Interview with US National Fiddle Champion Sean Heely by Jamie McGeechan

Sean you are an incredible talent, and a US National Fiddle Champion, you’ve performed, studied and taught in both North America and over in Scotland but how did you get into music?!   

Music has always been at my core. From when I was very young, I always loved singing and trying to play as many instruments as I could get my hands on. Growing up in a musical household of folk and classical musicians certainly paved the way for me. My older siblings are 11 and 12 years older than me and they were both into music. Since I idolized both of them, I knew I wanted to play something. My sister played the violin so naturally I took to that beautiful instrument first. I was steeped in the folk tradition which then led to “Trad.” music. Irish and Scottish all at the same time. Bluegrass as well! Pursuing a classical degree in music performance gave me the technique and knowledge to steer my music in the direction I am passionate about.

What is it like performing / teaching in Scotland and can you share a memorable experience of being in Scotland please?

I have been to Scotland 6 times since 2015 and each trip has been absolutely life changing for me. Nearly all of the musicians I’ve met have been some of the most welcoming folk, eager to hear me play, and eager to share music with me. I have so many fond memories, but one that is sticking out at the moment is my first trip to the Isle of Skye in 2015. I got to meet two of my musical heroes for the first time: Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas. I ended up making so many friends that trip and was inspired to seriously focus on Scottish music after that. For a relatively small country, Scotland is incredibly diverse in its communities (even still) and I also have to say that I was completely in love with the Outer Hebrides last summer. Singing Gàidhlig with the locals was a serious highlight of my life and I can’t wait to be back again! 

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I auditioned for the prestigious Artist in Residence program at Strathmore Music Center and I was chosen as one of 6 artists for 2018-2019 academic year. It was an incredible opportunity for me to grow in my music and to collaborate with fellow musicians in various genres. The last few concerts were all designed by me as I fused together modern sounds and other world music together with my own. In addition, I got the chance to perform with one of my fiddle heroes, Bonnie Rideout who is one of my inspirations. 

What are your aspirations for the future?

I was starting to get a solid tour schedule going and then COVID-19 hit which made everything grind to a halt. I’ve continued to teach online and have gotten alot more tech for doing online concerts. When it is safe again, I would love to experience being full time on the road bringing my music all across the U.S as well as going across the world to share my passion. 

For more information on Sean Heely please visit