Summer schools keep the tradition of Irish music alive


A sign of the vitality and interest in the greater D.C. area, this day school approach at the Cedar Lane Unitarian Church attracts a high-powered staff and developing student base annually under the directorship of Mitch Fanning.  Details at

In the Midwest, the venerable Milwaukee Irish Fest has been running its own summer school program preceding its Irish Fest weekend (August 12-18) availing of many terrific teaching performers who participate in the largest Irish festival in the country. 

Increasingly they add classes that add or introduce facets of Irish culture that reaffirm the huge educational mission this highly successful and well-organized festival organization produces every year. They offer a variety of sampler classes for folks coming in at week’s end to take in Irish Fest as well. Visit

There are also a couple of fledgling programs in two cities where Irish music instruction and performance are notable, one a long-time bastion of Irish traditional music and the other relatively recently. 

For the third year the Francis O’Neill Irish Arts Week (something about the title rings familiar) is hosting an instructional program of music and dance organized by Sean Cleland and Oisin MacDiarmada through the Irish Music School of Chicago.  Again, it is organized a day school through one of its sponsors, fittingly enough the Francis O’Neill Pub and Restaurant on Chicago’s North Side and it takes place July 20-28.

Coming up shortly is the Minnesota Irish Music Weekend June 13-16 (MIM) organized by the St. Paul-based Center for Irish Music a solid, grass roots music instructional organization with a sense of where it is heading. 

Though it is only a weekend program, its tastefully recruited list of instructors and performers, including some top-tier musicians from Ireland, services a younger and improving Irish music community there so it merits a mention for its contributions to strengthening the overall Irish music community in the Midwest.

In St. Louis, there is a cultural immersion program for children organized by St. Louis Irish Arts directed by Helen Gannon that runs from June 3-27, serving to educate local youth not only in their Irish music and dance heritage but Irish Culture in general.  Visit

There are new Irish and Celtic weeks or total immersion weekends for Irish music and dance in the instructional vein cropping up all the time in these very fertile Green Fields of America. 

One really important aspect of all of them in my observation has been the ability to blend the needs and interests of younger people starting out on this path with those of older generations which is the foundation of the Living Tradition of Irish music.  

That musical heritage belongs to all of us and is ours to preserve for future generations.  I like what I see and have experienced over the past half-century in making it a robust and important part of our Irishness.