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Featured Artist - Joanie Madden

Our Featured Artist for the month is Joanie Madden, Grammy Award winning flute and whistle player and leader of the Irish band, Cherish the Ladies. Joanie became the first American to win the coveted Senior All-Ireland Championship as well as the youngest member inducted into the Irish-American Musicians Hall of Fame. Other notable accomplishments include recipient of the Wild Geese Award, voted on of the Top 100 Irish-Americans in the country and Traditional Musician of the Year.

She is in constant demand as a studio musician, touring with the Eagle's Don Henley and has performed on over a hundred albums including performances with well known greats such as Pete Seeger and Sinead O'Connor. In addition to playing on three Grammy award-winning albums, Joanie was also a featured soloist on the final Lord of the Rings soundtrack.

We had the opportunity to ask Joanie a few questions. Check out her thoughts on approaching rehearsals and 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

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……