Maureen Glynn Connolly was born at Bay Ridge Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, in 1952. She was raised in Brooklyn and attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help grammar school and high school from 1958 to 1970. She later attended Hunter College in Manhattan. She eventually graduated, with honors, from Queens College in 1990 with a degree in linguistics.
Maureen was immersed in the world of traditional Irish music and dance from birth. Her father, the late John P. Glynn, headed up one of the premier Irish music schools in America during the 1960s. Maureen began learning Irish step dancing at the age of four and enjoyed a championship career under the tutelage of Cyril McNiff. She also began to study the piano at an early age at the Brooklyn Conservatory.
In 1971, when Maureen was 18, her father died suddenly. The parents of his music students prevailed upon Maureen, who by this time was also an accomplished piano accompanist, to take over his school. In 1973, she was honored nationally as she was asked to perform at the Inaugural celebration of President Richard Nixon. Maureen later learned the fiddle from her first husband Johnny Cronin, the renowned County Kerry-born fiddler. Over the years she also became a proficient tin whistle and accordion player.
For twenty years, Maureen taught Irish music to students of all ages throughout the New York metropolitan area. During this time she was widely regarded as the leading teacher of Irish traditional music in the U.S. Her students were well known in the U.S. and in Ireland. During the 1980s, Maureen’s students achieved some of the highest honors in the world of traditional music, becoming All Ireland Champions on several occasions. Maureen was well known for her staunch beliefs in the need for keeping traditional music pure. This, coupled with her incredible creative instincts, led her in creating arrangements of music that have been hailed as “the best arrangement of Irish music ever heard.” This fact also made her one of the most sought after accompanists in Irish traditional music.
In April 1992, Maureen married the button accordionist Martin Connolly and moved to Ennis, County Clare with him. In Ireland, Maureen continued to teach traditional music to young students. She and Martin also enjoyed a successful career as performers. Together, they conducted workshops and played at festivals and concerts around Europe and North America. Slowly, Maureen was beginning to be recognized as not only a wonderful accompanist, but as a strong fiddle player. It was during these six years that Maureen lived her happiest years. This happiness was cut short, however, when in early 1998 Maureen was diagnosed with an inoperable form of liver cancer and died just a few weeks later.
Maureen made some recordings over the years. She played piano and fiddle on some tracks on an album produced by Shanachie Records in 1984, The New York All Stars. This album featured more than 70 of Maureen’s students who made up her All-Ireland winning bands and performed her All-Ireland winning instrumental arrangements. She played piano accompaniment on Jimmy Early’s More Music for the Feis, produced by Rego Records. She played on two tracks with her students on the first Cherish the Ladies album, Cherish the Ladies, produced by Shanachie Records. Her music is also recorded on Irish American Music on the East Coast of the U.S., produced by Rounder Records. Her most extensive recording was the album she made with Martin Connolly in 1987, The Fort of Kincora, produced by Kincora Records. Martin Connolly has just finished in the recording studio. His new album will include recordings of himself and Maureen at some of the various festivals they performed at all over the world throughout the years, including two tracks recorded at the prestigious World Accordion Festival in Quebec. Maureen was featured in the acclaimed documentary From Shore to Shore for the resounding influence that she and her father had on the world of Irish music in America for more than thirty years.
Her greatest legacy is what she gave as a teacher. Following her death, Earle Hitchner, the Irish music critic, commented “Maureen Glynn Connolly did not leave Irish traditional music where she found it. She made a precious gift of it to her students, forging a bond for life between themselves and the music, between themselves and their teacher.”