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Judge for Switchback

Griffith, IN
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Portrait of Switchback
For over two decades, the musical partnership of Brian FitzGerald and Martin McCormack, known as Switchback, has been entertaining audiences around the world with their unique American Roots music blended with Celtic Soul. In 1986, FitzGerald was a mandolin student of Jethro Burns and had already been touring with Clifton Chenier when he met McCormack, an award-winning voice student of Whelma Oshiem at the American Conservatory of Chicago and a member of the Star Search selected band Beyond Blue. They were both chosen by legendary County Kerry composer and concertina master Terrence 'Cuz' Teahan to join his traditional Irish group. Teahan taught FitzGerald and McCormack the old country techniques of Irish musical entertainment, making them one of the last generations to be directly influenced by a master of this musical genre.

By 1988, shortly before Teahan's death, the duo continued his musical legacy with the Wailin' Banshees, joining forces with banjo great Bert McMahon of Woodford, County Galway and Chicago fiddle legend Mary McDonagh. The Banshees flourished, but it was the power of seeing such Texan greats as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Ely, and Rodney Crowell that fueled FitzGerald and McCormack's songwriting and ultimately led to the formation of Switchback in 1993.

Their first album was literally a commercial success, with Chevrolet using one of the songs to promote their Chevy Blazer. Their music eventually reached the ear of Grammy-winning producer Lloyd Maines, who then produced several albums for the band, with The Fire That Burns being selected as one of Performing Songwriter Magazine's top choices for 2003. Throughout this time, the duo managed a heavy touring schedule, opening for such acts as The Moody Blues, Leon Russell, Lee Greenwood, John Hartford, and Beausoliel.

Meanwhile, the Celtic music world never forgot the duo's Irish roots, so Switchback continued to cultivate a following at concerts and festivals. The duo has shared the stage with such notable Celtic musicians as Cherish the Ladies, Gaelic Storm, Liz Carroll, and John Williams. They annually tour Ireland and frequently perform at the Westport, County Mayo pub owned by The Chieftain's Matt Malloy, who often appears there as well.

Playing over 200 engagements a year, Switchback can be heard at festivals ranging from the Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Nova Scotia to the Summer Celebration in Michigan where they performed for an audience of 15,000. Their concerts take place at such venues as the intimately famous Bluebird Café of Nashville to the 3,400-seat Star Plaza Theater in Merrillville, Indiana.

Switchback's music is frequently played on radio stations such as RTE Radio One with Pat Kenny in Dublin, Ireland and can also be seen on Public Broadcasting Television stations throughout the United States.

Switchback also conducts educational programs and songwriting workshops for school and community organizations. They have developed several instructional sessions and often customize programs to fit the curriculum or concepts of the clients. Many of these seminars are held in elementary and high schools and libraries but have been conducted in settings as far-ranging as juvenile detention centers and church camps.

Wherever they play, no matter the size or age of audience, Switchback always captivates and charms folks with their energy and creativity.