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Instructors

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Fiona Balestrieri

Flute, Whistle, Singing & Dance

Fiona is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and step dancer with strong roots in Irish traditional music.  Fiona studied Irish music and dance from childhood in both America and Ireland with players such as Aaron Olwell, Cleek Shrey, Kevin Crawford, Mike Rafferty, and Marcus Hernon and competed in the all-Ireland fleadh on Irish flute and voice as a teenager.  Fiona joined the Blue Ridge Irish Music School at age 10 and now teaches Irish step dancing, flute, whistle, and singing to all ages and skill levels.  With family ties on both sides of the Atlantic, Fiona has made many trips to Ireland to study music and dance, and has been a trip leader for BRIMS.

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Brenda Cox

Celtic Harp

Brenda has been playing Celtic harp nearly all her adult life, after studying piano and classical guitar as a youth, and obtaining a B.S. with a minor in music at Ball State University in her native Indiana.  As a Celtic harper, she has studied under luminaries such as Kim Robertson and Deborah Henson-Conant, as well as with Irish harper Maire ni Chathasaidh in Ireland.  More recently she has focused on the traditional Celtic music of Cape Breton Island, after taking courses there under pianists Joey Beaton and Hilda Chiasson.  This association led her to publish two books of Cape Breton tunes that she arranged for harp.  Brenda has taught privately and at harp conferences and schools in Canada and throughout the US.  She has also taken her harp into therapeutic settings at hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices as a Certified Music Practitioner.  In support of this effort, Brenda has published a book of therapeutic harp music that is used by many therapeutic harpists.  She has an M.Ed. in Deaf Education and Audiology from UVa, and was a teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for many years.

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Alex Davis

Traditional Ensemble and Session Workshop

Alex is an original member of BRIMS and studied fiddle with Tes Slominski and Sara Read as well as concertina with Paddy League and Aaron Olwell. Alex has also learned from Rose Conway, Andy Cleveland, Patrick Ourceau and Dylan Foley. The fourth Saturday of the month he hosts Atlantic Weekly Part 2 on WTJU 91.1FM radio dedicated to folk music from the other side of the Atlantic. He currently teaches at the Virginia Institute of Autism.

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Augie Fairchild

Traditional Ensemble, Flute and Tin Whistle

Augie has been playing tin whistle and Irish flute since he was 16. He has studied flute with Baltimore musicians Frank Claudy and Laura Byrne, and credits them with just about everything he knows about the flute. Augie also plays classical cello and has a degree in music education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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Lori Madden

Executive Director, Dance & Scoil

Lori has been providing Irish dance instruction in Charlottesville and central Virginia since 2001 and has been executive director of BRIMS since 2003.  Lori, along with her children Meg, Patrick & Marina, is a founding member of BRIMS and has been a trip leader on all four of the BRIMS Ireland Study Trips. 

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Mimi Vidaver-Davis

Dance, Cape Breton Stepdance

Mimi first studied Irish dance at the Tighe School of Irish dance in Charlottesville, VA and was a founding member of BRIMS. While at college in Pittsburgh, PA, she performed regularly with a variety of local bands and dance troupes and taught step dancing at Carlton College. While studying abroad at the University College Cork, she had the wonderful opportunity to dance under the tutelage of Peggy McTeggart, ADCRG. While in pursuing her M.A. in Ethnomusicology at Indiana University, Mimi taught Irish dance at the Windfall School of Dance and the Brahmes Dance Academy in Bloomington, Indiana. It was there that she also had the opportunity to dive more deeply into her interest of Cape Breton step dance while learning from and collaborating with Malke Rosenfeld. She has since taught both Cape Breton and Irish dance as well as flute for BRIMS. Mimi currently lives in Rhode Island with her husband and two little boys, but with the miracle of technology she can once again teach for BRIMS as they plan their move back to Charlottesville in the summer. 

Mimi Vidaver-Davis, ERYT-200, has been practicing yoga for twenty years and teaching since 2010. She completed her teacher training in 2010 under Monika Munzinger at the Yoga Center Bodrum in Bodrum, Turkey. Throughout the years, she has taught power yoga to active duty service personnel as part of the their physical training program, gentle yoga for seniors, prenatal yoga, and yoga for runners and athletes.

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Carolyn Ward

Dance

Carolyn started Irish dancing at age 7 with the Sheila Tully Academy of Irish Dance in Illinois. After moving to Florida, she joined the Drake School of Irish Dance and competed from 2007 to 2011 in both solos and teams. During her time as a competitive dancer, she won 1st place at the Southern Region Oireachtas, 20th place at the North American Nationals, and attended multiple World Championships. She remained involved in the Irish dance community while attending the University of Florida, becoming one of the founding members of the university’s Irish dance club and dancing with the Hogan School of Irish Dance. Before moving to Charlottesville, she taught classes for beginners to advanced dancers in Sarasota, FL.

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Matthew O'Donnell

Bodhran, Bouzouki, Guitar

Matthew is a lifelong musician and a passionate performer and teacher of traditional Irish music. He began his musical journey as a bass guitarist, relentlessly gigging with various rock groups and cover bands since the age of 12. But from early on, he made a quiet study of Irish music alongside his louder musical pursuits. Inspired by recordings of The Dubliners, Clancy Brothers and Irish Rovers, he taught himself to play the fiddle, tin whistle, mandolin and tenor banjo in his early teens. He later took up the piano accordion, bouzouki, mandola and bodhran. This long-nurtured passion went from a hobby to a vocation in 2014 when he hung up his bass and began a successful career as The Blue Ridge Bard, Virginia’s most multi-instrumental pub singer. Since then, Matthew has spent most of his waking hours sharing his excitement for Irish music with others, through live performances, teaching lessons, and leading Irish music sessions.

 

Matthew received his prestigious musical education from marathon pub sessions, house concerts with incomprehensible 100-year old fiddlers, bleary-eyed overnights at recording studios, obscure folk albums discovered at thrift stores, a doctoral thesis worth of research time spent on thesession.org and the Mudcat Archive, and innumerable heated arguments at kitchen tables concerning the appropriateness of F Major chords when accompanying reels in the key of A Dorian.

Matthew Bio