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Piano Note

Instructors & Musicians


Robert McOwen


Robert began Scottish country and highland dancing in Berkeley, California in 1973.  He received the Teaching Certificate of the RSCDS by examination in Scotland in 1980, having  been adjudicated for the preliminary teaching certificate by Miss Milligan in 1977. Since then Robert has taught at dance camps and workshops across the United States, and in Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and Scotland. 


Robert is also well-known as a highland dance teacher, competitor, and performer. Highland dance performances include Bonnie Rideout’s “Scottish Christmas” Tour (1999-2005.  In 2002, he and Karen Mahoney formed Highland Dance Boston, a performing company. Robert has also been artistic director of Scottish dance and music concerts in Boston, including  Burns Night Concerts with Jean Redpath and Alasdair Fraser. 


As a musician, Robert has been playing Scottish music for dances and concerts since 1974; he appears on recordings with the Berkeley Scottish Players, Tullochgorum, Pipes Awa', Muckle Carffufle, and Sprig of Ivy.  

In his "spare time", Robert is a Professor of Mathematics at Northeastern University.


Originally from west London, UK, Andrew learnt to dance at a local children's class and it has stuck with him ever since. He gained his teaching certificate while studying in Edinburgh and has been a regular at the annual RSCDS Summer School in St Andrews, initially as a pianist but more recently as a teacher and certificate tutor.


As well as teaching day and residential schools in the UK, Andrew has taught in Europe and further afield, taking his particular interest in less well known or 'forgotten' dances with him wherever he goes. He is active within the Edinburgh Scottish Dancers group and regularly trains them for Festivals.


On the dance floor, Andrew enjoys any dance with poussette (strathspey or quick-time) and has recently taken a renewed interest in the MacNab dances. Off of the dance floor, he works as a data analyst and particularly enjoys the Festivals in Edinburgh each summer.

Andrew Nolan


Luke Brady


Luke Brady is delighted to return to the Carolina's for Blue Ridge 2023!  Currently serving as the RSCDS Music Director, as well as an active musician for classes and dances worldwide, Luke's experiences range from international Rock Festival, T in the Park, to playing for the Royal Ballet School in London's Covent Garden.  He is a regular attendee at the RSCDS Summer School and has attended and coordinated the RSCDS Winter School.  Luke makes every effort to ensure that music and enjoyment are at the center of every dance class.

Julie Gorka


Julie Gorka is a musician with a wide range of musical interests. She plays Scottish, contra dance, historic, English, and Irish music on piano, harp and fiddle. She’s known for her lively piano back-up style, with driving rhythms and interesting harmonies. She judges around the country for the national Piano Guild, and enjoys working folk music styles into her classical piano students’ musical education.


Julie has made several recordings,including A Sheep at the Wheel (Scottish and English music) and a waltz CD, In 3/4 Time, with fiddler Mara Shea, and help from Walt Robinson, Ted Ehrhard and Dean Herington.

Mara Shea

Mara playing at Thistle School.png

Mara Shea has been playing with violins since her mother decided her child had a really good sense of pitch and enrolled her in music schools in Westport and New Haven, CT. After studying classical violin for 10 years and then taking a 15-year break, she discovered folk and dance music. Mara has been happily playing for dancers since the 1990s—English, Scottish, contra, ceilidh—and is frequently heard at balls, dance weekends and concerts inthe US, Scotland, and Canada. She has been on the music staff at Pinewoods, TAC Summer School, Ramblewood, Scottish Weekend, and at the John C. Campbell Folk School, in Brasstown, North Carolina. In 2014 and 2016, with Dean Herington, Mara led a three-day musicians’ workshop for the Scottish country dance group in Lisbon, Portugal. Mara has playedregularly at English country dance weekendsat John C. CampbellFolk School, and she organizes the music for the Sun AssemblyEnglish country dance group in Durham, North Carolina. She has several recordings with her contra dance band, The Elftones, as well as with other wonderful musicians such as Dave Wiesler (Heather Hills),Rhiannon Giddens (All the Pretty Horses), and Julie Gorka (In 3⁄4 Time, plus several Scottish dance recordings). In 2018-19, Mara decided to take a year off from teaching and earned an MLitt in ethnology and folklore at the Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Mara lives in Elon, North Carolina, where she teaches Celtic fiddle(mostly online, these days), and works as an occasional freelance speaker, writer,and editor. For more on Mara, and to listen to some of her music, visit her solo English country dance music recorded during the pandemic is available on her website and also at

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