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"Goucher looked like a good, flexible environment where I could pursue various passages of education," Grasso said.

Keeping alive the traditions of his Irish-American family, Eliot Grasso '05 began playing Celtic music at age seven. By the time he was in his teens, this Perry Hall native was performing regularly throughout his home state of Maryland.

After graduating high school, Grasso knew he wanted to stay close to his music contacts. He chose to attend Goucher College, where he believed he could master his skills and still perform regularly off campus.

"Goucher looked like a good, flexible environment where I could pursue various passages of education," Grasso said.

He specialized in piano, organ performance, arts administration, and music history at the college, and he says he learned a lot about music and how to teach music.

"When I went out to teach and when I went out to perform my music, I had a good background," he said.

Grasso said his most treasured time at Goucher was the hours he spent in private lessons with Jeffrey Chappell, a music instructor and the director of jazz studies. Now, when Grasso is giving music lessons, he says he even tries to mimic Chappell’s teaching style.

Grasso says his mentor also introduced him to many important contacts in the music world, which he believes is key to making a living in the industry.

"Goucher was very helpful in this way," Grasso said. "President Sandy Ungar was always very kind to invite me to things to meet people, and he would check up on me."

These contacts have helped lead Grasso to performance opportunities. Grasso has appeared at the Kennedy Center, Constitution Hall, the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, the Library of Congress, the National Building Museum, the National Geographic Concert Hall, and the home of the Irish ambassador. Grasso has performed with the Chieftans; Celtic fiddle master Liz Carroll; and Cherish the Ladies, one of the most highly regarded Irish-American groups; he also entertained then President Bill Clinton at the National Endowment for the Arts Awards ceremony.

Since 1999, Grasso has performed as a soloist in composer Patrick Cassidy's orchestral work Famine Remembrance and in composer Stephen Simon's children's album Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel.

Grasso released his first solo album of traditional Irish instrumentals, Standing Room Only, in 2004. The album was recorded in 2002 when Grasso was 18. In 2006, he released North by NorthWest, on which he played uilleann pipes and flute. Grasso's 2007 album, Up Against the Flatirons, features him playing the flat pipes.

Grasso recently received his master's degree in ethnomusicology from the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick.

He is now working on his doctorate in musicology with a concentration in ethnomusicology at the University of Oregon, and he serves on the music faculty at the John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts in Eugene, Oregon.

In June and July 2008, Grasso will be touring Ireland, England, and Scotland.

Learn more about Eliot Grasso at http://www.eliotgrasso.com/Home.html.

Eliot Grasso