Jeanne Freeman, Director
Jeanne is the founder and Director of the Connecticut Academy of Irish Music, where she teaches Irish fiddle to students of all ages. Classically trained and a professional orchestral violinist in her early years, Jeanne studied Irish fiddling with friend and mentor, late Donegal fiddler P.V. O’Donnell, with whom she played and performed regularly. Jeanne has performed as a soloist with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra as the Irish fiddler in the Saint Patrick’s Day Celebration at the Bushnell, and appeared on Connecticut Public Television, National Public Radio and other television and radio programs. She has been the Guest Artist for the Simsbury Public School String Festival, teaching traditional Irish music to over 200 string students, and has also taught and performed at the well-known “Fiddle Hell” festival and music camp.
Jeanne has hosted regular traditional Irish music sessions in CT for many years, and has performed at many other festivals and venues, including as a soloist at the Greater Hartford Irish Festival. She performs often with her Celtic duo, “Ringrose & Freeman”, with singer Dan Ringrose, and has been featured in Celtic Life International Magazine. Jeanne enjoys teaching and has mentored a number of young players who have qualified for and competed in Ireland’s prestigious All-Ireland music competition, Fleadh Cheoil na nEireann.
Jeanne appears on a number of recordings, including her solo CD, “The Fiddler You Are.”
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.
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.
Mary (bodhrán) studied at the University of Limerick and has performed with many nationally acclaimed Irish musicians including Eileen Ivers, Joanie Madden, Niall Keegan, Sandra Joyce, and Riverdance’s Colin Dunne. She has appeared on stage at such notable venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the National Concert Hall in Dublin, NYU’s Skirball Center for the Arts, and toured Ireland with Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin in 2003 and with Pat Kane in 2010. Along with her expertise in traditional Irish music, Mary specializes in world music, marimba, and orchestral percussion. Her love of frame drums led her to study the Middle Eastern approach to bodhrán with master percussionist and four time Grammy winner Glen Velez. In addition to her career as a performing artist, Mary teaches beginning band and is the director of percussion studies for 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, and loves to share her passion for percussion with students of all ages!
Originally born in London, England, to Irish parents, Katie Murray moved to Co. Mayo, Ireland, at age 10 and quickly immersed herself in the South Sligo music scene which has highly influenced her style of fiddle playing. Under the guidance of legendary flute and fiddle player Peter Horan, Katie collected the repertoire of the area and cultivated a rhythmic style of playing, synonymous with the region. During her years at Trinity College Dublin, she became the President of the Traditional Music Society and taught and played in sessions and ceili’s across the country. Following several years in Manchester, England, Katie moved to New Haven, Connecticut in 2015 where she now works as Research Scientist. Katie can be regularly found playing in Irish music sessions, festivals and ceili’s throughout New England.