We’re thrilled to announce our instructors for this year’s retreat! Joining our merry crew are Barry Shears, Seán Gavin, Jerry O’Sullivan, and Dirk Mewes.

Seán Gavin

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.

Barry Shears

Born in Glace Bay on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Barry Shears is an acknowledged expert on the history of traditional piping in his home province and its intrinsic connection to the Gaelic language, music, and culture. He comes from a musical family, which includes three piping brothers. His first lessons in piping were from Angus MacIntyre, whose family came to Cape Breton in 1826 and was descended from Duncan MacIntyre, MacDonald of Clanranald’s family piper in the 1750s.

For the last 40 years, Barry’s passion has been to interview and record the last of the traditional style pipers in Nova Scotia and to share their music and stories with others. In addition to teaching and performing this piping style at workshops throughout North America, he has authored three books on traditional pipe music in Nova Scotia, complete with photographs, short family sketches, and modern settings of many of the tunes they played

An accomplished musician, Barry has performed at concerts and festivals throughout North America, as well as in Scotland and Europe, a highlight of which was a live-to-air broadcast on Radio France, where, along with other well known Cape Breton musicians – the late John Morris Rankin of the Rankin family, the late violinist Jerry Holland, and multi-instrumentalist David MacIsaac — the unique, uplifting, and wonderful sound of Cape Breton music was introduced to a wide European audience in 1990.

man seated in a chair playing a set of Scottish smallpipes

Jerry O’Sullivan

Jerry O’Sullivan has been widely hailed as America’s premier uilleann piper. His reputation for technical and melodic mastery of the instrument, an Irish bagpipe known for its subtlety and expression, is unsurpassed in the United States, and is demanding considerable attention overseas. Jerry is also widely recorded on the tin whistle, the low whistle, the Highland Pipes, and the Scottish smallpipes.

Jerry has appeared on more than 90 albums and has performed or recorded with artists such as The Boston Pops, Don Henley, Paul Winter, James Galway, Dolly Parton, The Colorado Symphony Orchestra, The Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Eileen Ivers, and many others. He was a featured soloist on Paul Winter’s GRAMMY-winning album, Celtic Solstice (Living Music, 1999). His first two solo albums, The Gift (Shanachie,1998) and The Invasion (Green Linnet, 1987), received critical acclaim, quickly finding their way to the top of a number of “best albums of the year” lists. Jerry has released a solo album, O’Sullivan Meets O’Farrell (Jerry O’Sullivan Music, 2005), which features music from the 200 year old O’Farrell tutor and tune collections.

Most recently, Jerry released O’Sullivan Meets O’Farrell (Vol. II.) ( Jerry O’Sullivan Music 2010.) Jerry has also recorded a number of film soundtracks, including From Shore to Shore, The Long Journey Home, Far and Away, Africans in America, and Out of Ireland, and has appeared on numerous television commercials. Jerry has toured extensively in the United States and Europe and has played as far afield as Japan and Israel. He has been a featured performer and instructor in numerous folk festivals, including the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the Milwaukee Irish Festival, the Catskills Irish Arts Week in East Durham, Boston’s Gaelic Roots Festival, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the National Council for Traditional Arts National Folk Festival, and the Swannanoa Gathering. He has performed at such reputable venues as Lincoln Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and on the mall in Washington D.C.

Dirk Mewes

Dirk Mewes works full time making uilleann pipes from his home workshop in Berthoud, Colorado. Making this iconic Irish traditional instrument requires skills in woodworking, metalworking, leather-working, and an ability to play the pipes. Every part must be made in the shop, which includes the reeds that make the pipes sound, and even many of the tools for making the instruments.

Dirk learned pipe-making by visiting and studying with different uilleann pipe makers around the world, including Cillian O’Briain, David Quinn, Tim Britton, and Benedict Koehler.

Since 2020, in addition to pipe-making, Dirk has been helping with video streaming and recording for online versions of the Portal Irish Music Week, Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat, the Colorado Scottish Festival, and O’Flaherty’s. Dirk has performed with several Irish music bands in Colorado and enjoys recording with his friends. In March 2018, he appeared as the guest soloist with the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of Shaun Davey’s composition “The Brendan Voyage.” Dirk also enjoys teaching up-and-coming pipers to play the instrument, and dropping in at his local pub for some session tunes with many of the same friends.