Jeanne Freeman, Director
Jeanne (Director and fiddle) studied Irish fiddling with the late Donegal fiddler P.V. O’Donnell, and played and performed with him for many years. Originally trained in classical music, she became interested in traditional music early on as a fiddler in Colonial Williamsburg (VA) and eventually found her way home to Irish music. Jeanne was the Irish fiddle soloist for the Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s Saint Patrick’s Day Celebration at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, and was a featured solo performer at the Greater Hartford Irish Festival. She has performed at many festivals and venues around the region. In 2017, Jeanne was the featured fiddler in Celtic Life International Magazine. Jeanne hosts a regular traditional Irish session in Hartford, and also has a number of radio and television appearances to her credit, including a performance on Connecticut Public Television. She released her debut solo CD, “The Fiddler You Are” (produced by John Whelan) in 2014. Jeanne is the founder of the Academy, and teaches the fiddle classes.
John Whelan, Artist-in-Residence
John (button accordion) is a 7-time All-Ireland Champion, and one of the most accomplished Irish button accordion players of his generation. He has toured and recorded extensively with many artists – ranging from Celtic music superstars such as Riverdance fiddler Eileen Ivers, to musicians as diverse as country star Kathy Mattea and the Sirius String Quartet. John has earned numerous awards and accolades for his work, and has multiple recording, television and movie credits to his name, including his 2012 release of original compositions, “Passage of Time.” In 1997 he formed The John Whelan Band, with which he still tours. John is a regular teacher at the Swannanoa Gathering and can also be seen performing around the country with his band, Gailfean. John has recently re-located to Seattle but will continue to work with and mentor young musicians in the youth ceili band class via Skype (assisted by Jeanne in the classroom), as well as in-person instruction when his touring schedule allows.
Claudine (tenor banjo, mandolin, guitar) is best known for her playing, singing, and songwriting with Touchstone, the highly acclaimed Irish-Appalachian fusion band based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina that featured the Bothy Band’s Triona NiDhomhnaill. Claudine learned flat picked style tenor banjo from Charlie Piggott of DeDannan while living in Galway, Ireland, and she has been a popular instructor at The Swannanoa Gathering, March Mandolin Fest, and workshops/ festivals in the US, Canada, and England, as well as private instruction. She has toured and recorded extensively across numerous continents and has been featured on many radio shows, including Fiona Ritchie’s “Thistle and Shamrock,” and CBC’s “Mainstreet.” Claudine currently plays with the Vermont-based band, Gypsy Reel. Claudine’s offerings include the slow session, singing class, and instruction on all levels of mandolin, tenor banjo, and guitar.
Damien (accordion and fiddle) grew up in a family steeped in music. His grandparents, Michael Connolly (flute) and Lena Connolly (melodeon) created for themselves one of the liveliest houses for Irish music you could find in Co. Clare. Damien began learning the accordion with his father Martin when he was 11, and was soon competing in the Fleadhanna with his friends in the groupai cheol and ceili band competitions. At age 16, he took up the fiddle, under the tutelage of his step-mother Maureen Glynn. In 1997, Damien took first place in both the Under-18 All Ireland accordion and melodeon competition. In 2000, he recorded his first accordion and melodeon CD, Tippin Away. In 2003, Damien moved to the US and is a sought-after teacher of both fiddle and accordion and has taught at the Catskills Irish Arts Week, the Swannanoah Gathering and other Irish music camps. In 2008 Damien authored and published The Irish Accordion Tutor, Vol. I, for B/C accordionists, which is available from the Button Box. In 2015, Damien released his second CD, “Inspired”, on which he plays B/C and C#D accordion, fiddle and bouzouki. It features a host of guest musicians, including his uncle Seamus, his wife Sally, Oisin MacDiarmada, John Doyle and Eamon O’Leary. Damien’s CDs are available on CDbaby.com. Damien and Jeanne will host some informal sessions for their younger students to help promote friendship, fun, and musical collaborations among the next generation of players.
Flynn (guitar, mandolin, tenor banjo) has shared some teaching duties with Claudine. Flynn has performed all over the world with many notable acts in traditional and contemporary acoustic music. He can be seen in concert with the American folk band Low Lily (formerly known as Annalivia), and legendary Irish Accordion player John Whelan, as well as solo and duo shows playing music from his four solo albums. He studied Music at Dartington College of Arts in Devon, England and at Mills College in Oakland, CA and now teaches in the Music Dept. at Keene State College in New Hampshire. His many teaching credits also include Augusta Heritage Center (WV), Swannanoa Gathering (NC), Brian Wicklunds Fiddle Pal Camp (MN, WI, MA) and major bluegrass and folk music festivals in the Northeastern US.
Ellen (Irish flute and tin whistle) is both a classically trained flutist and accomplished traditional Irish flutist and whistle player. She has studied with and attended workshops with noted Irish flutists such as Kevin Crawford (Lunasa) and Boston-based Jimmy Noonan. Ellen is an instructor of classical and Irish flute at Smith College, and has taught in numerous other capacities, including The Pipers’ Gathering, Bay Path College, Deerfield Academy, and the Elms College Celtic Adventures for Kids. She is a flutist with the Springfield Symphony and regularly performs traditional music with her Massachusetts-based band, BlackSheep, as well as The Wailing Banshees, a traditional Irish group she formed at Smith College. Ellen has qualified and competed in two All-Ireland music championships and leads sessions around Massachusetts and Connecticut. Ellen offers beginner and intermediate classes in Irish flute and tin whistle.
Dan (singing) was reared on Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem music, and began singing their songs by the age of three. With a rich baritone voice that has been described as “stunning”, a mischievous sense of humor, and a comfortable command of the stage, Dan has entertained crowds in festivals, fairs, and concert halls and more for 30 years. Along with numerous radio and television appearances, including a recent performance on Connecticut Public Television, he has performed with some of the most notable names in Celtic music. In 2005 he was tapped to accompany the legendary Tommy Makem of Armagh for several shows. Dan also performed regularly with long-time friend and Donegal fiddler P.V. O’Donnell, and has shared the stage with many other luminaries in Celtic music, including John Whelan, The Clancy Brothers, Michael “Piper” Cooney, The Fury Brothers, The Wolfe Tones and Ireland’s funnymen Brendan Grace and Hal Roach. Dan has a number of solo recordings to his name, and his original song, “Six and Twenty”, was recently featured on a compilation CD to benefit victims of the 2012 Newtown, CT tragedy.
Mary (bodhran) studied bodhran at the University of Limerick and has performed with Eileen Ivers, Niall Keegan, Sandra Joyce, Joanie Madden, Colin Dunne, and many others. She has appeared on stage at such notable venues as Lincoln Center, the National Concert Hall in Dublin, and NYU’s Skirball Center for the Arts. She toured Ireland with Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin in 2003 and with Pat Kane in 2010. Along with her expertise in traditional Irish music, she specializes in world music, marimba, and orchestral percussion, and performs with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. She has received acclaim for her fluency in a wide variety of styles from contemporary music to traditional Irish to Brazilian folk tunes. Her passion for diverse genres of music has also put her on stage with the West Point Brass and Emmy Award winners Lillias White and Sarah Jessica Parker. In addition to her career as a performing artist, Mary teaches general music and band in the Westport Public Schools. She received her Bachelor’s degree in music education and performance from Ithaca College, and completed her Master’s degree in percussion performance at the University of Connecticut. Mary has also studied at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School in London.
Jon (uillean pipes) began his bagpiping career in his youth with the Manchester Pipe Band, then under the guidance of PM Mike MacNintch. Over the next 15 years Jon spent time playing all sorts of bagpipes, fifes, flutes, and whistles- eventually finding a home in traditional Irish music performing on the complex Uilleann pipes. Since 2008, he has been employed at Sweetheart Flute Company, learning the art of wooden flute and whistle making. Jon made most of the instruments he plays, including his pipes. Jon is a featured guest at sessions throughout CT, in Boston and beyond, and has also been known to step-dance! He performs frequently with the multi-talented concertinist Benedict Gagliardi, and in 2014 the duo qualified for the All-Ireland fleadh cheoil by winning the competitive Senior Duet event at the Mid-Atlantic Fleadh in Parsippany, NJ.