Laura has learned from many noted tradition bearers on both sides of the Atlantic, and has herself been recognized as a Master Folk Artist (Minnesota State Arts Board). Of Scottish heritage (through MacKenzies and Rankins), her people came to America by way of Nova Scotia and Northern Ireland. In St. Paul, Minnesota, Laura learned to play traditional music at ceilis (dances or social gatherings) within the local Irish-American community and soon became immersed in both the music and dance. Laura's powerful array of wind instruments now includes wooden flutes, many whistles, concertina, Scottish smallpipes, Border pipes, French Cornemuse, Spanish Gaita, Medieval English Greatpipes, Leicester smallpipes, gemshorn and voice
In particular, Laura is most grateful for the original mentorship in Irish music from Martin McHugh (of Co. Roscommon and St. Paul, MN), button accordion. Also for the early tuition received from Hamish Moore (Scotland) on Scottish smallpipes, and the wonderful music and lore learned from traditional Irish flute players PJ Crotty, Roger Sherlock, Conal O' Grada, Catherine McEvoy...and the English (and French) piping learned from Julian Goodacre and Jon Swayne, the Gaelic songs learned from Hector MacNeil, Angus MacLeod (Cape Breton, Nova Scotia) and Fiona Smith (British Columbia,CA), the dance steps learned from Bhreagh MacDonald and Jean MacNeil (Cape Breton, NS)...one could fill pages with these beloved mentors of traditional music!
Laura and her colleagues played a major role in the revival of Irish music and dance in the Upper Midwest as the Northern Star Ceili Band, steaming up dance halls for seven years. During this time, Laura was also a founding member of a dance performance ensemble, the Mooncoin Ceili Dancers, and studied Irish step dancing heartily. Along the way there was some measure of formal study in anthropology and music, but her best education has been with her comrades and favorite "teachers" - the players of traditional music - in kitchens, pubs, folk schools and dance halls across Ireland, Scotland and the United States.