Founder and director of the Irish Music Institute, Seán Gavin is one of the most highly
regarded Irish musicians of his generation. In 2016 he became the first and only musician born outside Ireland to win the prestigious Seán Ó Riada gold medal, and his most recent recording, a collaboration with fiddler Jesse Smith, accompanist John Blake, and bodhran player Johnny “Ringo” McDonagh, was hailed by The Irish Echo as “traditional music at its best!” Seán tours regularly with the groups Bua and Téada, both of which have gleaned top praise from Irish music critics around the globe.
In addition to performing, Seán was Musical Director for the PBS program “I Am Ireland”, and for the long running “Atlantic Steps”. He’s one of the most highly sought instructors of Irish music, with lectures on the subject at institutions around the world including the University of Chicago, St. Andrew’s University in Scotland, and Na Píobairí Uilleann in Dublin. He has recently authored a popular tutor book, The Tin Whistle Method, from pubisher Hal Leonard.
Seán was encouraged in music by his father Mick, a fiddler from Co.
Clare, and his brother Michael – a multi-instrumentalist. At age 12, he started work on the uilleann pipes with the late Al Purcell, former pupil of piper Leo Rowsome. Seán moved to Chicago at age 20 where he spent a decade playing and studying with the windy city’s finest musicians, particularly Sligo flute-legend Kevin Henry. Since then he
has toured extensively around the globe, with multiple radio, TV, and festival appearances. After 3 years in Minnesota, where he was active in the non-profit Center for Irish Music, Seán is back in his native Detroit where he continues to play, teach, and promote traditional Irish music.
Johnny B Connolly
Although still in his twenties, Johnny B. Connolly has already generated a reputation as an exciting and accomplished button accordionist. Johnny’s talents have paved the way across continents and provided him opportunities to perform or record with many internationally renowned artists including Kevin Burke, the Chieftains, Anam, Martin Hayes and Altan. His debut album Bridgetown (Green Linnet) was called “the most exciting solo debut from an Irish artist in years” by The Irish Herald — “a must-have CD for all true lovers of Irish box playing.”
Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, Johnny has been immersed in Irish traditional music since he was eight years old. By the age of 15 he was a regular feature around his hometown, performing with musicians sometimes twice his age. Johnny’s dexterity on the accordion earned him a slot with established Celtic ensemble Anam at the age of 17. For the next two years, he continued to build his reputation back home in Dublin’s trad music scene and abroad with Anam, touring festivals throughout Europe and Ireland.
In 1996 the 21-year-old Johnny seized an opportunity to bring his skills to America. Leaving Anam, he crossed the ocean to join fiddler Patrick Ourceau in New York for a four-month stint through New York City and Boston. In 1997, Johnny merged his talents with those of guitarist Aidan Brennan, forming a duo that entertained festival audiences across the United States from Alaska to Louisiana to Colorado.
Heading further west, Johnny eventually made his home in Portland, Oregon. A friendship with Kevin Burke, legendary Irish fiddler and fellow Portland resident, led to Johnny’s signing with Green Linnet Records in 2001. His CD Bridgetown, was released to universally glowing reviews. “A joy from beginning to end…Connolly’s playing is skillful and exciting,” wrote All Music Guide. A sparkling collection of traditional Irish and French tunes, the album features guest appearances by Burke and production by guitarist Ged Foley.
Since then, Johnny has toured nationally with such artists as Kevin Burke and Ged Foley, Aidan Brennan, and Casey Neill, and appeared at numerous festivals including Colorado’s Festival of the Mabon (by Planet Bluegrass), the Cincinatti Celtic Festival, and the Sebastopol Celtic Festival in California. He is now a fixture on the flourishing Northwest scene, and his lilting accordion can be heard headlining Celtic festivals or in intimate clubs, joining Irish fiddlers, Gypsy jazz guitarists or Old-timey phenoms Foghorn Stringband.