Billy McComiskey

Honored February 5, 2005 

National Heritage Fellow page

Billy McComiskey, a highly regarded player/composer of Irish traditional music, was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1951. He picked up the button accordion at age six, inspired by his uncles’ playing and his mother’s love of the music. At age 15, Billy met his mentor, Sean McGlynn, a master and proponent of the East Galway style that now characterizes the playing of many of New York’s finest Irish accordion players. 

After moving to Maryland, Billy played with two legendary trios: Washington DC’s renowned Irish Tradition and the internationally acclaimed Trian. He has continued playing over the years with many of New York’s finest Irish musicians, including, Peter McKiernan, Pat Keogh, Brian Conway, Jack and Fr. Charlie Coen, Patty Furlong, Mick Moloney, Felix and Brendan Dolan, Mike and Mary Rafferty, Joe and Joanie Madden, Mike Flynn, Mike McHale, Michael and Bernadette Fee, Johnny Leonard, John Nolan, Willie Kelly, Jimmy Kelly, Jerry O’Sullivan, John Fitzpatrick, Martin Mulhaire, Pat Murray, Noel Higgins, Mary Coogan, Dennis Galvin, Don Meade, Tony DeMarco, Linda Hickman, and many others. 

Billy’s 1986 All-Ireland championship title attests to his mastery of the button accordion. His tunes are becoming a part of the traditional repertoire wherever Irish music is played. Several of his compositions have been recently published in Josephine Keegan’s new collection of Irish Traditional Tunes, A Drop in the Ocean. He is known on both sides of the Atlantic as an indefatigable session player, teacher and promulgator of The Music. 

But Billy takes most pride in the development of the Irish traditional music community in the Baltimore-Washington area. He formed the Baltimore Ceili Band twenty years ago and performed with them at the 2004 Catskill Mountains Irish Arts Week in the legendary Shamrock House of East Durham, NY to a packed hall of enthusiastic dancers and music lovers, many of whom traveled from Baltimore to support them. Billy lives in Parkville, a suburb of Baltimore, with his wife Annie, their three sons, Patrick, Sean and Michael and their dog, Sally.

Billy McComiskey - photo courtesy of Joanie Madden