Joanie Madden is the Grammy Award winning whistle and flute player who has been the leader of Cherish the Ladies since its inception. Born in New York of Irish parents, she is the second oldest of seven children raised in a musical household; her mother Helen, a dancer of traditional sets hails from Miltown Malbay, County Clare and her father Joe, an All-Ireland Champion on the accordion, comes from Portumna in East Galway.
Joanie received her musical training early in life listening to her father and his friends play music at family gatherings and social events. She began taking lessons from Jack Coen, and within a few short years she had won both the world Championship on the concert flute and whistle. During that time, Joanie also became the first American to win the coveted Senior All-Ireland Championship on the whistle.
She has many awards and citations to her credit including; the youngest member inducted into the Irish-American Musicians Hall of Fame, recipient of the Wild Geese Award, voted one of the Top 100 Irish-Americans in the country and Traditional Musician of the Year, all for her contributions to promoting and preserving Irish culture in America.
She is in constant demand as a studio musician and has performed on over a hundred albums running the gamut from Pete Seeger to Sinead O'Connor. Joanie has played on three Grammy award-winning albums and her involvement on the Hearts of Space labels' "Celtic Twilight" CD led to a platinum album with over 1,000,000 sales. In the past year she has toured with the Eagles' Don Henley and was also a featured soloist on the final Lord of the Rings soundtrack.
She has recorded three highly successful solo albums; "A Whistle on the Wind", "Song of the Irish Whistle" (named the most successful whistle album in history selling over 280,000 copies) and "Song of the Irish Whistle 2".
We had the opportunity to ask Joanie a few questions. Take a look at her thoughts on approaching rehearsals, her greatest influence, as well as advice for upcoming flutists.
1. How did you get involved in Irish music and how would you recommend someone to get involved who is interested but hasn’t had any exposure to it?
My parents emigrated from Ireland to come to America for a better way of life. I was fortunate to grow up in a house full of music! My father is a great accordion player who passed on his love of Irish music to all of his seven children. Because of my father, I was introduced to all the best Irish musicians living in America who encouraged me and helped me get into the music. I think if anyone wants to get into Irish music, it would start by listening to some of the greats so you can understand what you’re trying to sound like. One of my heroes would be Matt Molloy – a remarkable flute player. There are also many camps around the country that bring in fabulous teachers for week long workshops where style, technique and ornamentation are taught. I actually am the director of one such camp called Augusta Irish Heritage week in Elkins, West Virginia and if you want to check it out you can go to http://www.augustaheritage.com/
2. With writing your own music and with elements of improvisation, how does your band approach rehearsals?
In my group Cherish the Ladies, members live in Ireland, Canada, Scotland and the US –so, practicing is not very easy – but, we’re constantly touring with over 150 cities a year, so it kind of comes together on the road!
3. Who or what has been your greatest influence?
I would have to say Matt Molloy, Paddy Carty (a wooden flute boehm player) and when it comes to the whistle, Mary Bergin.
4. How did you choose Miyazawa as your flute of choice?
I was playing a gig in Greenwich Village when a man came up to me on the way out the door and handed me a card with his number on it and said he had to run, but was impressed with my flute playing and to give him a call sometime. His name was Jeff Weissman. I went out to meet Jeff to fix my flute and wound up buying a new flute! He gave me dozens of flutes to try – but, when I tried the Miyazawa – that was it, there was no turning back! The tone, the action and the feel of the flute was the best and although I have tried all different kinds of flutes, I have been playing and loving my Miya’s ever since!
5. If you had one piece of advice to give an upcoming flutist, what would you tell them?
You know, I’m a self taught flute player – and I’ve been making my living performing and playing Irish music for the last 23 years. My advice would be to do something you love and work very, very, very hard and you will succeed! Dreams are meant to be followed……