Born in 1926, Mike Rafferty grew up in Ballinakill, East Galway, Ireland, on a 12-acre farm. In the heart of a locality steeped in the very best of old-style traditional music, he learned to play music from his father, Tom "Barrel" who played flute and uilleann pipes. Rafferty learned many of his music skills in the old way, by listening over and over again to the music played in his locality by master musicians. In 1949, Rafferty emigrated to the United States, joining his sister. He soon married and raised a family of five: Kathleen, Teresa, Michael, Patrick, and Mary Bridget.
With encouragement from fellow musicians from home who also emigrated, Rafferty began to play music more frequently and in 1976, he joined a group of Irish musicians invited to perform at the Smithsonian Institution's Bicentennial Festival of American Folklife. Rafferty subsequently toured with the premier Irish traditional music and dance group Green Fields of America and has appeared at an extensive array of concerts and festivals all over America. As a tradition bearer from Ireland he was influential in helping Ireland's traditional music organization Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann (CCE) establish itself in North America through the Martin Mulvihill Branch. Since then, a branch has been named after him, the Michael Rafferty Branch both in New Jersey.
An outstanding proponent of the East Galway style of flute playing, Rafferty devoted more time to teaching and playing music when he retired in 1989. He appeared on many recordings and has recorded three albums with his daughter Mary, an accomplished flute and accordion player: The Dangerous Reel, The Old Fireside Music, and The Road from Ballinakill. Rafferty released his solo CD Speed 78 in 2004. "No Irish traditional musician on either side of the Atlantic has created a more impressive body of recordings over the last nine years than flute, whistle, and uilleann pipes player Mike Rafferty," wrote the Irish Echo in 2005. In 2009 at the age of 82 Rafferty produced The New Broom with New Jersey fiddler Willie Kelly, whom he mentored.
Rafferty has devoted a lifetime to exploring, performing, and teaching traditional Irish music to students on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to teaching privately and at the Catskills Irish Arts Week -- the largest summer school devoted to traditional Irish music and dance in North America -- Rafferty has taught through the New Jersey State Council on the Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program. In 2003, he was named Irish Echo's Traditional Musician of the Year.
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency
Sample: "Kevin Moloney's/The Scotsman Over The Border"
Sample: "Sliabh Na mBan"