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Group Instruction - John Ryan

Instrument/Department: Irish traditional music

Joined Hochstein faculty in: 2023


Folklorist and multi-instrumentalist John Ryan is at the forefront of the strongest generation of Irish artists in more than half a century, since the post-war immigration boom brought musicians and dancers from every corner of Ireland to labor, build families, and pass on their art here in the Rochester area and indeed across the country. 

For more than 20 years, he has taken up the instruments and tunes of this Golden Generation — button accordion, concertina, whistle, and bodhrán — and brought them into the 21st Century, providing his community with more opportunities to hear and play this music than ever before.

As an instigator and leader of jam sessions in the region, as a performer and presenter on all manner of stages, and as an educator here at Hochstein, his ambition is to convince all of Western New York of both the approachability and the sublimity of this deceptively simple tradition.

This includes fruitful collaboration with various dance groups — Irish step, set, and ceili but also modern dance — and most recently in partnership with the legendary folk musician John Dady, for whom the younger John has been a go-to for Irish gigs since the untimely passing of his brother and lifelong musical partner, Joe Dady. The Joe Dady Scholarship Fund and Ryan's work here at Hochstein are dedicated to the inclusive, expansive, and joyous imparting of this and all music. 

John Ryan lives in the North Winton Village with his fiancée (noted journalist Rebecca Rafferty) and their children, Aoife and Diarmuid. In addition to his career in music, his studies in SUNY Brockport’s History Department have earned him multiple recognitions, among them the Friends of Drake Library award for his work on Al Smith, New York’s greatest governor and the first Irish Catholic candidate for president.


More About John Ryan

My favorite local restaurant: You can’t go wrong with anything in the Good Luck family, but I’m partial to a good cheeseburg or one-of-each plate now and then. I’ll spare you what I think constitutes a ‘good plate’, no need to get into politics here.

Favorite place to travel: Ireland, when I can! West coast in particular, the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ as it’s branded now. Good music all up and down the long coast, different styles. But I’m keen to start revisiting old scenes and discovering new ones, both here and there, now that I’ve Becca and the kids along with me. Whole new vibes.

What people would be surprised to know about me: My great uncle was Rochester’s longest serving mayor, Tom Ryan Jr. He, my grandfather (general contractor and scratch bowler Frank Ryan), and their four siblings were born and raised here in the neighborhood, their mother from County Mayo (Maigh Eo) and their father from Carlow (Ceatharlach). Maybe most of that isn’t all that surprising!

When I’m not at Hochstein, you can find me: Trying to play sessions and read as much as I can, but more likely you’ll find me at my main and most rewarding occupation, tracking our toddlers safari-style alongside Becca and our very helpful extended family. It’s true what the wise man said, they are small but relentless opponents.