Colleen Shanks is an uilleann piper and flute player currently based in Co. Clare, Ireland. Originally from Michigan, she has played with The Nashville Celts, Bill Grogran's Goat, and Big Fun and is a regular performer at the annual Crossroads Ceilí show at The Ark, Ann Arbor.
It was after receiving a cassette of The Chieftains as a gift for her 10th birthday that Colleen first found herself captivated by the sound of traditional Irish music. With an avid desire to learn and play what she heard, she acquired a tin whistle and began teaching herself the tunes from the cassette. She soon found herself immersed in Detroit's vibrant Irish music community.
Through the local Detroit Comhaltas branch, she met several other musicians from the area, including Clare-born fiddler Mick Gavin from whom she learned much of her repertoire over the following years. It was also here that Colleen got her start on the uilleann pipes, tutored by Dublin piper Al Purcell. Over the next few years, she took part in Fleadh Cheoil competitions, where she earned several first place awards on tin whistle, flute, and in the slow air competitions at the regional level.
Colleen's love for traditional music eventually lead her to seek out ways to strengthen and expand its presence in Michigan. She served as chairperson of the Detroit Irish Music Association Comhaltas branch from 2011 - 2016, where she also taught traditional music to children and adult students for over a decade. In 2015, Colleen founded the Strayaway Child Concert Series, a monthly music series that features both upcoming and seasoned performers, which serves to provide a regular setting for sharing traditional music with a wider audience in Michigan.
In Ireland, Colleen attended the University of Limerick's Irish World Academy, where she earned a Master's degree in Irish Traditional Music Performance. Her area of study was uilleann piping and during the course she learned from some of the top exponents of the uilleann pipes, including Michael 'Blackie' O'Connell and Mickey Dunne.
The Ark- w/ Crossroads Ceilí, Ann Arbor, MI
Performance Network Theater, Ann Arbor, MI
Conor O'Neill's Irish Pub, Ann Arbor, MI
Pittsfield Union Grange- w/ Big Fun, Ann Arbor, MI
Motor City Irish Fest- w/Bill Grogan's Goat, Livonia, MI
The Detroit Gaelic League, Detroit, MI
The Saline Celtic Festival, Saline, MI
The White Crow- w/ Crossroads Ceili, Saginaw, MI
Blissfest- w/ Finvarra's Wren, Petoskey, MI
Fiddler's Hearth, South Bend, IN
Gaelic Park Irish Fest w/ Crossroads Ceilí, Chicago, IL
The Irish American Heritage Center, Chicago, IL
18 show US tour with The Nashville Celts
The Darkest Midnight benefit concert, Limerick
FairPlé Concert, Ennis
Concerts at the Cave Series, Doolin
Alpentone International Musikfestival
The Scottish Club of Windsor
Toronto Contra- w/ Big Fun