2017 STAFF
Brian Conway – Fiddle

New York born fiddler Brian Conway is a leading exponent of the highly ornamented Sligo fiddling style made famous by the late Michael Coleman. The winner of two All- Ireland junior titles in 1973 and 1974 and the All-Ireland senior championship of 1986, Brian’s early studies were with his father Jim of Plumbridge County Tyrone and with Limerick born fiddler/teacher Martin Mulvihill. However, it was the legendary fiddler and composer Martin Wynne who taught him the nuances of the County Sligo style. Later, Brian met and befriended the great Andy McGann of New York a direct student of Michael Coleman, who further shaped his precision and skill on the instrument.

Brian remains faithful to the rich tradition handed down to him. The distinctness of his tone, the lift of his playing, and the deft ornamentation he brings to the tunes have placed him among the finest Irish fiddlers of any style, Sligo or otherwise. He has performed all over North America from San Francisco to New York and places in between such as Chicago, Milwaukee and Colorado. His talents have also been enthusiastically received throughout Ireland and the rest of Europe. He is also a noted instructor who has mentored many fine fiddle players, including several who have gone on to win All-Ireland championships.

Brian’s recordings include The Apple In Winter (Green Linnet), A Tribute to Andy McGann (Cló Iar-Chonnachta), First through the Gate (Smithsonian-Folkways), Consider the Source (Cló Iar-Chonnachta), and Pride of New York (Compass). He’s also featured on My Love is in America, recorded at the Boston College Irish Fiddle Festival, and on the documentary “Shore to Shore” which highlights traditional Irish music in New York. The Irish Echo honored Brian with the award of the Traditional Irish Artist of 2008.

Brian was the first instructor to agree to teach in Portal, and he has become a veritable Portal Irish Music Week institution!

Marla Fibish – Mandolin

Thirty years ago, when Marla got bit by the Irish music bug, her late grandfather’s mandolin was the instrument that found its way into her hands, and soon into her heart. It has been her primary instrument and partner ever since.

The mandolin is a relative newcomer to the Irish music tradition, and is still very much developing its voice and its place at the session table. Marla has found a unique way of playing with lift, drive and “nyah” – that indefinable quality that makes it sound, well, Irish.

A San Francisco native, Marla has become one of the prominent voices of the mandolin in Irish music. She brings a musicality and excitement not often heard on the mandolin. Her dynamic playing is featured on her CD with Three Mile Stone, and on The Morning Star, a duo CD with Jimmy Crowley — an all instrumental project which features Irish music on an array of mandolin-family instruments – mandolin, mandola, mandocello, bouzouki, and dordan. In addition to the mandolin, Marla plays mandola, tenor guitar and button accordion. She sings and writes music and is known for her musical settings of works from a variety of poets. This work is featured in her current duo project Noctambule, with guitarist and husband Bruce Victor.

An experienced and sought after teacher, Marla teaches private students and classes, and has been a staff instructor at many music camps, including The Mandolin Symposium, The Swannanoa Gathering, California Coast Music Camp, Colorado Roots Music Camp, Lark Camp, Portal Irish Music Week and O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat. Her instructional DVD Irish Mandolin Basics: Tunes & Technique has been a popular self learning tool, focused on acquiring the foundational technique for playing Irish music on the mandolin.

Shannon Heaton – Flute and Whistle

Irish flute player/singer Shannon Heaton honed her traditional style at countless music sessions in Chicago, Ireland, and Boston. With guitarist-husband Matt Heaton, she has performed original and traditional Irish music to audiences on four continents.

Her compositions have been widely recorded (Battlefield Band, Childsplay, Ailie Robertson, Tricolor), and The Irish American News dubbed her 2009 Female Musician of the Year. LiveIreland recognized Heaton’s consummate stagecraft in 2010, naming her “Female Artist of the Year” for two years in a row.

Shannon has performed with numerous ensembles throughout the Northeast, including the Robbie O’Connell Band, Keith Murphy and Fair Play, Celtic Christmas Sojourn, Childsplay, and Ensemble Galilei.

Shannon is also an accomplished singer, and will be leading a traditional singing workshop and singing session!




Keith Murphy – Accompaniment

on-stones-enhancedA native of Newfoundland, Keith is an accomplished composer and arranger in the realm of traditional music and has also composed for theater and film. He is a featured performer on well over a dozen recordings and a guest musician on numerous others. His versions of traditional songs have inspired recordings by other groups including Solas, Uncle Earl and Great Big Sea.

His direct and intimate style of traditional singing infuses old ballads and songs with a powerful immediacy while his rhythmic and percussive style of guitar playing brings new shape and color to his songs. His 2005 album, Bound for Canaan showcased his refined sense of balance between innovation and tradition while his most recent CD, Suffer No Loss (2014) is a beautifully spare recording in the style of early classic recordings of the traditional English and Celtic music revival.

Keith is a faculty member of the Brattleboro Music Center (BMC) and the artistic director of the BMC’s Northern Roots Traditional Music Festival in Brattleboro Vermont which he founded in 2008. He is also the music director for the WGBH Boston public radio’s annual Celtic Sojourn St Partick’s Day concerts.

We’re very pleased to welcome him into the growing family of P.I.M.W. instructors!

Pete Strickler – Tenor Banjo

Having spent his entire adult life being involved in music, from playing and promoting, to teaching, Pete Strickler finally found exactly what he was looking for when he was first introduced to Irish Traditional Music in his 30s.

In 2006, Pete took over the reins of leading the Small Circle Tune Learning Session in Colorado (originally founded by Matt & Shannon Heaton), and helped develop it into an incredibly popular and successful conduit for introducing people to Irish music. He still teaches the learning session weekly, and also teaches private banjo students both online and out of his home in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.

In 2016, Pete released his debut album, Giotár, along with accompanist Charlie Branch. The album primarily features Pete’s tenor guitar playing, but also tenor banjo and mandolin. The album has been well received, and has been featured on radio programs in both the U.S. and Ireland.

Pete is one of the founders of P.I.M.W., and his banjo classes have grown every year!

Colin Lindsay – Concertina and the Not-so-fast Fiddle Class

Fiddler and concertinist Colin Lindsay was introduced to Irish music as a child growing up in New York, where he had the good fortune to learn from the renowned fiddler (and Portal Irish Week tutor) Brian Conway, attend many festivals and concerts, and win the Mid Atlantic Fleadh in every age category over twelve.

After moving to western MA for college he performed at festivals and many contradances, helping to found the band Magic Foot and performing with them from Maine to Georgia. Around the same time he picked up the anglo concertina, developing an ornamented style with the help of workshops from Fr. Charlie Coen, Bernie Geraghty, and Edel Fox, as well as two years building (and thoroughly testing) new concertinas at The Button Box Inc.

Now a proud resident of Seattle, WA, Colin is a patient and passionate teacher who delights in passing on tunes and techniques. This fiddle class is for you if you want to focus on technique and tone and not so many new tunes.

Brian Lanni – Mary Lanni – Ceili Dancing and Step Dancing

MaryBrianOnce again this year, we will have an element of dance. But this time it will be an evening class each day (except Saturday) with newlywed husband and wife team, Brian and Mary Lanni! Portal students and local residents will both be welcome at the class.

The music and the dance are intimately related to each other, and even if you’re not a good dancer, dancing can help you learn more about the music! Brian and Mary are also musicians, and examples of how understanding the dance can help with understanding the music!

Brian grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and began step dancing at the age of six. Mary grew up in Denver, Colorado, and began step dancing at the age of twelve. They met in 2009 while touring North America with an Irish dance show.

Brian and Mary both obtained their Irish Dance Teacher’s Certification (TCRG) and taught dance to both children and adults for several years. They are experienced in teaching both solo and ceili dancing.