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Robbie O’Connell: Biography and Class Description


Songwriting in the Tradition

Have you ever wanted to write a song but did not know where to begin? This class will examine all aspects of songwriting, from the initial idea to the finished song. We will explore the various steps along the way to completing a song, and discuss the tips and tricks for increasing your creativity and becoming a songwriter. Whether you have already written songs or you are just starting, this class will save you many hours of toil by bringing you through the complete process from beginning to end.

Bring a recorder, a notebook and an instrument.  If songs are your passion, this is the class for you.


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.

With the release, in 1982, of his first solo album, “Close to the Bone,” Robbie emerged as an artist of major stature. Soon after, he began touring extensively with Mick Moloney and Jimmy Keane, and also with Eileen Ivers and Seamus Egan, in the Green Fields of America. In 1985, the trio’s first album, There were Roses, was released. Robbie also participated in The Festival of Mountain Music and Dance on a five-nation tour of Latin America. In 1987, the trio followed up their very successful first release with the album, Kilkelly, the title track of which was voted “Best Album Track of the Year” in Ireland. 1989 saw the release of a live concert recording of the Green Fields of America.

Robbie has taught songwriting at the Augusta Heritage Arts Workshop in Elkins, West Virginia, Gaelic Roots Week at Boston College, Catskills Irish Arts Week, The Swannanoa Gathering and at the Summer Acoustic Music Week in Boston. His album of original compositions, Love of the Land, was voted the #1 acoustic album of 1989 by WUMB in Boston. In 1991, he won a prestigious Boston Music Award as Outstanding Celtic Act and was also featured in the highly acclaimed TV series “Bringing It All Back Home.” In 1992, he performed at Carnegie Hall with the Clancy Brothers and was also seen by an estimated 500 million people worldwide, on the telecast of a live tribute to Bob Dylan at Madison Square Garden, a performance that Rolling Stone magazine described as “breathtaking.”

Never Learned to Dance, Robbie’s 1993 album of original songs, was critically acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1994, he headlined a celebration of Boston-based Irish Music at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Older But No Wiser, his last CD with the Clancy Brothers, was released on Vanguard in 1995, followed in 1997 by the Clancy, O’Connell & Clancy CD and in 1998 by The Wild and Wasteful Ocean CD with Liam and Dónal Clancy. Robbie O’Connell, Live, Humorous Songs and All on a Christmas Morning, with the group Aengus, were released in 1998.  Recollections, a twenty-year retrospective collection album, was released in 2001. In 2009, the second Green Fields of America CD was released. In 2006, Robbie began an ongoing collaboration with his cousins Aoife and Dónal Clancy. The Clancy Legacy, their first CD together, was released in 2010. Robbie is currently working on a new solo CD of his own compositions.