Tenor banjo player extraordinaire Pauline Conneely was born in Bedford, England of Irish parents from Connemara, County Galway and County Longford. Her father Mick played fiddle, flute, and accordion – and Pauline’s beloved late mom Lizzie was a champion step-dancer who knew and loved Irish traditional music inside and out.
Both parents inspired Pauline, and her siblings, Bernie, Kathleen, and Mick in learning the music by her dad playing music in the kitchen every night and her mom dancing and teaching the kids all the old Irish dance steps. This upbringing set them out on a life imbued with traditional Irish music and dance as part of their being.
As a young girl Pauline achieved great success as a champion Irish step-dancer before turning her focus to music. Under the formal tutelage of the late legendary musician Brendan Mulkere, Pauline honed her love of the banjo and earned her status as one of the top tenor banjo players in Irish music.
Noted Irish Echo music reviewer and fellow banjo player Dan Neely wrote in his column about Pauline’s 2016 debut album “All Because” – “I am always delighted when a great new banjo album lands, and I feel especially so when the stylistic approach is direct and says something frank about the serious nature of the instrument. It’s something one hears in the playing of John Carty, Angelina Carberry, and Mick Moloney, but it’s also something one happens to hear in the playing of Pauline Conneely.”
Neely continues, “More will know about the lovely flow in Conneely’s playing and the superior drive she has. She makes excellent work of it, too, by pulling a dark, assertive tone from her instrument. All Because is truly one of the great Irish banjo records of today. There’s great soul in Conneely’s music – her musicianship and taste are impeccable and this album is a delight to listen to.”
Her album All Because was also named Best Solo CD of the Year by the Irish American News in 2016.
Pauline recently broke ground as the first Irish tenor banjo player to grace the stage at the Grand Ole Opry and has made several appearances.
In 2012 Pauline was named Female Musician of the Year at the Tradition in Review Awards founded by Irish radio host and music writer Bill Margeson who wrote: “Another master musician living in Chicago, she is the deal. Pauline rocks!! Pauline rules!!”
Pauline founded the band Chicago Reel and is also a founding member of the Irish Music All-Stars which feature regularly at Irish festivals around the Midwest and East Coast.
Pauline frequently shares the stage with Grammy-nominated fiddler Liz Carroll, and performed with many respected artists performing on the world stage today, including The Chieftains, Cherish the Ladies, John Whelan, and of course, her siblings Kathleen, Bernie, and Mick Conneely!
In addition to performing, Pauline is a highly sought after banjo instructor and teaches both privately and at several Irish music teaching weeks across the country.