School of Music


Master of Arts in Ethnomusicology (MA)


John L. Benham


Irish Music, Traditional Irish Music, Irish Traditional Music, Catskills, Swannanoa, Irish Identity


Ethnomusicology | Music


The Appalachian Mountains are filled with remnants of Scot-Irish heritage. The music found in this region includes bluegrass, Old-time, and country music, all created from the blending of Scottish and Irish traditional music with other ethnic sounds. Despite these music variations, traditional Irish music has remained consistent in its original form in the mountain region. This concept is supported by the popularity of two key events occurring in both the northern and southern sections of the Appalachians. Through fieldwork and personal interviews, the rationales of those who participated were discovered. The research brought to light three people sub-groups revealing the three ways they identified with the Irish culture through traditional Irish music and dance. Each event attracted a different primary sub-group which aligned with the mission and objectives of the individual host organizations. Participants found a way to acquire Irish identity in some form. Although specific motivations of cultural identification were unique to the individual, ultimately the participants attended the events to establish, develop, or sustain connection to the culture. The process of learning and making music together facilitated the accomplishment of that goal.