The Irish Dancers of Dubuque

First there was nothing, then there was Claddagh, and now there is McNulty. They only got here 20 years ago, but they’ve been making Irish-American culture visible from the very start.

The McNulty School of Irish Dance first came to Dubuque at the request of a local shop owner, Maureen Siegert, who felt a need for a greater Irish presence in Dubuque.  She contacted Barbara McNulty, a successful teacher in the region who had been teaching in the Chicago and the surrounding suburbs for 30 years.  McNulty received many credentials from globally recognized Irish organizations so it made sense to ask the best of the best to expand into Iowa. Upon coming to Dubuque, they opened a performance-only branch of 10 dancers under the name of The Dubuque Claddagh School of Irish Dancing.  Barbara McNulty would travel the three and a half hours regularly to instruct the dancers and polish their routines.  After 10 years under McNulty’s instruction, one of the students, Anne Schroeder, the daughter of Maureen Siegert, took over the Dubuque branch and continued the tradition, further expanding the outreach of the school.

Anne Schroeder eventually stepped down and the Claddagh School merged back with their sister school, The McNulty School of Irish Dance, but because of the far trek from their base in Chicago, the dancers rely heavily on community support. These include Maureen and the late Kenneth Siegert, who pioneered the Irish scene in Dubuque; the former McNulty dancers in the area who step up regularly to teach the younger dancers; and the organizations in the area who love to see them perform.

You can find the McNulty Irish Dancers regularly at the Irish Cottage in Galena, IL, throughout the year and this coming weekend at the Ancient Order of Hibernians’ St. Patrick’s Day celebration at Happy’s Place in Dyersville.

For the full interview with Barbara McNulty, visit

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Adrienne is currently a senior at Loras College from Byron, Illinois. She is the sports producer and reporter for LCTV News and a staff writer at the Lorian. After graduation, she hopes to work as an editor in creative video production.

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