Laura Flanagan is an outstanding fiddler from Lubbock, Texas. She’s traveled widely in the U.S. and Ireland to study with fiddlers Randal Bays, John Carty, James Kelly, Martin Hayes, and Brendan Larrissey. She’s performed and taught at several music camps and holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, where she teaches Irish fiddle and is a high school orchestra director. Her combination of classical training and her intense study of Irish traditional music have made her an excellent fiddle teacher, especially for those coming to Irish music from a classical background.
Matthew Cook got started in the Dallas Irish music community in 2011 by attending his first O’Flaherty retreat, though his love for traditional songs started much earlier. Having played guitar for a few years before this, he wanted to try something new. So he took bodhrán, realized he knew nothing about it, and that he desperately needed a better one. His love of the drum grew rapidly, and after some hibernation and practice, he finally bought a new one. Of course, this was just a gateway instrument that led to him learning mandolin, bouzouki, and he’s now working on tenor banjo.
After devoting a lot of time and energy to learning and practicing, he started attending the session at The Celt Irish Pub, when it was still Churchill’s. At the same time in 2011, his brother-in-law and two of his good friends started to kick around the idea of a band, and shortly after, Slugger’s Rule was born. Much like the TIMES mission statement, the band’s focus is on spreading traditional songs to as many people as they can. They love the music they play, and want nothing more than to have a wonderful night full of music and merriment. They want to make connections with people, and give them a brief time to set their worries aside, through this music that we all love so much.
In 2016, he started playing with String Theory, and it has been a grand time. They have played festivals and pub gigs together, and have even played with a band that was showcasing different styles of traditional music and needing some Irish influence in there, all the while trying to keep the spirit of Irish Trad music alive through each show.
Matt attended the retreat a couple more times as a student, but has switched over to the volunteer side of things the past few years. Since then, he does what he can to help out TIMES in their mission of keeping this gorgeous Irish music alive. He also now helps lead the Celt Irish Pub Session on Wednesday nights with Daniel Mehalko, plays with the TIMES session players on a regular basis, and helps however he can during the O’Flaherty Benefit in September. He has served on the board since 2018, and has loved trying to help TIMES continue their mission of encouraging the learning and playing of this Traditional music that has found a place in our hearts.
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Cara Wildman is an experienced musician and dancer from Dorchester, Texas. She has performed in a variety of musical ensembles and genres around the United States and internationally, including Carolina Crown Drum & Bugle Corps, Celtic Thunder, and The Irish Memory Orchestra. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music Education from Texas Christian University, and a second Master’s in Irish Traditional Music Performance from the University of Limerick in Ireland. Cara has studied with bodhrán greats Jim Higgins, Eamon Murray, Martin O’Neill, and Cormac Byrne, among others.
Cara’s playing has garnered several accolades, including the 2016 Limerick and 2018 and 2019 Midwest Senior Bodhrán Championships. Donal Lunny described her playing as having “great taste…as an artist she can be immersed in her playing while retaining perspective on its contribution to the music. The development of the bodhrán is an exciting work in progress. I think Cara is at the front edge of this development…”
Alli Johnson is a folk singer and multi-instrumentalist. She is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the award-winning Dallas-based Celtic group The Selkie Girls and also serves as the director for North Texas School of Irish Music Gaelic Youth Chorus. In addition, she teaches private vocal, piano, ukulele, and guitar lessons and conducts Irish and Scottish Gaelic singing workshops.
She comes from a family of musicians and was singing harmonies with her mother and siblings for as long as she can remember. A member of several performance choirs and ensembles throughout her youth, by the age of 16, Alli began performing professionally, singing and playing guitar in venues around the Dallas area. Since then, she’s worked as a demo singer and played in numerous bands, largely focusing on acoustic-driven music.
Her vocals have been featured on several instructional publications for Hal Leonard Corporation, including Guitar for Kids – Book 2, Ukulele for Kids, Bass for Kids, and How to Record at Home on a Budget.
Ken Fleming is the founder/executive director of the Traditional Irish Music Education Society. For more than four decades, Ken has performed and taught Irish music. He is the co-founder and former president of the Southwest Celtic Music Association and co-founder and former director of the North Texas Irish Festival.
Because of his efforts to build an Irish music community, Ken was named “Dallas Irishman of the Year” by the Irish-American Society of Dallas in 1988 and selected Grand Marshall of the Dallas St. Patrick’s Day Parade that year. In 2011, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí ÉireannIn recognized Ken for his “commitment to the promotion and preservation of traditional Irish culture” at its annual convention.
He is the founder of the O’Flaherty Irish Music Youth Camp and founder/director of the O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat. He performs with various ensembles including Jigsaw, TIMES Session Players and the Lone Star Ceili Band.