Traditional Irish fiddle Teaching
Laurel considers teaching to be one of the most important and rewarding aspects of her life as a musician. A gifted and versatile teacher of traditional Irish music, she has taught workshops, classes and private lessons since 1994. She is experienced in conducting classes and lessons for musicians of various backgrounds and ages, engaging her students in the traditional aural learning method. Her teaching combines skillful instruction in the technical elements of violin playing with a spirit of deep respect and enthusiasm for the old traditional Irish fiddle styles. She encourages students to be insightful listeners and to understand the nuances of bowing, ornamentation and musical phrasing that make traditional Irish fiddle music so enthralling.
Laurel and her teacher, Seamus Connolly, were awarded a formal apprenticeship grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for three consecutive years, from 1990 through 1993. Seamus and Laurel designed the apprenticeship to give Laurel the opportunity to study the regional fiddle styles of Ireland, with the intention of preparing her to share her growing understanding of traditional Irish music through her teaching. She is particularly interested in the Sligo, Clare, East Galway and Sliabh Luachra styles of Irish fiddling, and she never stops learning herself as she listens to the old recordings from these regions with her students.
Through the years Laurel has taught Irish fiddle for a number of academic institutions including Boston College, Phillips Academy, Andover, and for several years she led the “Fiddleheads” Celtic music ensemble at Wellesley College. She currently teaches Irish fiddle privately and at the Indian Hill Music School in Littleton, Massachusetts, and at music festivals. She has taught at the Boston College Gaelic Roots Festival, the New World Festival in Randolph, Vermont, The Northern Roots Festival in Brattleboro, Vermont, and Fiddle Hell in Westford Massachusetts, and she will teach at the Fruitlands Museum “Fiddle Fest” in August of 2018. She was instrumental in establishing the “Groton Session” during its early years. She has also taught for the Summer Day Music Program at Indian Hill School in Littleton Massachusetts, encouraging young classical musicians to explore Irish fiddling and singing.
Laurel and Seamus Connolly worked together to create a book of traditional Irish tunes with an accompanying CD, “Forget Me Not: Fifty Memorable Traditional Irish Tunes” which was published with MelBay in 2002. The book is designed to help students of traditional Irish music understand how to adapt an unadorned version of a tune to a more ornamented, slightly varied version. Passing this skill along to students remains an important focus of Laurel’s teaching.
In 2002 and 2010, Laurel was awarded a Master Apprentice Traditional Arts grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, this time as a master teacher to provide instruction and mentorship to young fiddlers Elizabeth Sullivan and Natalya Trudeau.
In 2012 Laurel and four of her young fiddle students traveled to Ireland together to visit concertina player Mary MacNamara and to meet and play with her students. This was one of the most memorable, grand adventures she and her students had ever experienced! Many wonderful sessions were enjoyed, tunes were learned at a workshop led by East Clare fiddler Pat O’Connor, good friendships were established and Laurel’s group joined Mary’s students for a performance at the Tulla Court House. More music was enjoyed later that week during a visit to Sligo, hosted by the Raymond family. Altogether the trip was a tremendously meaningful and memorable experience for Laurel and her students.
Laurel believes that music is a gift, and she feels grateful to have it in her life. Sharing it with others, through teaching or through performing, is her greatest joy.