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Workshop & Class Descriptions

We had over 90 workshop participants at the last Trad Fest. We are proud to once again feature some of the top teachers and performers in Irish music today. It's recommended that students enroll in just one class for the day however half days are available upon request. There will be an intermediate session during the lunch break. See the Register  page for fees, and to sign up.  Advanced registration strongly encouraged.

***If you are new to Irish music and dance, we encourage you to enroll in one of the classes labeled with the symbol *** which denotes a class suitable for beginners. It is recommended that you have some amount of playing experience for all other classes. Saturday workshops are intended to be a full day intensive with the same instructor. 

Click on a class below or scroll down for description: 

Visit the Register page for fee info and to sign up!

Saturday Workshops

April 15, 9:30am-3:30pm (Orientation 9:30-10am, Lunch break 12-1:30pm) at The Center for the Arts, 3400 Norman Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21213.  Saturday classes are designed to be an intensive immersion experience, and so happen simultaneously.  Participants will spend four hours with a single instructor.

Sunday Classes & Seminars on the Avenue in Hampden

Sunday April 16th at Zissimos, and Bluebird - See Schedule page for specific location assignments

11-12:30 pm



Saturday Workshop Descriptions
Button Accordion (Intermediate/Advanced) - Billy McComiskey

This class is designed for students of the button accordion with some prior experience. Students should at least have a working knowledge of the keyboard and basic scales. Tunes will be taught traditionally, breaking them down into easy-to-learn sections at slow and moderate tempos. Ornamentation and bass accompaniment options will be demonstrated and discussed, as well as alternate fingerings and styles of play.

Button Accordion (All Levels) - Sean McComiskey

This class is designed for students of the button accordion with some prior experience. Students should at least have a working knowledge of the keyboard and basic scales. Tunes will be taught traditionally, breaking them down into easy-to-learn sections at slow and moderate tempos. Ornamentation and bass accompaniment options will be demonstrated and discussed, as well as alternate fingerings and styles of play.

Fiddle (Intermediate/Advanced) - James Kelly

Clare/East Galway style - This class is for students able to learn a tune by ear and who have an intermediate to advanced level command of the instrument . The focus of the class will be on repertoire but more particularly on bowing, as well as ornamentation, accents and variations. Make sure to bring a recording device.

Fiddle (Intermediate/Advanced) -  Rose Flanagan

This class is for violinists or fiddlers at an intermediate or advanced level who want to improve technique, style and Irish tune repertoire. Ornamentation and technique will be covered and the class will learn several tunes by ear.

Fiddle (Advanced Beginner) - Meghan Mette

This class is for fiddlers who already play a little bit of Irish music or classically trained musicians who are new to Irish fiddling. Students in this class will learn several Irish tunes by ear. The class will include a segment on the physical technique that can help implement Irish ornamentation styles. Students should bring a recording device and are encouraged to ask questions.

Flute (Intermediate/Advanced) - Kevin Crawford

This class is for students who are skilled enough to play tunes in a variety of rhythms ( jigs, reels, etc.), with good technique and at a reasonable tempo. This course will expand on the skills and topics introduced in the beginners class, with more attention given to ornamentation, breathing, style and repertoire, while continuing to emphasize rhythm and phrasing in the music. Tunes will be taught by ear so bring a D flute and a recording device. ABC notation will be provided for those who need it.

Tin Whistle (Intermediate/Advanced) - Kathleen Conneely

In this workshop, Kathleen will be teaching her approach to advanced techniques and phrasing for traditional tunes on the tin whistle.  Tunes will be taught by ear, and students should make sure to bring a recording device.

Flute/Tin Whistle (Advanced Beginner) - Marty Frye

This class will spend time on the essential technique for good life-long flute and whistle playing, including breath technique and ergonomics.  We will also dig into a few choice tunes, cover basic ornamentation, work to develop a good feel for traditional Irish tune rhythms, and discuss good music listening habits.

Uilleann Pipes (All Levels) - Cillian Vallely

This workshop explores Irish traditional music on the Uilleann pipes through teaching of new tunes and exploring how to enhance tunes through ornamentation (rolls, crans, triplets, ect..) and using rhythmic and melodic variations to give a tune lift and life. Workshop will also discuss sound quality and musicality on the pipes. This workshop will be taught by ear at an intermediate to advanced pace. All pipers welcome.

Tenor Banjo/Mandolin (Intermediate/advanced)  -- Pauline Conneely

In this class my focus will be expressing the importance and the understanding of rhythm and timing. As well as learning new tunes, phrasing is a special part too. We will learn how to keep a steady rhythm... no speed needed!!! Looking forward to it!

Tenor Banjo/Mandolin (Advanced Beginner) - Peter FitzGerald

This is a class for the Irish tenor banjo or mandolin tuned GDAE.  Instructor Peter FItzGerald will be covering the basics of rhythm, techniques, and various ways to approach playing jigs, reels, slip jigs, hornpipes, and polkas on the two instruments.  An ideal class for those who have more recently picked up the instrument and want to deepen their understanding and improve their foundation.

Concertina (Beginner)  -- Catriona Fee

This is a class for newcomers to the anglo concertina.  Instructor Catriona Fee will cover the fundamentals of the instrument: the basic fingering system, how to approach learning new tunes and techniques, how to listen to tunes critically and begin learning by ear, basic ornamentation and how it should be approached, and other tools that new concertina players will want to add to their toolkits.

Concertina (Intermediate/advanced)  -- Lexie Boatright 

This class is students with some degree of experience with Irish music on the Anglo concertina. The Class will cover the “hows” and “whys” of concertina playing for intermediate and advanced players; intermediate students will hone their technique and ornamentation, and advanced students will learn arrangement ideas for chording and other extended techniques. All students will receive tips on how to practice at home to continue progressing and learning tunes long after class ends. 

Dropped-D Guitar (Beginner) - David McKindley-Ward

In this class, David will give an introduction to playing Irish music in Dropped-D tuning.  This class will be geared towards newcomers to either Irish music or the tuning, and is also ideal for folks who know how to play guitar in standard tuning but are interested in learning how to accompany Irish traditional music.  David will cover basic chord shapes and rhythms for the various types of tunes.

Dropped-D Guitar (Intermediate/Advanced) - Conor Hearn

This class is intended for people who are familiar with basic accompaniment in dropped-D tuning, and who would like to deepen their toolkit when accompanying Irish traditional music.  Together, we will think about right-hand techniques and grooves for different types of common melodies, hearing harmonic movement within traditional tunes, counterpoint, different approaches to understanding and visualizing the fretboard, approaches for session playing, and cool guitar player jargon.

DADGAD Guitar (all levels) - Josh Dukes

This class will cover the approaches to tradition Irish music guitar accompaniment. Focus will be placed on rhythm, chord selection, phrasing, and right and left-hand techniques.  An emphasis will be placed on learning when and when not to play certain chords as well as deciphering keys and different tune types.

Piano Accompaniment - Donna Long 

The Irish piano class this year is designed for intermediate to advanced players.  We will focus on tunes that are more difficult and have unexpected melody/chord changes.   I will be teaching a minimum of four tunes and we will talk about the different ways to make a tune interesting without detracting from the melody.  
Please bring a tape recorder and note paper.  There will be handouts of tunes.

Bodhran (Beginner) - Eileen Estes
This class is intended for folks who are new to the bodhran or have very little experience.  Eileen will cover basic tipper technique, positioning the instrument, and will discuss basic rhytmic techniques for accompanying jigs and reels.

Bodhran (Intermediate/advanced) - Myron Bretholz

Learn and improve your skills for accompanying jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas, and more. We will also discuss how to practice and continue improving, and how to fit in, hold your own, and positively contribute to a session or performance. Please bring your bodhran and tipper to class.

Sean Nós Singing - Catherine O'Kelly

In this workshop, we will focus on the styles of various traditional singers and the influence that they have had on the sean nós singing tradition.  We will be examine these styles through listening to recordings and using breathing techniques to execute ornamentation. From that, we will work on a number of traditional Irish folk songs that range from sorrowful love stories to more upbeat and lively pieces, building a foundation for students to understand how to approach these songs and create their own style.

Sean Nós Dance - Kieran Jordan

Sean-nós (“old style”) Irish dance is a joyful expression of both movement and sound. Traditionally performed as a solo, improvised form, sean-nós dance features footwork danced close-to-the-floor, a relaxed upper body, and a playful dialogue between the dance and music. In this class, students will enjoy listening and responding to traditional Irish music while gaining confidence as percussive movers. We will start with a focus on timing, technique, and building a body of basic steps to use as tools for improvisation. By the end of the week, dancers will be creating longer step sequences, practicing smooth transitions, and developing their own personal solo style.

Please wear comfortable shoes with a smooth hard sole (leather or hard rubber soles preferred), and bring water, a notebook, and a recording device.

Irish Social Dance - Megan Downes

If Irish music makes you tap your feet, come dance with us! Find partners at the dance or bring a friend and learn how to swing, slide, hop and jig. Get the basics or work on fancy footwork for your favorite Connemara and Clare sets.

Sunday Class Descriptions

Harp (Intermediate/Advanced) - Lexie Boatright (11-12:30pm)

This workshop is for players who are familiar with the harp and would like to take a deeper dive into the approach to playing Irish traditional music on the instrument.  Harps are not provided.  Make sure to bring a recording device.

Musician Health and Wellness - Sean McComiskey (1-2:30pm)

Sean McComiskey, PT, DPT, will be discussing Musician Health and Wellness: Preventing Repetitive Stress Injuries for Irish Traditional Musicians. The presentation will focus on the early signs and symptoms of muscular repetitive stress injuries commonly associated with musical practice and performance, and on providing practical tips for managing and preventing muscular pain and fatigue. At the end of the session, participants will have a foundational understanding of the causal mechanisms behind repetitive stress injuries, be able to identify the common signs and symptoms of repetitive stress, and will have learned stretches, exercises, and practical self-care tactics to protect themselves from future repetitive stress injuries. 

Talk: The History of Irish Music in America - Instructor Panel (1-2:30pm)

During this talk, a panel of Trad Fest instructors will discuss the history of Irish traditional music & dance in America seen through the lens of the immigrant families who played it.  They will discuss how the music got here, what their own experiences were with the music through the years, and provide some samples of historical tunes and settings with ties to places and times as the music has grown and changed in the United States.

Technique for Singers - Eileen Estes (1-2:30pm)

In this workshop, which is open to all, you will learn how to improve your signing by focusing on posture, breathing, and technique.  Eileen will cover the basics and fundamentals of sound management and production with voice - bring a recording device.  No experience necessary, this workshop is intended for all signers regardless of level

Tune Repertoire for all players (3:00-4:30pm)

A great opportunity to learn some new tunes in a group setting! Two or more of our faculty musicians will teach some of their favorite selections. Open to all melody instrumentalists. (Some experience needed)

Song Repertoire for all singers - Eileen Estes and Catherine O'Kelly (3:00-4:30pm)

In this workshop, participants will learn to sing some of Catherine and Eileen's favorite songs!  Lyrics will be provided, but be sure to bring a recording device.  Open to all singers, no experience necessary

Talk: The History of Irish Music in Baltimore - Instructor Panel (3:00-4:30pm)

During this talk, Billy McComiskey and a panel of Baltimore musicians will discuss the history of Irish traditional music in our city, including its major influences, important figures, and how it has changed over the years.  They will also provide some samples of tunes that have been popular in Baltimore at various times in this community's history.

Mindful Movement - Kieran Jordan (3:00-4:30pm)

This class invites students to come into awareness of their physical, mental and energetic bodies — with a movement experience that fosters grounding, presence, release, and energy flow. Drawing from somatic practices such as Bartenieff Fundamentals, Polarity Yoga and improvisation, this is a restorative and enlivening class, fluidly paced to slow airs, waltzes and mid-tempo selections of Irish music. Come nourish yourself with a gentle “reboot.” No experience necessary — all are welcome.

Kelly fiddle
Sean Accordion
beg flute
bodhran beginner
Sean Nos Dance
Song Rep
Tune Teach
ITM in Balt
Musician Health
Tech for sing
Mindful Movement
Beg banjo
Dave W
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