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Workshop & Class Descriptions

We had over 150 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: 

Online Registration now closed- Walkups will be accepted for the ceili, all workshops, classes and panels

Saturday Workshops

April 13, 9:30am-3:30pm (Orientation 9:30-10am, Lunch break 12-1:30pm) at ACCE, Baltimore, MD 21211.  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 14th at various locations - See Schedule page for specific location assignments

Saturday Workshop Descriptions
Button Accordion (Intermediate/Advanced) - Billy and 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) -  Brian Conway

New York Sligo Style - 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 (Intermediate/Advanced) - Patrick Ourceau

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 (Advanced Beginner) - Joanna Clare

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) - Joanie Madden

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.

Flute (Intermediate/Advanced) - John Skelton

This workshop covers all aspects of Irish flute playing: ornamentation, phrasing, variation, rhythm, and tone. We will learn a few tunes and then deconstruct them to help us understand different styles. Best suited to intermediate and advanced levels of players.

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) - Josh Dukes

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) - Joey Abarta

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) - John Walsh

This is a class for the Irish tenor banjo or mandolin tuned GDAE.  We 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)  -- Meghan Mette

This is a class for newcomers to the anglo concertina.  Instructor Meghan Mette 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) -- Catriona Fee 

This class is geared towards students with experience on the anglo concertina.  We will focus on learning by ear, playing with rhythm and swing, and the pulling off concertina-specific phrasing and ornamentation.  Bring your concertina and a recording device.

Harp (Intermediate/Advanced) - Lexie Boatright

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.

Ensemble Class (all instruments) - Rose Flanagan and Brendan Dolan

This class is intended for players of all instruments, and participants should be confident enough to learn and play by ear.  Rose and Brendan will teach tunes and accompaniment and focus on playing together with other musicians.  Bring your isntrument and a recording device.

Dropped-D Guitar (all levels) - 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.

DADGAD Guitar (all levels) - Sean Earnest

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

Bodhran (Intermediate/advanced) - Anna Colliton

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.

Singing - Eileen Estes

In this workshop, we will focus on improving and expanding out singing technique.  We will practice 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.

Dance - Catherine Brice

Morning- Sean Nos Dance

Catherine’s morning workshop will explore building blocks of sean-nós dance.  Students will learn simple two-bar timing phrases that can be used to keep time with the tunes they love!  Each phrase will be adapted to accommodate intermediate and advanced dancers in the class, making this workshop appropriate for dancers of all experience levels. In addition to footwork, we will learn the basic moves of the brush dance.  Bring your favorite broom to class with you!  

Afternoon- Old Style Steps
In the afternoon session, class will switch gears to traditional old-style step dance.  Students will be taught the Maggie Pickie. This delightful dance has many steps varying in difficulty, which beginner and advanced dancers will certainly enjoy.

Dance - Megan Downes

Morning - Waltzes and two-hand dances

Experienced and beginning students will be taught specific footwork and figures for Pride of Erin, St. Bernard's Waltz, the Veleta, Sweet Forget Me Not and variations on what Billy McComiskey calls the Catskill Shuffle. These partner dances are a great place to start learning, yet the intricate nature of these wonderfully vintage dances means that people have been going to ceilis for many years and still haven’t had the opportunity to learn them! Live music by fiddling favorite, Mikela Murphy.


Afternoon - Clare Sets and Polka sets

In the afternoon, work on partnering skills while answering the question, What's an up jig? From basics to ornamental battering (based on fundamentals in common with Sean Nós dance), Megan will help you respond to the music with more ease and musicality. If you play music and want to develop your sense of phrasing and meter, dance class is a good place to start. Clare sets differ from Connemara, Cork and Kerry sets in their steps and groove, evoking regional variations in music. 

Sunday Class Descriptions
Tune Repertoire for all players (1:15-2:15pm)

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)

Talk: From Clare to Boston - Instructor Panel (1:15-2:15pm)

During this talk, a panel of Trad Fest instructors will discuss their experience with the style of playing popular in County Clare and its influence on the vibrant Irish traditional music community in Boston.

Youth Workshop: An introduction to Irish music on the Tin Whistle - Tess Hartis (1:15-2:15pm)

In this workshop, which is intended for youth ages 7-12, Baltimore Irish Music School instructor Tess Hartis will introduce the basic building blocks of Irish music.  Participants will learn basic scales and rhythmic concepts, and may even walk away with their first polka.

Musician Health and Wellness - Sean McComiskey (2:30-3:30pm)

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: Irish Traditional Music in and around London (2:30-3:30pm)

During this talk, a panel of Trad Fest instructors will discuss the history of Irish traditional music & dance in and around London, England, seen through the lens of immigrant families who played it.

Youth Fiddle Workshop - Tess Hartis (2:30-3:30pm)

In this workshop, which is intended for youth with some experience on the fiddle, Baltimore Irish Music School instructor Tess Hartis will introduce the basic building blocks of Irish music on the fiddle.  She will cover basic ornamentation and rhythmic ideas, talk about the differences between Irish fiddle and classical music, and teach a simple tune to get them started.  Students should have enough experience on the violin to learn and play a simple tune.

Song Repertoire for all singers - Eileen Estes (3:45-4:45pm)

In this workshop, participants will learn to sing some of 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 New York Sligo Style (3:45-4:45pm)

During this talk, a panel of Trad Fest instructors will discuss the history of the New York Sligo style and the players that promulgated it.  They will talk about their own experiences in New York and their impressions of the players who we think of today as foundational to the development of the unique style.

Ourceau Fiddle
beg flute
bodhran beginner
Sean Nos Dance
Song Rep
Tune Teach
Brian Fiddle
Clare to Boston
Musician Health
Kid whistle
Beg banjo
Dave W
NY Sligo
Kid fiddle
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