Eileen Goodman

Honored May 6, 2017

While my parents were not musicians, they maintained a household that was steeped in Irish culture and music after emigrating to New York City from West Clare in the 50s.  My mom is Elizabeth Kennedy, from Knocknakilla, my father is the late Patrick Clune, from Cloontismara, in the parish of Inagh. My musical recollections from my early childhood primarily involve traditional Irish music, save for the Beatles and the Jackson 5 on the radio.  I recall listening to vinyl recordings of the McNulty family, Jessie Owens and various ceili bands (Tulla, Kilfenora, Laichtín Naofa, and Claddagh to name a few).  Most of the visitors to our home in the Throggs Neck section of the Bronx and later in Westwood, New Jersey were family and friends who were either from Ireland or first generation (narrowbacks) and the talk frequently turned to ‘the news from home’ and childhood stories from home about the neighbors. 

My cousin and accordion player John Kennedy was a huge influence on me as a child.  He started playing the button accordion under the tutelage of the late Maureen Glynn Connolly at age 9 and from the first time I saw him play, I had a hankering to do the same.  I begged my parents for two years to take me for lessons.  I eventually prevailed and took lessons from the late Martin Mulvihill on the piano accordion and learned how to read and play music, but my preference has always been to learn by ear.  I taught myself how to play the whistle by watching the other whistle players in class. 

After two years, I began studying under Maureen Glynn Connolly with my cousin John.  Maureen had a significant impact on me musically and helped me take it to the next level on both instruments, improving my accordion fingering and chord progressions while teaching some of the underlying music theory as well as refining my whistle ornamentation.  I competed at regional Fleadhanna and Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann and had wonderful experiences playing in duets, trios, ceili bands, and particularly in the Grúpaí Ceoil setting, including Maureen Glynn Connolly’s tribute to Joe Cooley. 

My parents are long-time members of the Clare-based Doonbeg Social Club and brought me to their monthly Sunday night socials regularly as a young child.  There I was first exposed to live traditional music on fiddle (Pat Henry), flute (Liam Shanahan, Pat Casey and Gus Collins), and accordion (Seamus Hennigan and Arthur O’Keefe) and set dancing, though mostly the Doonbeg version of the Caledonian set.  The Doonbeg Social Club has always been welcoming of all musicians and highly values their contribution to the club.  The musicians there were exceedingly generous and encouraging as they shared their music with me, and after a time I was sitting in with them as a regular.  I still play at the Doonbeg Social Club regularly and enjoy the people and relaxed environment there immensely. 

Through my 20s, Irish music was put on the back burner as I went to college, began my career at the New York Fed, got married and started a family.  In the mid-90s, I dusted off the accordion and began playing at sessions.  Although I was quite rusty and felt like I had amnesia, it touched my soul in such a way that I knew I would play this music for the rest of my life.  Around this time, I acquired my first timber flute and began learning in earnest from Pat Casey, who taught me that when it comes to Irish music the flute is the ‘sugar in the tea’, and through listening to countless flute recordings of the greats (Matt Molloy, Eamonn Cotter, Kevin Crawford, June McCormick, and Laura Byrne). 

Also, I began teaching whistle and met with Rose Flanagan and other musicians that were actively teaching/playing in and around the Pearl River area.  I had a strong passion for teaching and began partnering with Rose, Patty Furlong, Margie Mulvihill, John Nolan and others on musical endeavors with our collective students, including formal competitions and other performances.  At my peak I had 20 students, many of whom placed at the Regional Fleadh and Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.  Unfortunately, the challenges of managing work/family demands with playing/teaching music forced teaching to the back burner in 2007. 

In the mid to late 90s, I began playing for ceilithe in and around the tri-state area and in 2000 founded the Green Gates Ceili Band with Rose Conway Flanagan, John Kennedy, Pat Casey, Brendan Fahey and Denis O’Driscoll and we were the house band for the St. Brendan’s ceili in Bogota, NJ for 10 years.  The band continues to perform regularly to this day, though in smaller form.  I also have been part of the house band with John Kennedy, Pat Casey, Brendan Fahey and others for the Dumont Ceili and the Rafferty-Madden Branch Ceili for 20 years.  I had the privilege of playing alongside the late flute player Mike Rafferty for many years and his influence and encouragement helped me successfully transition from primarily an accordion player to a flute player (thank goodness as it’s so much lighter to carry around!).  I believe I am particularly suited for ceili playing as I prefer to play in a group setting and truly enjoy the camaraderie and interplay between musicians and the dancers. 

I have worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Fed for 30 years and have held a variety of positions of increasing responsibility, most recently as Vice President in the Financial Services Group, where I manage Global Currency Distribution and the Gold Vault.  When I retire I look forward to getting back to teaching music and plan to pursue learning to play the concertina. 

My husband of 29 years is Tom Goodman with Irish lineage on both sides of his family hailing back to Kerry, Monaghan, and Cavan.  We have three daughters Meagan-26 years, Siobhan-23 years, and Maeve-15 years.  Meagan studied fiddle under Rose Flanagan and Siobhan studied piano under Annmarie Acosta for a number of years.  Both participated in Regional Fleadh and Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.  Siobhan is still active playing ceilithe with me. 

– Eileen Goodman, April 2017