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DkIT Music Graduate Takes Top Spot for Banjo at US Freshgrass Festival

13 October 2018

DkIT Music Graduate & Banjo player Ryan McAuley has won the prestigious banjo competition at the 2018 Freshgrass festival in the USA.

FreshGrass is a wonderland of traditional and cutting-edge bluegrass, tucked appropriately into a 19th-century factory turned 21st-century museum in the Berkshire Mountains of northwestern Massachusetts. Growing up, Ryan performed regularly in the extensive music scene in Dublin and Dundalk. A clawhammer master, his music is steeped with old-time Irish flare. He progressed his studies at DkIT where he had an opportunity to explore a range of styles and was a member of the DkIT Traditional Music Ensemble.

Since graduating from the BA (Hons) Applied Music programme at DkIT in 2017, for which he specialised in solo performance on banjo, Ryan has developed his reputation as an innovator on the banjo on both sides of the Atlantic. In March he was a featured artist and facilitated a lecture and demonstration about how he adapts his American old-time five string banjo to traditional Irish music at Féile Parkfield in California. Féile Parkfeild aims to highlight the importance of multiculturalism by providing an authentic insight into the cross-pollination of Irish and American cultures, in a traditional American hamlet. Ryan is now one of the organisers of Féile Parkfield which takes place again in 2019 over the Saint Patrick's Day weekend.

Earlier in the year Ryan was selected for the Acoustic Music Seminar in April. This prestigious week-long acoustic music programme, run by mandolinist Mike Marshall and jazz guitarist Julian Lage takes place as part of the Savannah Music Festival. Sixteen young acoustic musicians were selected from a competitive, international pool of applicants for this unique artist development program. During the course of a week, AMS participants workshop their compositions and arrangements with SMF Associate Artistic Director and acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Mike Marshall, clinicians Julian Lage, Mike Block Music and Moira Smiley.

Ryan is also a member of the band Alfi with fellow DkIT Music Graduate Fiachra Meek and harper Alannah Thornburgh. Formed in the summer of 2017 they specialise in Irish Traditional and American Old Time music.  On December 25th, 2017 they released their first single "Cluck Old Hen".  The single comprised of two sets; Alfi's unique interpretation of the American Old Time standard, Cluck Old Hen, and Lost Girl/Trim the Velvet.

At home in Ireland, Ryan has featured with Alfi at a number of major festivals this summer including Body and Soul in June, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Drogheda in August and both Dingle Tradfest and Carrickmacross Arts Festival in September. To find out more about music and creative  programmes at DkIT, visit

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