a Master of flute. She received the Individual Artist award in performance from the Maryland State Arts Council in both 2010 and 2011. A sought-after teacher, Laura has taught at the Catskills Irish Arts Week in East Durham, NY, CCE MAD Week in Bethesda, MD, Goucher College, and at workshops across the U.S. For more on Laura visit www.laurabyrne.com. Laura is also founder and director of the annual Baltimore Irish Trad Fest (www.baltimoreirisharts.com.)
Karen Ashbrook, a master of the hammered dulcimer, flute, and tin whistle, gained experience by playing on the streets of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. She moved to Washington, D.C. in 1983, and joined the chamber folk trio Ceoltoiri, which released several albums.
Karen has entertained at the John F. Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Institution and the White House, as well as concert halls and festivals in the U.S. and around the world. Her recordings of Celtic, Belgian and French music are available on the Maggie's Music record label.
After five years abroad, Karen settled into the vibrant Irish music scene of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. She wrote the first American advanced instructional book for dulcimer, Playing the Hammered Dulcimer in the lrish Tradition (Oak Publications), which remains a standard text in hammered dulcimer pedagogy.
Karen has dedicated herself to engaging the next generation in Irish music. For 10 years she ran a monthly "kids' session" in local Irish pubs, and created a free book of tunes that is still used in many beginning pub sessions. She founded the Sligo Creek Hedge School, an Irish culture summer camp for youth.
Karen tours with her Belgian husband, multi-instrumentalist Paul Oorts, who introduced her to the Flemish folk music scene. They perforn as KA/PO - Karen Ashbrook & Paul Oorts - in a program called Music from the Cultural Crossroads of Europe.
Driven by her belief in the power of music as a healing art, Karen became certified as a Music Practitioner (CMP) through the Music for Healing and Transitions Program (mhtp.org). She works as a therapeutic musician at Walter Reed Military Hospital and Georgetown University's Arts & Humanities Program in the Lombardi Cancer Center.
Brian Ó hAirt
Brian Ó hAirt epitomizes ‘the one tradition’ of Ireland. A singer, musician, dancer, and Irish Gaelic speaker, his artistry pulls from his many experiences growing up among the Irish diaspora of the Midwest and his coming of age in the vibrant Gaelic communities of Ireland’s west coast. An All-Ireland champion singer since 2002, Brian has since gone on to collaborate and record with singing legend Len Graham of Glenarm, Co. Antrim. Gifted on the concertina, accordion, and tin whistle, his understated musical style is reminiscent of the heyday of Irish music and its love of lift and subtlety. His singing and playing as well as that of his Chicago-based band Bua have been featured on radio programs across the U.S., Canada, and Ireland. He has toured extensively and has taught and performed at many of the most prestigious festivals in North America. Brian is currently a master mentor for two Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program grantees from the states of Oregon and Ohio and is the Irish Language Chair for the Western Region of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.
Alex Boatright is a concertina and harp teacher based in the Washington D.C. area. A multiple All-Ireland medalist herself, Alex is a top teacher in the USA with regional and All-Ireland Fleadh winning students. Her teaching style centers around the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of concertina playing in a way that empowers students of all levels and generations to take charge of this quirky instrument and progress toward their goals even after class has ended.
Alex studied both harp and concertina with Gráinne Hambly of Co. Mayo, but was also largely influenced by studies with Tim Collins during his stay in NYC and in frequent classes with Mícheál Ó Raghallaigh. She also studied fiddle with acclaimed NY Sligo fiddle teachers, Rose Flanagan and Brian Conway, whose iconic bowing style has shaped her own concertina fingering-system and bellows-work.
Alex has a Masters of Music Performance on the Cello from the University of Maryland and uses this background to bridge the classical to traditional divide many students feel coming to traditional music after already being accomplished classical players.
Anna Colliton, one of America’s leading exponents of the bodhran, will be teaching bodhran at 2019 MAD Week. A native of Chicago, a city of Irish musical excellence, Anna plays a highly intricate style of drumming with masterful tonal and rhythmic variation. She has taught and performed at festivals across the country, including Catskills Irish Arts Week, Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, The O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat, The St. Louis Tionol, and Augusta Celtic week, as well as with the Academy of Irish Music in Chicago and the Irish Arts Center in New York. Anna toured with the band Comas for several years and has recently returned from a three-year stay at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, where she performed at the International Showcase at Epcot Theme Park. She has also played and performed with Cherish the Ladies, the Paul McKenna Band, Girsa, and others.
Keith Carr plays tenor banjo, Irish bouzouki, and mandolin. Growing up in a family of prominent music educators in New York equipped him with extensive classical training in several instruments. His musical background also includes many years as a performing and teaching guitarist. He moved to Washington thirty-some years ago to pursue a career as an ecologist, doing groundbreaking work in biodiversity conservation with several prominent international organizations. He recently retired and is now able to devote his time to what he loves most: performing and teaching Irish traditional music.
Keith is on the teaching faculty at the Washington Conservatory of Music; he also 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 four CDs: "Irish Traditional Music", “Onward”, "Little Falls”, and most recently “X” (www.liltirishmusic.com). He also performs frequently with other prominent traditional musicians in the Washington area. He lives in Falls Church, Virginia.
Zan McLeod started his career in the early ‘70s playing southern rock on his guitar. In Nashville, he met Triona NiDhomnaill of the legendary Bothy Band. That introduction led Triona and Zan to form the innovative and groundbreaking band Touchstone. Together they recorded and toured for 5 years, and Touchstone’s The New Land won the NAIRD award for best Indie album of 1981.
Zan has received many music industry accolades, including his collaboration on: Grammy winning CD, Celtic Solstice with Paul Winter; Grammy nominated CDs Journey With The Sun (Paul Winter and the Earth Band), and The Long Journey Home (with the Chieftains). Zan’s self-recorded solo album, Highland Soul won a WAMMIE in 1995, leading him to pursue a simultaneous career as musician and audio engineer. After graduating from the Omega School of Recording, he established his home studio, Tonehouse Recording, in the Washington, DC area.
Along with recording on nearly 150 CDs, Zan has recorded on several film soundtracks including: Edward Burns’s The Brothers McMullen, Ang Lee’s Ride with the Devil, Sam Shepard’s Far North, and James Horner’s Back to Titanic.
As a respected and experienced workshop leader and instructor, Zan has taught for years at the Augusta Heritage Center’s Irish/Celtic Week, Boston College’s Gaelic Roots Program, McDaniel College’s Common Ground, and he helped found Warren Wilson College’s The Swannanoa Gathering. And in 2001, Zan released the instructional video, Learn to Play the Irish Bouzouki, for Homespun Tapes.
Zan won the Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Grant in 2005, 2012, and again in 2014.
Conor Hearn is a stylistically diverse guitar player and instructor who specializes in accompaniment of traditional Irish and Scottish fiddle playing. Hailing from the Irish music communities of Washington D.C. and Maryland, Conor grew up playing fiddle and guitar in the traditional Irish music sessions. While working on his B.A in English Literature and minor in Music at Tufts University, Conor started working as a professional guitarist by lending his innovative rhythmic skills to the panoply of traditional music groups and projects taking shape in the Boston area folk music scene. He has since performed numerous times on programs like Brian O'Donovan's Celtic Sojourn and taught guitar at music festivals such as Alasdair Fraser's Sierra Fiddle Camp. Conor has established himself as a cutting-edge Scottish and Irish player with groups like Rakish, Soulsha, Pumpkin Bread, The Galen Fraser Trio, and TriHearn, and has performed with renowned fiddle icons such as Oisin McAuley, Kevin Henderson, Darol Anger, and Bruce Molsky. Conor currently makes his home in Medford, MA where he performs and teaches regularly.
Sean McComiskey is among the most innovative young performers on the button accordion, with a unique harmonic style that has earned him a spot in the pantheon of Irish accordionists far beyond his native Baltimore. As the son of legendary button accordion player Billy McComiskey, Sean has been surrounded by Irish Traditional music his entire life and has developed a deep appreciation for the rich tradition of which he is a part. This has helped Sean establish a reputation as a highly regarded teacher and promulgator of Irish music and earned him teaching positions with the Catskills Irish Arts Week, the Augusta Heritage Center’s Irish Arts Week, the Chris Langan Weekend in Toronto, the CCE Musical Arts and Dance Week in Washington, DC, the Baltimore Irish Arts Center, and the Spanish Peaks Celtic Festival.
Kate Bole first fell in love with Irish dance at age 6, taking class with Theresa Burke in the basement of a church in Youngstown, Ohio. Since moving to the DC area, she has studied with Sean Culkin and Nicki Bayhurst at the Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance. With their guidance she developed a love for choreography, performing with live music, and teaching students of all ages. She has choreographed and performed for productions at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theatre and Millennium Stage, the Strathmore Performing Arts Center in concert with Eileen Ivers, The Myerhoff Symphony Hall in concert with the BSO, the Blackrock Center for the Arts, and the Washington Performing Arts Society Gala. Kate has been featured as a guest dancer with many talented Irish musicians, including Natalie MacMaster, Eileen Ivers and Immigrant Soul, Lúnasa, Téada, Lilt, and Kevin Burke. Currently she directs and performs with the Culkin LIVE Dance Company, and when not dancing, works as a physicist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland.
Sandy Silva is an award-winning choreographer, producer, and internationally acclaimed pioneer of percussive dance. She draws from global percussive dance practices infusing theme with movement, voice, theater and impeccable musicality. The result is a unique and powerful form of performance and storytelling. After 30 years of performing and teaching around the world, Sandy started the Migration Dance Film Project (MDFP) with award winning director Marlene Millar. Their films have screened internationally and won numerous awards. The migration Dance Film Project will incorporate 8 short films into a full length feature film to be released in 2021.
Dr. Julia Topper is an Adjunct Professor of Ethnomusicology at American University. She recently completed her PhD in Ethnomusicology with the University of Maryland, College Park, culminating in a dissertation entitled, “As We Circle the World: A Performative Ethnography of Irish Step Dance and Music in the United States and Japan,” which draws in part from her research experiences studying with the Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance in Maryland as well as with Irish dance schools and teachers in Tokyo. In the DMV community, she is an active student and assistant teacher with the Culkin School and performer with Culkin LIVE.
Elizabeth lives to dance – and to share that passion with others. A professional dancer and long-time instructor, she discovered traditional Irish social dance in the late 80s, and has been building her knowledge and skills ever since, studying with dance masters in both Ireland and the US.
Elizabeth specializes in Irish set dance and sean-nos step, and is credited with introducing both dance forms to Nova Scotia. She’s taught for many years in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and, while living overseas, in Brussels, Belgium. Elizabeth has led workshops and ceilithe at festivals across Eastern Canada, northern France and Belgium, including Boxwood Festival, Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival, Danse traditionelle Québec, the North Atlantic Tionól, the JP Collins Irish Fest, Re-Jigged Festival, Gleann na Gaeilge and the “Sets in Leuven” weekend in Belgium.
Elizabeth also brings dance into classrooms across Nova Scotia through a program that connects schools with professional artists. She also collects the square set dances of Maritime Canada and is currently writing a book on the history of Highland dance in Nova Scotia.
Elizabeth is over-the-moon delighted to be teaching at MAD Week again this year and is looking forward to seeing everyone in July.
Kelly Smit has been teaching and performing Sean Nós dance for over ten years. A “musician’s dancer”, her dancing is infused with a musicality that is well appreciated by fellow performers. For many years, Kelly taught weekly Sean Nos Dance classes at Baltimore’s beloved (and much missed) J. Patrick’s Irish Pub. She has a diverse dance background, including ballet, Lithuanian folk dance, competitive ballroom styles, and Argentine Tango. As a Sean Nós dancer, Kelly has learned from, performed with, and shared steps with dancers in multiple cities across the US and in Ireland. She can regularly be found dancing up a storm at the local Irish music sessions around Baltimore.
Agi Kovacs was born and raised in Hungary where as a young child she was selected to study at the Hungarian National Ballet Institute in Budapest, where she was trained in classical ballet, Hungarian folk dance and historical dances. She moved to the USA 24 years ago and started her own family here in DC. A few years later she started up her dance career again, performing and teaching Sean Nos (old style Irish) dance to all ages. She has been a principal dancer with Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble for the past 9 years and continues to travel around the world performing, teaching and spreading the joy of different percussive dance styles. Agi has performed at venues throughout DC, Maryland, Virginia, and New York, as well as in Canada, Ireland, and England and Germany. She also has been teaching at schools in DC/MD/VA and at Knock On Wood Tap Studio and she is super excited to teach and to meet you at MAD week 2019! Hup!
As the daughter of parents from County Tyrone, Ireland, Maddy O’Neill-Dean has had years of experience in things Irish. She is past Chair and Vice Chair of the CCE Branch and former Co-Director of the Irish Folk Festival. With years of experience working with children and their families she is in her second year of Co-Directing the wildly successful MAD Week Youth (Kids) Camp. Maddy is a musician with years of playing and performing throughout the DC Region.
Eileen Estes has thrilled audiences for years with her extraordinary voice, which combines vocal power with subtle emotional expressiveness. Daughter of Nita (Conley) Korn, Celtic Thunder’s original lead singer, she grew up immersed in the traditional music of Ireland and Scotland. Eileen performs solo and with other musicians throughout the MD, D.C. And VA areas. When she is not performing, Eileen teaches vocal technique in workshops, classes, and private lessons. Today she performs with her mother, Nita (Conley) Korn.
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.
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.
Jesse Winch, born and raised in the Bronx in an immigrant neighborhood, 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 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.
Mike Schaeffer was born and raised in the Washington, DC inner city Irish immigrant community. He is Treasurer and the Irish Language Coordinator of the CCÉ (international Irish Musicians’ Association) O’Neill-Malcom Branch. Mike is a founding member of the band Celtic Marc, now performing as Cool McFinn in the metropolitan DC area. He has recorded two CDs with Celtic Marc. He plays and teaches uilleann pipes and both low and high whistles. He leads the CCÉ-sponsored weekly session in Fairfax, Virginia and teaches basic Irish language at local Irish festivals and music schools.
A dual Irish and American citizen with grandparents from Counties Mayo and Roscommon, Francesca (Ches) grew up in northern New Jersey and began summer visits to cousins in Ireland once she was old enough to earn money for airfare. In the 1980s, when this was still the thing to do, she spent summers hitchhiking all over Ireland, and in 1992 she led her first tour of high school students. Now in her 35th year as a high school English teacher in Arlington, and as the wife of a professional Irish musician, Ches spends the school year immersed in the Irish music and culture that is the heartbeat of her home, and the summer leading tours throughout Ireland.
Mike O’Malley is a professor of US history at George Mason University, and the author of Keeping Watch: A History of American Time and Face Value: The Entwined Histories of Money and Race in America. He is working on a new biography of Francis O’Neill.
Patrick Egan (Pádraig Mac Aodhgáin) is a scholar, Irish speaker and concertina player from Ireland, currently serving as Kluge Fellow in Digital Studies at the Kluge Center and in August he will be a Fulbright scholar. He has recently submitted his PhD in digital humanities with ethnomusicology at University College Cork, which focused on Seán Ó Riada's rise to prominence during the 1960s in Ireland. Patrick’s interests over the past number of years have focused on ways to creatively use descriptive data in order to re-imagine how research is conducted with archival collections.
4th generation fiddler Graham DeZarn grew up surrounded by the contradance scene in the Shenandoah Valley of Virgina. First inspired by the music of his father Joe DeZarn, Graham studied with Andrea Hoag and Jesse Winch and soon began performing with other Washington D.C./Baltimore youths as The Next Generation. After taking an interest in old-time fiddle playing, Graham joined the Richmond-based stringband The Hot Seats, with whom he has toured from the Rocky Mountains to the Shetland Islands. His music has also been heard at The White House and The Smithsonian. Graham is an amateur mycologist and melodeon repairman with interests in sustainable agriculture and music education.