March 24, 2014, 6:30 p.m.
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Concert Hall

Watch the Nancy Hanks Lecture on our YouTube channel!

Maureen Dowd

Maureen Dowd

Acclaimed New York Times columnist


With introductions by:
Alec Baldwin

Zan McLeod and Celtic Borders

Featuring a special performance:
Zan McLeod & Celtic Borders play traditional Irish music with step dancing by YoungArts alumni dancers

interpreting services will be providedInterpreting services will be provided.

Lecturer Bio

Maureen Dowd, winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary, became a columnist on The New York Times Op-Ed page in 1995 after having served as a correspondent in the paper's Washington bureau since 1986. She has covered four presidential campaigns and served as White House correspondent. She also wrote a column, "On Washington," for The New York Times Magazine. Ms. Dowd joined The New York Times as a metropolitan reporter in 1983. She began her career in 1974 as an editorial assistant for The Washington Star, where she later became a sports columnist, metropolitan reporter and feature writer. When the Star closed in 1981, she went to Time magazine. Born in Washington D.C., Ms. Dowd received a B.A. degree in English literature from Catholic University (Washington, D.C.) in 1973.

Introducer Bio

Since 1980, Alec Baldwin has appeared on stage, in films, and on television and has received a Tony nomination (A Streetcar Named Desire, 1992), an Oscar nomination (The Cooler, 2004), and he has won two Emmy awards and eight Screen Actors Guild Awards as Best Actor in a Comedy Series for his role on NBC-TV's 30 Rock. Baldwin is a 1994 BFA graduate of Tisch and received an honorary doctorate in 2010. He is also the radio announcer for, and a board member of, the New York Philharmonic.

Musican Bios

Zan McLeod started his career in the early ‘70s playing southern rock on his guitar. His first forays into the Irish music scene started back in 1979, when he and North Carolina singer/songwriter Mike Cross visited Nashville during a tour from their Chapel Hill home base. In Nashville, they met Triona NiDhomnaill of the legendary Bothy Band. That introduction led Triona and Zan to form the innovative and groundbreaking band Touchstone. Together they recorded and toured for five years, and Touchstone’s album, The New Land, won the NAIRD award for best Indie album of 1981.
     Zan went on to receive many more music industry accolades, including his collaboration on: Grammy-winning CD, Celtic Solstice with Paul Winter and Grammy-nominated CDs Journey With The Sun (Paul Winter and the Earth Band) and The Long Journey Home (with the Chieftains). Zan’s self-recorded solo album, Highland Soul, won a WAMMIE in 1995, leading him to pursue a simultaneous career as musician and audio engineer. After graduating from the Omega School of Recording, he established his own home studio, Tonehouse Recording, in the Washington, DC area.
     Along with recording on nearly 150 albums, Zan has also recorded on several film soundtracks including Edward Burns's The Brothers McMullen, Ang Lee's Ride with the Devil, Sam Shepard's Far North, and James Horner's Back to Titanic.
     As a respected and experienced workshop leader and instructor, Zan has taught for years at the Augusta Heritage Center’s Irish/Celtic Week, Boston College’s Gaelic Roots Program, McDaniel College’s Common Ground, and he helped found Warren Wilson College’s The Swannanoa Gathering. In 2001, Zan released the instructional video, Learn to Play the Irish Bouzouki, for Homespun Tapes.
     Zan won the Maryland State Arts Council’s Individual Artist Grant in 2012, and he continues to teach, record, and play music around the country from his Washington, DC area home.

Patrick Cavanagh has been playing traditional Irish music on the tenor banjo for 20 years. He has been a mainstay of the Washington, DC session scene, as well as a member of many local Irish bands. Patrick has contributed to a number of recordings, and in 2010 he made the album 19P with his friend and musical partner Dennis Botzer. Recently he has been delving deeper into the regional traditions from the Sliabh Luachra area in southwest Ireland.

Katie Davis Henderson is a fiddler in the Washington, DC area. Born in Takoma Park, but raised in the West, Katie learned to fiddle from recordings of the Bothy Band and De Danann. She recently completed a project learning a new tune a day for a year, and posted videos of the tunes to YouTube. She plays in sessions and performs in the Washington, DC and Baltimore area.

Multiple All-Ireland champion Alex Boatright is one of the premier concertina and harp players in the United States. With All-Ireland winning students, Alex is a sought-after teacher on the East Coast, focusing on teaching Irish music in a scholarly form, including teaching musicology and music theory in a traditional context. Alex aims to preserve and disseminate traditional Irish music in its purest form to the younger generations. Her School of Irish Music teaches many young musicians, most under the age of 13, who are all National Champions. Having started playing Irish music at a young age, Alex has been steeped in the tradition, formerly studying with New York Fiddle aficionado Brian Conway and one of Ireland’s top concertina and harp performers, Grainne Hambly, as well as winning scholarships to attend top summer music schools in Ireland and America. Alex is currently working toward a master of music performance at the University of Maryland where she plays classical cello.

Dancer Bios

Declan Crowley, 2009 YoungArts Winner in Irish Step Dance, began Irish dancing at the age of 6 after seeing an original production of Michael Flatley’sLord of the Dance in 1996. 16 years later, he is a full time troupe member with the show, and is now dancing the lead role of “Don Dorcha, the Dark Lord.” Mr. Crowley is an eight-time Mid-Atlantic, two-time National, and All-Ireland champion. He also won the coveted “Minor Belt National Championship” in 2005 and has placed within the top three in the world times over. In addition to his work with Flatley, Mr. Crowley has also performed leading roles in Michael Londra’s “Beyond Celtic” and “Irish Celtic” in France. He is currently collaborating with exciting new dance acts and plans to continue work with developing hybrid Irish dance forms in the future.

Kiera Daley, 2010 YoungArts Winner in Irish Step Dance, began Irish dance at age 5 and worked her way through the competitive rankings over the years and achieved many regional, national, and international awards. She is currently studying Business Marketing at Florida International University while continuing to make her way through the world of Irish dance.

Ashley Smith, 2006 YoungArts Winner in Irish Step Dance, began taking Irish dance lessons at age three from her father and mother, Michael and Noreen Smith: owners of the Smith- Houlihan Irish Dance Academy.  After years of training and attending many competitive Irish Dancing competitions, she was crowned the World Irish Step Dancing Champion in Belfast, Ireland, in 2004, at that time, being the youngest American female ever to win the world title. Ms. Smith went on to win two more gold world medals in 2005 and her last in 2009. She was also named one of the Top Irish Americans in 2004. Ms. Smith has also won four All Ireland Championships, The Great Britain Championships and the Australian Nationals. More recently in 2012 her focus changed to film, she was cast as a featured dancer on the Grammy nominated film The Silver Linings Playbook, directed by David O. Russell.

Kieran Coleman, 23 and a native of Pittsburgh, PA, has been an Irish dancer for over eighteen years. As a competitive dancer, he has won U.S. regional and national titles, and in 2009, Kieran placed 5th at the World Championships. Professionally, Kieran has performed at venues ranging from New York City’s Lincoln Center Atrium to Tokyo's Bunkamura Orchard Hall with the Trinity Irish Dance Company and the Hammerstep Initiative, as well as musical acts like The Chieftains, Gaelic Storm, Different Drums of Ireland and Grammy-nominated Dave Eggar and Deoro. Already this year, he has performed with Hammerstep in Dublin, Ireland, and a filming of PBS' Bluegrass Underground at Cumberland Caverns, Tennessee to be nationally broadcast in the fall. Kieran is currently a second-year graduate student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.

The National YoungArts Foundation recognizes and supports America’s most talented young artists in the visual, literary, performing, and design arts. YoungArts’ mission is to identify emerging artists and assist them at critical junctures in their educational and professional development and to raise the appreciation for, and support of, the arts in American society. The YoungArts program is the sole path to the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts awards. Learn more at

Americans for the Arts extends its gratitude to The Rosenthal Family Foundation and Ovation for their generous support of The Americans for the Arts 27th Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy.