We are thrilled to present our instructors for the 2021 Northeast Tionól!
Joey Abarta has spent the last 18 years touring North America, Europe, and Asia, teaching and performing music on the uilleann pipes, the irish bagpipe. A Los Angeles native, he first received instruction on the pipes from Dubliner Pat D’Arcy, a founding member of the Southern California Uilleann Pipers Club.
His musical skills have been further honed by several visits to Ireland, a year-long stint working in Japan, and continuing relationships with master pipers. In August of 2009, Joey’s accomplished playing won him an All-Ireland championship, placing second worldwide at the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann. In the fall of 2014 Joey became the first American uilleann piper to win first prize at the An tOireachtas, one of the biggest competitions for traditional music in the world. In 2015 Joey was honored to be a recipient of a traditional arts apprenticeship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council meaning he was awarded a grant to teach his art to the next generation.
Currently based in Boston, Joey divides his attention between performance, teaching, and recording. In addition to performing solo, he performs with Nathan Gourley of “Life is all Checkered” fame and had toured with Mick Moloney and the group The Green Fields of America; while at home, he organizes the meetings of the Boston Pipers Club, teaches for Comhaltas’ Boston Music School, and organizes various traditional music concerts and events.
Born in Illinois and raised in Ontario, Nicolas first started playing Irish music when he was in his late teens. A friend lent him a practice set of uilleann pipes, with which he proceeded to torture his extremely patient and understanding parents. Norman Stiff (a student of Dublin born Chris Langan) started teaching him and gave him two CDs: one of Willie Clancy and one of Seamus Ennis. Nicolas proceeded to listen to these two recordings on repeat for the next year. Eventually, he got his own set of pipes and a flute (and some more CDs!) and set out on his journey down the Irish music rabbit hole.
In the two decades since he first picked up a tin whistle at the Fergus Highland Games, Nicolas has not only become a very proficient musician, but has also developed a vast knowledge of Irish music history, about the old musicians, tune histories, Irish music in America, and more. Nicolas has performed and given workshops at venues and festivals throughout Canada and the United States. He plays a hybrid concert pitch “D” set of uilleann pipes, a Joe Kennedy flat pitch “B” set of union pipes, and John Gallagher flutes in F, D, and B, the latter of which is the first modern 8-keyed B flute, as far as he’s aware!
Born in West Belfast, Northern Ireland, uilleann piper and whistle player Eamonn Dillon has toured and recorded both as a solo artist and with a varied group of performers, touring shows and bands. Working between the US, Canada and Europe , his music has been featured on several film and television programs around the world. He has performed and recorded as a featured artist in both traditional, theatrical, and mixed genre ensembles, including Needfire, John McDermott, (The Irish Tenors,) Celtic Bridge, King James, Sarah Packham, and Palmoa Faith, among others.
He first learned the tin whistle from his father, and Tara Diamond, before getting his first set of uilleann pipes, made by the great master Sean McAloon, who mentored him while starting out.
Kara Doyle was born in Wisconsin, and spent her youth in California. Moving to the Northeast brought her into regular contact with Irish music, and she began to play whistle in 1995. She contracted a severe case of uilleann piping fever in the late nineties, and obtained her first set just after the turn of the millennium. Kara has been very strongly influenced in tone, repertoire, and pedagogy by the teaching of Benedict Koehler and Brian McNamara, and aspires to both the tightness of Tommy Reck and the lyrical musicality of Mick O’Brien. She lives and plays in Schenectady, New York.
Uilleann piper and flute player 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 also tours regularly with the groups Bua and Téada, both of which have gleaned top praise from Irish music critics around the globe.
He 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.
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.
Preston Howard Wilde
Preston grew up in Northern California where he first heard Irish traditional music in the form of a Finbar Furey recording belonging to his father. This recording sparked Preston’s deep interest in the uilleann pipes. After several years playing whistle, flute, and Scottish bagpipes as a child, Preston began learning the uilleann pipes at age 17 with the help of Dingle piper Con Durham as well as the Pub Scouts, the local Irish music collective in Chico, CA.
Preston now resides in Portland, Oregon where he frequently plays at regional ceilis, Sean-nós Northwest workshops and events, local sessions, and concerts. Preston has performed with Ensamble Galilei, An Irish Christmas, Cake, Alistair Fraser, Kevin Burke and many others.
At age seven, Cillian Vallely began learning the whistle and pipes from his parents, Brian and Eithne at the Armagh Pipers Club, a group that has fostered the revival of traditional music in the north of Ireland for over four decades. Since leaving college, he has played professionally and toured all over North America, Europe, Japan, Hong Kong and Australia. He has recorded on over sixty albums including guest spots with Bruce Springsteen, Natalie Merchant, Alan Simon’s Excalibur project with Fairport Convention and the Moody Blues, GAIA with the Prague Philharmonic and Karan Casey. He has also performed and toured with Riverdance, Tim O’Brien, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Whirligig, and the Celtic Jazz Collective. Since 1999, he has been a member of the band, Lúnasa, one of the world’s premier Irish bands, with whom he has recorded seven albums and played at many major festivals and venues including Glastonbury, WOMAD, the Edmonton Folk Festival and The Hollywood Bowl.
Born in Boston, Benedict grew up listening to recordings of Irish traditional music sent over by his mother’s family in Dublin. He took up the pipes in his twenties and has listened to and learned from a wide range of the older players, citing as particularly strong influences the stately musical tradition of East Galway and the complex and elegant piping style exemplified by the “gentlemen pipers” Seamus Ennis and Liam O’Flynn. These influences are evident in Benedict’s graceful, lyrical style of playing.
Well known as an insightful and generous teacher, Benedict will be teaching beginning and intermediate piping workshops. He and his wife, harper/button accordionist Hilari Farrington live in East Montpelier, Vermont where Benedict, in association with David Quinn, makes and restores uilleann pipes and continues to enhance his reputation as a superb reed maker.
Eimear Arkins is a multi-instrumentalist, singer and dancer from Ruan in County Clare.
She holds eleven solo All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil titles and has competed in all Ireland, European and World Dancing Championships. Eimear has toured extensively with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann on concert tours throughout Ireland, Britain, North America and Canada. She has represented Ireland in France as a performer at Rennes Expo and in Spain as a participant in La Noche Negra a cultural collaboration and exchange between the Mid-West of Ireland and the province of Asturias.
In 2014 Eimear was selected to be part of the Comhaltas National Folk Orchestra of Ireland, which was put together to perform the Boróimhe Suite, a newly composed suite of music, written and directed by Michael Rooney, commemorating the life of Brian Ború.
For the past eight summers, Eimear has performed with the internationally renowned show Brú Ború and was part of the troupe that represented Ireland at World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China. In August 2015, Eimear traveled to World Expo 2015, in Milan with St. Louis Irish Arts where she promoted not only Irish culture but the expression of Irish culture worldwide.
Eimear has toured and performed with numerous groups including Cherish The Ladies, The Paul Brock Band, Trinity Irish Dance Ensemble and Téada. She is a regular teacher at St. Louis Irish Arts since and has given workshops at various festivals throughout the world including Catskills Irish Arts Week, New York; Viljandi Pärimusmuusika Festival, Estonia; St. Louis Tionól, St. Louis; Festival Interceltique de Lorient, France, Winnipeg Irish Fest, Canada and Canadian Celtic Celebration, Thunder Bay, Canada.
Eimear released her debut album, What’s Next? in June 2018 to great acclaim. Most recently she was awarded Newcomer of the Year 2019 by liveIRELAND
- Website: https://www.eimeararkins.com
Alison grew up in a household filled with music in Detroit, Michigan. The daughter of musicians, she attended her first concerts before she had taken her first steps. Her parents regularly took her to musical events in the city’s vibrant folk and Irish music scenes, and she routinely fell asleep inside of her dad’s guitar case, lulled to slumber by live music.
As a child she learned the fiddle from Irishman Mick Gavin, whose lovely Clare fiddling can be heard echoed in Alison’s playing. As a teen and young adult, she became deeply interested in the older generation of Irish musicians, counting luminaries such as Tommy Potts, Seamus Ennis, Paddy Carty, Bobby Casey and Paddy Cronin as influences. During her teenage years, Alison had success in music competitions, winning the gold medal at the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil fiddle competition for six consecutive years before “retiring” at the age of 18, and traveling overseas to compete in the All-Irelands.
In more recent years Alison has been performing and teaching full time. She has toured extensively across North America with her family band, Finvarra’s Wren, as well as touring with Irish singing legend Sean Keane in Canada and the United States. In 2015, she co-founded a much-loved and popular local Irish concert series, The Strayaway Child. She is highly sought after as a teacher, and has taught fiddle at the O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat, The Riley School of Irish Music, The Detroit Irish Music Association, The Austin Celtic Festival and many more.
- Website: https://www.pipesandfiddle.com/
David Quinn has been involved in making Irish pipes since 1975, and since 1977 he has cultivated a special interest in the work of the Taylor Brothers of Philadelphia. He lives and works in central New York State. David abandoned a promising career in North Indian linguistics to pursue Irish traditional music and eventually the manufacture of uilleann pipes. He has been working since 1998 in partnership with Benedict Koehler, dba Koehler and Quinn.