Document Type

Honors Project

Publication Date

Winter 3-2015


Over the last century, Irish traditional music, or “trad,” has become a global phenomenon that has flourished in communities from the United States of America to Japan. A musician need not be Irish in heritage to play and do justice to Irish traditional music or to feel a strong emotional connection to it; yet ethnic ties, real and imagined, constitute a powerful reason to play. The music is inextricably linked with the poetically-titled Emerald Isle even if its musicians are not. In this project, I explore and analyze the many facets of perception of and participation in Irish traditional music, focusing on ethnic identity, issues of “Irishness” and authenticity, and the emotional connection between performers and the music. It is the result of fieldwork completed in Ireland over the course of July and August, 2014, and continuing in Wisconsin, US, in which I participated in sessions throughout the provinces of Munster and Connaught, Ireland, and at McGuinness’s Pub in Appleton, Wisconsin. I interviewed ten practitioners of Irish traditional music from varying ethnic backgrounds, including four ethnically Irish individuals and six non-Irish individuals.

Level of Honors

cum laude


Ethnic Studies


Sonja Downing

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