Terry Hartzell

How does someone raised in Nazareth, PA, where the underlying culture is Pennsylvania German find their way to the uilleann pipes?

Terry's path to Irish music began in 1995. During a visit home for summer break he tuned into a new public radio station, WDIY, which went on-air earlier that year. That evening a weekly program called “Celtic Faire” was airing and he was hooked. The sounds and rhythms were new to him. At the time he was playing 6-string guitar and exploring the roots of contemporary American music. With more listening, he tried to reproduce the sounds and rhythms of Irish music with the guitar, but was never satisfied. It took years of listening to realize that what he loved most – woven through the music – was the uilleann pipes, an instrument he had never seen and certainly never imagined playing.

The path to becoming an Irish musician began at a Chicago Irish music festival in 2005. On a dare he purchased a tin whistle and beginner's book for $10 and fell in love. The music the céilí band played for the dancers was exciting stuff! He followed them around all weekend. From that day on he dedicated himself to learning the dance music of Ireland, with the dream of someday playing for dancers.

Back home in Pennsylvania, he was fortunate to find encouragement from two great traditional Irish musicians: Terry Kane with her monthly Irish session at McCarthy's Tea Room in Bethlehem and Ed Saultz who moved to the area a year later. Their guidance set him on the path. The nearest teachers for the pipes are in New York city and Philadelphia and the distance makes it impossible to take regular lessons, so like most pipers in the States he is largely self-taught.

Several times a year he heads north for more formal learning with music workshops during the annual Catskills Irish Arts Week in East Durham, NY, and at piping Tíonóls (gatherings for Irish pipers). Instructors there are his primary influences. He follows musicians who play for the céilí, the ones who give the music that lively rhythm and pulse that makes you want to dance.

Sharing the music is one of the great joys of his life. He hosts an Irish tune learning and slow session for people new to the tradition, and started giving private instruction for beginning whistle and uilleann pipe players. You can find him at almost every local session as one of the “regulars,” or as a co-host with Ed Saultz and Fred Gilmartin.

You can hear more from Terry here: