November 8 & 9, 2019

IrishFest Atlanta


Artist & Lecturer Bios

A student of the SuZuki method of violin before moving to Ireland and emerging herself in the music, Athena Tergis has a rare gift for teaching the nuances of Irish traditional style and bowing to players transitioning from classical training.  Her teaching style is immersive, encouraging players of all levels to release tension through healthy posture, relax their bow arm and find the rhythmic pulse in the music.  Ear training comes naturally throughout the class and sheet music is provided for all exercises and tunes with bowings for reference after class.  


A highly regarded player & composer of Irish traditional music, Billy McComiskey’s 1986 All-Ireland championship title attests to his mastery of the button accordion. Billy is a major figure in the widely celebrated Irish traditional music scene in the Baltimore / Washington area and many of his tunes are part of the traditional repertoire. He has been a member of several important groups including; The Pride of New York (with Joanie Madden, Brian Conway and Brendan Dolan), Trian (with Liz Carroll and Dáithí Sproule) and Mick Moloney’s Green Fields of America, a group that counts many legendary musicians among its ranks, including John Doyle, Athena Tergis and Robbie O’Connell.


Brenda Castles comes from a rich tradition of music in Co. Meath, having learned concertina from Rena Traynor (née Crotty) and concertina maestro, Mícheál Ó'Raghallaigh. She has several All Ireland Fleadh titles to her name both in solo and group competitions.  Music has brought her around the world to far flung destinations including Hong Kong, Mongolia and Iceland.

Brenda  is currently based between Dublin and New York, where she regularly performs and teaches music. She released her debut solo album, 'Indeedin You Needn't Bother' in December of 2016. In 2017 she taught concertina at the Catskills Irish Arts Week and she will be returning in 2018. She joined the Green Fields of America collective for concerts throughout 2016-2018.


Damien Stenson grew up in County Sligo (Ireland), an area with a rich folk music tradition. He is known for his extensive repertoire and flowing style of flute playing, developed by many years of constant musical activity. He is featured on various albums including the compilation “Wooden Flute Obsession Vol. 2”, Oisín Mac Diarmada’s solo album “Ar an bhFidil”, together with a bodhrán album by Junior Davey. He is the flute player of renowned Irish traditional group Teada.  (Damien’s bio taken from


Liz was raised in an Irish family in Boston and learned her traditional Irish and American folk repertoire from her father and grandfather. She studied classical violin at NYU and currently lives in Brooklyn. Continuous activities in the traditional music scenes of the US, Ireland and the UK, her distinctive voice and her affinity for various other music genres are resonating attributes of Hanley's interpretations.


Margie has been part of the tradition since early childhood, taking music lessons from her cousin, fiddle legend Martin Mulvihill from Glin, West Limerick.  She was also influenced by her North Kerry parents Peg Holly from Asdee and Mike Mulvihill from Moyvane. She moved back to her beloved Moyvane, Co. Kerry as a teenager for a while and frequented the fantastic West Limerick and North Kerry music sessions.  Margie teaches with the Pearl River School of Irish music along with former Martin Mulvihill student Patty Furlong and Rose Flanagan. Together they have taken hundreds of students to Ireland to compete at All Irelands with much success in both ceili bands and solos.  Margie and her husband John were both inducted into Comhaltas Hall of Fame in 2011.


Mary began dancing at the age of 5 with the Healy Irish Dance Studio of San Francisco. She competed at the Open Championship level throughout the Western Region and danced on several award-winning teams at the Western Region Oireachtas.

Mary’s first experience as a dance teacher came while teaching high school in Hong Kong. There, Mary trained the first Irish dance team to compete in the Hong Kong Schools Dance Festival. After coming to Atlanta, Mary joined the Drake School of Irish Dance, earning her TCRG (Irish Dance Teacher certification) in 2005.

Dance highlights include performing with the Traditions concert series at the University of Georgia, being the featured céilí instructor at the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann convention in Atlanta, and calling a céilí at her own wedding.


Mick Moloney is the author of “Far From the Shamrock Shore: The story of Irish American History Through Song” released by Crown Publications in February of 2002 with an accompanying CD on Shanachie Records. He holds a Ph.D. in folklore and folklife from the University of Pennsylvania. He has taught ethnomusicology, folklore and Irish studies courses at the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown, and Villanova Universities, and currently teaches at New York University in the Irish Studies program. 

He has recorded and produced over forty albums of traditional music and acted as advisor for scores of festivals and concerts all over America. Mick also served as the artistic director for several major arts tours including The Green Fields of America, an ensemble of Irish musicians, singers and dancers which toured across the United States on several occasions. 

He has hosted three nationally syndicated series of folk music on American Public Television; was a consultant, performer and interviewee on the Irish Television special “Bringing It All Back Home”; a participant, consultant and music arranger of the PBS documentary film “Out of Ireland”; and a performer on the PBS special “The Irish in America: Long Journey Home.” In 1999 he was awarded the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts — the highest official honor a traditional artist can receive in the United States. Mick received the Presidential Distinguished Service Award from the President of Ireland in November of 2013.

SPECIAL WORKSHOP: TWO ROADS DIVERGED: A Talk on Irish & Black Contributions to American Music and Dance:


NIALL O’LEARY, TCRG, ADCRG, is a former All-Ireland and World Champion Irish dancer. He is from Dublin, but his parents are both from Kerry. His teachers included Kevin Massey (proclaimed by Michael Flatley to be the greatest Irish dancer ever) and Rory O’Connor, the first man to do Irish dancing on the radio.

O’Leary qualified as an Irish dance instructor in 1994. In 1996, he put together and choreographed the first-ever multi-national team to compete in the World Irish Dance Championships, including dancers from Germany, Finland, Switzerland, Belgium, Australia, Botswana, the US and Ireland. Based in New York City, Niall O’Leary performs regularly as a solo artist, with his professional dance company, The Niall O’Leary Irish Dance Troupe, in duet with Darrah Carr, and with various acts such as Mick Moloney’s Green Fields of America, Natalie MacMaster, Cherish The Ladies, The Prodigals, and The Andy Cooney Band.

He is the Director of the Niall O’Leary School of Irish Dance, with locations all over New York City, as well as Florida and MexicoHe is the Artistic Director of the New York City Irish Dance Festival presented by the Irish Arts Center in May each year. Also he has released an instructional video on Irish step dancing entitled Cuts from the Kitchen. Previously he has taught intensive dance classes at Augusta Irish Week and Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival.

He is the founding chairman of Úll Mór CCE, the Manhattan branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. He plays piano-accordion, keyboards, bodhrán and spoons, and also practices as an architect. O’Leary was honored in 2004 by Irish America Magazine as one of the Top 100 Irish-Americans of the Year.


Oisín Mac Diarmada began playing fiddle at a young age in Co. Clare, subsequently moving to Co. Sligo and developing a deep interest in the playing style of the North Connacht region. Founder of leading traditional group Téada, with whom he has toured extensively throughout the world since 2001, Oisín is also a regular solo performer. Most recently Oisín, along with fellow-Sligo musician Daithí Gormley, released a new publication 'Fiddlers of Sligo Tunebook', documenting the historic Sligo fiddle legacy.


Patrick Finley from Atlanta, Georgia is a 2-time All-Ireland Fiddle Champion. Patrick studies with Oisίn Mac Diarmada from Sligo, Ireland.   Patrick’s unique style of playing has strong influences from Sligo, Ireland where his Grandmother grew up.  Patrick also plays the flute.  He has been invited as a guest solo artist to play with some of the most renowned bands in Irish Music today such as; Altan, Pride of New York, and The Brock McGuire Band.  He has opened the shows for singers, Emmet Cahill and Damian McGinty.  Patrick teaches private fiddle lessons.  He is a freshman at Georgia Tech University where he is studying mechanical engineering.


Robbie O’Connell was born in Waterford, Ireland and grew up in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, where his parents had a small hotel. He began to play guitar and sing at age thirteen, and soon became a regular performer at the hotel’s weekly folk concerts. He spent a year touring the folk clubs in England before enrolling at University College Dublin, where he studied Literature and Philosophy. During school vacations Robbie worked as an Irish entertainer in the U.S.A. A nephew of the Clancy Brothers, he began touring with his uncles in 1977 and recorded three albums with them. In 1979 he moved to Franklin, Massachusetts.


Samantha Harvey is an award-winning step dancer, pianist and accordionist. She has performed throughout the world including gigs in the US, Canada, Ireland, Italy, France, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and Malaysia with groups Téada, IRELAND - the show, Irish Christmas in America, Atlantic Steps, Cosa, and Tomáseen Foley's Irish Times. Samantha also enjoys the more intimate performance setting with her accordion and mandolin duo - Sam 'n Ash.


Begley is the quintessential Irish musician, an eager storyteller known for his sharp wit and famous for pumping out tune after tune at all night sessions with an energy that is sometimes alarming. Displaying a frisky spontaneity in his accordion-playing, he has toured extensively with performers such as Altan, Steve Cooney and Mary Black and Téada. TG4 recently awarded Séamus the prestigious Traditional Singer of the Year award in recognition of his major contribution to Irish singing.


Seán McElwain from Monaghan brings a strong string dimension to Téada through his energetic contributions on guitar and bouzouki. Touring performances have seen Seán gaining growing accolades for his accompaniment and melodic skills. Along with developing websites for a number of leading Irish musicians, he nevertheless has found time to guest as accompanist on a number of recent albums.


Tristan Rosenstock is a bodhrán player and broadcaster from County Dublin. An original member of Téada, Tristan has toured and taught workshops all over the world. When not on tour with Téada, Tristan works on television and radio programmes, and is literary editor of the Irish-language magazine Comhar.