Why study with Brendan?

Experienced & Patient

Brendan has taught students of all ages, both individually and in group workshops. He gave his very first lesson when he was a harp student himself, at age sixteen. He particularly enjoys working with children. Brendan specializes in roots music from the Celtic (Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, Welsh, etc.), Nordic (Swedish, Norwegian, Scandinavian, Finnish, etc.), and North American (Appalachian, old-time, Quebecois, Cape Breton, etc.) folk music traditions.

A lifelong learner in a wide range of subjects and art forms, Brendan spends a lot of time thinking about this magical process we call learning – and how to encourage it in oneself and in others. A patient and empathetic teacher, Brendan believes that music is not about being better than: it's about becoming better. It's about the healing potential of art and beautiful sound. It's about sharing.

Customized Teaching Style

Brendan teaches by ear. It's the best way to learn an aural tradition. He has a vast repertoire of tunes and traditional styles, and loves to share the folklore, history, and linguistic background that give the music depth. Brendan is also happy to delve into theory and basic musical notation with the interested student.

Traditional Music Specialty

Brendan was mentored by the late Chris Caswell of Caswell Harps. Brendan's musicianship has also been shaped at trad music camps such as Alasdair Fraser's Sierra Fiddle Camp and the world famous Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School, where he has had the opportunity to play with and learn from some of the best musicians in the genre.

Learn more about Brendan's philosophy and musical background in his full bio.

brendan swift hapr player
...music is not about being better than: it’s about becoming better. It’s about the healing potential of art and beautiful sound. It’s about sharing.


Celtic Harp Lessons

For adults or children • 30-60 minutes • $65-75/hour

For most people, the harp brings to mind either heady Irish beers or the Pearly Gates, but it is so much more than that. The modern Celtic harp is a revival movement – the old traditions being interrupted by years of cultural oppression – and Brendan is in the thick of it. Chris Caswell, Brendan's late mentor, was a well-known player and builder of modern and historical harps and one of the most important figures in this revival. Brendan seeks to continue this mission and to adapt the still-living idioms of the fiddle and bagpipes into his harping.

  • Single lesson: $75/hour (half hour recommended for young children)

  • 8 lesson package: $65/hour

In studying with Brendan, you or your child have the chance to learn a unique and beautiful instrument and help reinvent a lost tradition – in the context of the thriving modern world of traditional music.


Clawhammer Banjo Lessons

For adults or children • 30-60 minutes • $60-65/hour

It's the instrument of the moment. Though long typecast and teased, the irrepressible banjo is now being rediscovered as one of music's most soulful and satisfying instruments. A deeply American instrument with African roots, the banjo is now experiencing a massive resurgence in interest, both as part of its home genres – American old-time music and bluegrass – and as a favorite new instrument for singer-songwriters. Brendan fell in love with the banjo at fiddle camp and was lucky enough to get his first lessons from the great guitarist and banjo evangelist, Steve Baughman.

Brendan will help you or your child get a handle on clawhammer technique – the surprisingly simple engine powering the complex rhythms of old-time banjo – the many tunings used by banjo players, and introduce you to the ins and outs of old-time music.

  • Single lesson: $65/hour (half hour recommended for young children)

  • 8 lesson package: $60/hour


Piano Lessons

For adults or children • 30-60 minutes • $60-65/hour

Piano was Brendan's first instrument and, when it comes to sessions and dances, still his main focus. While comfortable accompanying Irish, Scottish, and Nordic music alike, Brendan's greatest influence as a pianist is the unique fiddle and piano tradition of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Brendan is especially known for introducing beginners and seasoned players alike to the tenets of Cape Breton piano – all while focusing on becoming adaptable to many kinds of music and individual artists' styles, the mark of a good accompanist.

Brendan can help you to navigate the many dialects of traditional music, to develop confidence and style, to thoroughly understand modes, keys, rhythm, and chords – and most importantly, to get off the page and respond thoughtfully to the musicians around you.

  • Single lesson: $65/hour (half hour recommended for young children)

  • 8 lesson package: $60/hour



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