In shock and in sadness, the faculty, staff, and administration at the NYU Department of Music and Glucksman Ireland House mark the passing of our dear friend and brilliant colleague, Dr. Mick Moloney. Mick Moloney combined in remarkable ways the scholar’s wisdom and deep learning, the teacher’s ability to convey wisdom in fresh and memorable language, the entertainer’s bravery and charisma to be at home on stage before dozens or tens of thousands, and the gentleman’s regard for all other humans of whatever station.
Professor Michael Beckerman, Chair of the Music Department at NYU, wrote, "Some years ago, I brought two folk musicians from the Czech Republic to play a concert at the Bohemian Hall. Before you could say boo, Mick had them playing along with the Irish Music Ensemble and then had them teach some songs. That was Mick. In addition to being a world-class musician, he was one of the great collaborators, and a genius at bringing different kinds of people together. We're still in shock, but I know he's the kind of person we'll miss more, rather than less, as time goes by. A tremendous loss from the Department of Music, Ireland House, and the entire university."
Dr. Daniel Neely, ethnomusicologist, columnist for the Irish Echo, and alum of the NYU Department of Music, said, “When Mick came to NYU, he formed a performance group called the Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra that drew from both the NYU and the local Irish music communities. We played at all manner of Irish events in New York City and developed a following that put NYU and the Music Department in a strikingly positive light – it was great fun. Having him as a mentor (in graduate school and beyond) taught me his brilliance and demonstrated, time and again, his talent for being the tide that could lift the boats around him. He'll be sorely missed.”
Professor David Samuels, faculty of the NYU Department of Music, wrote, “It was always a joyful moment whenever Mick knocked on my office door. He was the most glass-half-full person I've ever met, and this in spite of all the political struggles he was involved with. He was instrumental in helping us put together an international exchange program between our department and the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in Limerick.”
Danielle Roman, current graduate student at the NYU department of Music, shared, “I had the absolute honor of working with and learning from Mick Moloney in a variety of roles over the years. First, as an undergrad in his Intro to Celtic Music class, when I was first forming the idea of an Irish-based research topic for graduate study. Then, a few years later, as a graduate student in his Irish Music in America seminar, where we bonded over our shared interest in Irish-Jewish relations and cultural production. And, finally, as the Teaching Assistant for that same undergraduate class this past year.
Making the switch from student to instructor is challenging, but Mick’s unwavering support helped me feel empowered to step into that role. His generosity was unending. I am pretty sure he lent me more than ten books over the years and never asked for them back. When he heard I did not have a space to host office hours, he gave me unlimited use of his office. He even encouraged me to use it the next semester when he was on leave “whenever I needed a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.”
Roman continued, “Assisting with the undergrad course allowed me to examine what made his teaching so incredible. Although he taught his students about Irish and Celtic music (and he really did, I graded the term papers), he also taught them skills and lessons that transcend the physical classroom.”
Dr. Scott B. Spencer, graduate of the Ethnomusicology program at the NYU Department of Music and Assistant Professor in the Thornton School of Music at the University of Sourthern California wrote, “One of Mick's amazing skills was to be able to relate to people and their experiences in a very human and approachable way, and allow the same in return. In the classroom, stories from histories of the immigrant experience were partnered with yesterday's chat with a cab driver on the way to JFK, or a student's writing project about their grandparents in Korea, or a chance conversation in a Kingston storefront. Students learned to listen to each other's stories and find commonalities across lived experiences. He championed good ideas and mentored those who demonstrated passion and promise. This was most evident in his unfailing support for those musicians and students chasing sobriety - and many reading this remember coming through tough years with Mick as a stalwart and confidential partner.
On stage, he presented electric tours of emotion, knowledge, and participation that imparted wisdom through personal experience and fostered important discussions about identity and injustices. His passion projects have always been about lifting others up and exploring those things that bond us in our humanity. The number of Irish musicians touched by his life and encouraged by his excitement and kind words are quite literally uncountable and his impact in this area alone will last many generations. I was fortunate to have had Mick as an NYU professor and PhD advisor, yet the greatest lessons I learned from him were about how to be a better person.”
Dr. Ivan Goff, member of the Irish band Danú and doctoral alum of the Department of Music, wrote, “Mick is well known for the many trails he blazed, the many firsts, and the many achievements. He was an extraordinary man with an extraordinary story. He was positive, passionate, and had an amazing talent for getting things done. He saw the good in everyone and in every situation and his energy was boundless. It seemed effortless how he could relate to audiences big and small all around the world; he was the same man with students, colleagues, friends, celebrities, political figures, and people he just met. Every semester he would express his genuine excitement and interest in the new batch of students. He loved teaching. His passion for the material and the breadth of his experience, which he often relayed in his many anecdotes, inspired many. But, I believe, what students and anyone who encountered Mick were inspired by most was his profound humanity and generosity.
His life outside the limelight was his most impressive: his extensive charity work, the many musicians he nurtured over the years, the musicians to whom he reached out in hard times, giving his time gratis to various causes and institutions over decades. A few years ago, a mutual friend of ours passed away and Mick set about getting his unwilled uilleann pipes into the hands of someone who otherwise wouldn’t have afforded them. In a beautiful gesture, Mick paid for the repairs to the instrument, the shipping, and arranged to have them presented to a student he deemed would appreciate them the most. He was thrilled that his friend’s name and instrument would live on in this way. This is one of the innumerable acts of love and generosity, big and small, that defined Mick. To him, acts such as this were routine. To us, they are an immeasurable part of his already astounding legacy.”
Loretta Brennan Glucksman, Chair of the Advisory Board at Glucksman Ireland House, said, “I am so devastated at Mick Moloney’s sudden death. As a beloved Professor at Glucksman Ireland House, Mick will always be remembered for his seminal research on Irish American music, teaching, joyous concerts, and exuberant banjo playing. All of us at Glucksman Ireland House – faculty, students, Board, and friends – send sincere condolences to his family.”
Professor Kevin Kenny, Director of Glucksman Ireland House, noted, “I knew Mick as a colleague and a friend for twenty-five years, both at NYU and at Boston College. I have many warm memories of our time together but what I will always remember most is his extraordinary calm as a performer, his complete mastery of his art.”
Ted Smyth, President of the Advisory Board at Glucksman Ireland House, stated, “I can’t believe that the great Mick Moloney, Global Distinguished Professor at Glucksman Ireland House NYU, has died. Such terribly sad and shocking news and a critical loss to Ireland, Irish America, and Irish music worldwide. A great flame of musical joy and friendship has been extinguished.”