For more than a decade, Máiréad Nesbitt has enchanted millions of fans around the world as the Celtic violinist and founding member of the globetrotting music phenomenon Celtic Woman. Loyal fans of all ages, across geographical and cultural boundaries far beyond the musical heritage of Ireland, have adored her beguiling stage presence and versatile instrumental talents. As the featured violin soloist on all 11 Celtic Woman albums, each title achieved the coveted #1 slot on the Billboard World Music Chart, an Emmy-nomination for one of her companion television specials and her most recent album with the group, “Destiny”, received a 2017 Grammy Nomination for Best World Music Album.
While Celtic Woman’s global touring and recording schedule allowed her to perform in front of huge audiences around the world, Máiréad has also established a large and impressively varied musical resume as a violin soloist / composer. In the process, she has emerged as one of Ireland’s most in-demand musicians, as well as a prominent presence on the Celtic and World music scene.
Máiréad’s expansive musical portfolio spans the worlds of Celtic folk, classical and contemporary popular music. In addition to 11 albums and numerous tours with Celtic Woman, she records and tours with her own group and has played and recorded with Afro-Celt Sound System and the bhangra fusion band The Dhol Foundation.
Máiréad began her professional career at 16 with the prestigious RTÉ Concert Orchestra, and her playing was featured on the original soundtracks of the shows Riverdance, Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames, and she toured the world as lead fiddler with the latter two shows. She also composed the original music score for the show Irish Dance Invasion, which toured in 2006, is featured on the Celtic Tenors’ Live In Concert DVD, and is featured as a soloist on the soundtrack of the Disney film Tinker Bell. She also performed privately for HRH Princess Anne during her visit to Dublin in 2004.
Most recently Máiréad was the special guest violinist on the inaugural national tour of Rocktopia, PBS’s newest touring sensation fusing together classic rock, the power of classical music and the passion of opera.
Máiréad’s distinctive blend of traditional Irish and classical styles earned her Irish Music magazine’s title of Best Traditional Female, and has given her the opportunity to work with such international acts as Nigel Kennedy, Van Morrison, Sinéad O’Connor, Clannad, Emmylou Harris, Aslan, Chris De Burgh and Jimmy Webb, as well as Irish music icons like Sharon Shannon, Paul Brady, Frances Black, Cooney and Begley, Jimmy McCarthy and Dónal Lunny’s Coolfin.
For Máiréad, music is truly a life’s work. She grew up in a musical family in Loughmore, County Tipperary; both of her parents were music teachers, and all five of her siblings are accomplished musicians. Máiréad began playing piano at the age of four, and picked up the fiddle two years later.
A former all-Ireland fiddle champion and member of the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland, she began her formal musical training at the Ursuline Convent in Thurles, and continued her musical studies at the Waterford Institute of Technology, at the Cork School of Music under Cornelia Zanidache and at the London Royal Academy, with post-graduate studies under Emanuel Hurwitz on violin and piano. When asked to cite her musical influences, Máiréad cites her family, along with a wide range of musicians that includes classical violinist Itzhak Perlman, jazz great Stephane Grappelli, bluegrass icon Alison Krauss, Irish fiddlers Liz Carroll, Michael Coleman and Andy McGann, and rock performers like David Bowie, Sting and Bjork.
Máiréad’s talent and vision can be heard on her first solo album, Raining Up which won considerable international acclaim, with The Birmingham Post calling it “a contemporary Celtic masterpiece” and The Irish Post commenting, “Raining Up is an album of considerable beauty, and shows Nesbitt with one foot in the traditional camp and another in a chill-out ambient groove.”
Máiréad’s newest solo album Hibernia was released in December 2016 and debuted at #4 on the Billboard World Music Charts; #9 on the Classical Crossover Charts; #11 on Classical Charts; #11 on the Heatseekers Charts.
The new Nesbitt family album Devil’s Bit Sessions is set to be released on June 30 2017 and features music from her whole family, recorded at the family home in a live setting by Grammy Award winning recording engineer Brian Masterson.
In March 2017 Máiréad launched a custom violin line featuring hand crafted violins made in Europe and finished in a renowned New York Luthier store. The violins, bows and accessories, all European and American made, were picked out by Máiréad herself. Máiréad played one of her violins from her collection on the Rocktopia tour. The Máiréad Nesbitt Celtic Violin Collection is available exclusively at www.maireadnesbittviolin.com
Máiréad’s eclectic career has always encompassed the contrasting styles of classical and Irish traditional music. Early on, her teachers attempted to discourage her from pursuing the two contrasting styles, but she was determined to master both.
“You can count on your hand the number of fiddle players that play both classical and traditional music professionally,” she notes, adding, “It’s an easy thing to mix styles up badly, but an altogether harder thing to do it in a professional, tasteful way, given that both styles are completely different disciplines and ways of playing, with distinctive techniques.
“I’m drawing on every background that I have,” she says of her playing. “Whatever grabs me at the time is what comes out. If you can bring in different elements, if it’s tastefully done, if it works musically and if it’s from the heart, it will sound believable to other people. If you’re touching people in an honest way, that’s the most important thing an artist can do.”
Quotes In The Media
HIBERNIA; “Hibernia proved itself a great accomplishment in both Classical and Celtic genres. It used the image of Hibernia to promote a musical legacy with integrity and energized re-vision” – The Irish Echo.
DEVILS BIT SESSIONS; “There’s a bit of the ‘devil in the music too, as the tunes range from the core reels and jigs to sprightly strathspeys and sentimental slow airs” –Irish Music Magazine.
RAINING UP; “is a contemporary Celtic masterpiece”– Birmingham Post.
“Máiréad Nesbitt is a demon of a fiddle player”– New York Times.