MAIREAD NESBITT bio
Máiréad Nesbitt is already loved by fans around the world for her high-profile work with the popular Irish ensemble Celtic Woman. In her decade-plus as a founding member of that globetrotting group, the charismatic fiddler/composer’s versatile instrumental talents and beguiling stage presence have been embraced by a diverse audience that crosses geographical and cultural boundaries. With Celtic Woman, Máiréad’s playing & co-compositions have been nominated for a 2017 Grammy for the album Destiny.
Although Celtic Woman’s hectic touring and recording schedule has kept her busy and allowed her to perform in front of huge audiences around the world, Máiréad has also found time to build a large and impressively varied musical resume of her own. In the process, she’s emerged as one of Ireland’s most in-demand musicians, as well as a prominent presence in the Celtic music world.
Máiréad Nesbitt’s expansive musical resume spans the worlds of Celtic folk, classical and contemporary popular music. In addition to ten albums and numerous world 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.
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.
The full range of Máiréad Nesbitt’s talent and vision can be heard on her first solo album, Raining Up. With 14 intoxicating recordings that range from traditional Irish tunes to adventurous original compositions, the project showcased the qualities that have already endeared the artist to her fans, while exploring fresh new creative territory.
The album 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.”
For Máiréad Nesbitt, 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 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.”