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Connolly to Receive Medal of Honor

05/09/13
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Seamus Connolly (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: Feb. 17, 2011

Sullivan Artist-in-Residence Seamus Connolly, director of the University’s Irish Studies music programs, will receive the Ellis Island Medal of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) this Saturday in recognition of his distinguished career as one of the world’s most respected master Irish musicians.

The Ellis Island Medals of Honor annually pay tribute to the ancestry groups that comprise America’s unique cultural mosaic. The medals are presented on Ellis Island to American citizens for their outstanding contributions to their communities, their nation and the world. Past Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipients include six Presidents of the United States, Nobel Prize winners, athletes, and leaders of industry, artists and others whose work has made a lasting impact on humanity.

Actress Mia Farrow, recording artist Dionne Warwick, Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin, MD, and US Rep. Peter King (R-NY) will join Connolly as this year’s honorees.

A Boston College faculty member since 1990, Connolly — who immigrated to the US from his native Killaloe in County Clare in 1976 — has cultivated a decades-long list of accomplishments, having won numerous competitions and received various awards and other tributes. His achievements include a record 10 All-Ireland fiddle championships, selection by Irish America magazine as one of the top 100 Irish Americans, “Traditional Musician of the Year” honors from the Irish Echo, and induction into the worldwide Irish cultural organization Comhaltas Ceoltoírí Éireann’s Hall of Fame.

At BC, Connolly founded and directed the Gaelic Roots Summer School and Arts Festival and its successor, the Gaelic Roots Music, Song, Dance, Concert and Lecture Series — renowned for bringing some of the most notable traditional musicians to campus for concerts, workshops and other public events. In addition to his contributions as fiddle player, organizer and scholar, Connolly has helped promote Irish music as a teacher and mentor to untold numbers of budding musicians, at BC and elsewhere.

“I am honored and humbled by this award, especially when I see the list of previous recipients,” said Connolly. “Through the years, I have had the kind assistance and support of so many dear friends, in the US, Ireland and many other places. I accept this honor on behalf of all the great musicians, singers and dancers I’ve known, and from whom I’ve learned so much.”

Fittingly, Connolly has been asked to perform at this Saturday’s Ellis Island Medals of Honor awards ceremony. He plans to play two traditional Irish tunes, “The Shores of America” and “First Night in America.”