JOANIE MADDEN is considered one of the greatest musicians and personalities in the history of Irish music in America. She was born in the Bronx, New York of Irish parents, and is the second oldest of seven children raised in a musical household. Her mother Helen hails from Miltown Malbay, County Clare and her father Joe, an All-Ireland Champion accordion player, was a native of Portumna, County Galway. In 2021, Joanie was named a recipient of the distinguished National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest award bestowed on a traditional artist and is considered a national living treasure to the country for her musical contributions to the cultural fabric of America.
In her early years, Joanie was exposed to the finest Irish traditional music listening to her father and his friends play music at family gatherings and social events. She began taking lessons from legendary flutist Jack Coen, and within a few short years she won the All-Ireland Championship on both the concert flute and tin whistle. In 1984, Joanie became the first American to win the coveted Senior All-Ireland Championship on the whistle.
Throughout her musical career, she has amassed a plethora of awards and citations. Her merits include being the youngest member inducted into both the Irish-American Musicians Hall of Fame and the Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Hall of Fame, she was chosen for the Wild Geese award, where she joined an impressive list of previous honorees including Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, Tony award winning playwrights and Nobel prize laureates. Irish America Magazine selected her twice as one of the Top 100 Irish-Americans in the United States and Earle Hitchner of the Irish Voice newspaper also named her Traditional Musician of the Year, all for her contributions to promoting and preserving Irish culture in the United States. In 2010, Joanie was forever immortalized on the streets of her native Bronx when a street was named after her on the Grand Concourse: “Joanie Madden and Cherish the Ladies”. In 2011, she was bestowed one of the nation’s highest awards as she was chosen for the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, joining an illustrious list of distinguished American citizens including six United States Presidents all singled out for their exemplary service to the United States. In 2012, Joanie was selected for the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Irish Music Awards and also named a recipient of the esteemed USA Artist Fellowship Grant, including her as one of the most innovative and influential artists in America. In 2013, she was named Grand Marshal of the Yonkers St. Patrick’s Day Parade and in 2015 Joanie was named County Clare Person of the year. Her impact on Irish music has been revered around the globe and for that reason, the Irish Voice Newspaper named Joanie Madden one of the top 25 Irish American’s for the past quarter century. In 2016, Irish America Magazine named Joanie Madden, one of the Top 50 Most Influential Irish-American Women in the World. Joanie’s most incredibly proud and humbling moment occurred during the summer of 2021 when she received a letter from President Joe Biden as well as a zoom call from Speaker of the House, Chuck Schumer informing her that she was the 2021 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship which is the United States government’s highest honor that our nation bestows upon its folk and traditional artists. Each year, nine individuals, “national living treasures” from across the nation, are chosen to receive this one-time-only Fellowship in recognition of lifetime achievement, artistic excellence, and contributions to the cultural fabric of our nation’s heritage.
Madden is a successful recording artist in Irish traditional music having sold over 500,000 solo albums. She is in constant demand as a studio musician and has performed on over 180 albums with such luminary artists as Pete Seeger, Sinead O’Connor and the Boston Pops. She also performed and or helped arrange three Grammy award-winning albums; “Pete,” with folk legend Pete Seeger; “Celtic Solstice” with Paul Winter and Friends as well as the soundtrack to the PBS documentary, “The Long Journey Home – The Irish in America.” She was the featured soloist on HBO’s Emmy nominated documentary, Barbaro The Nations’s Horse, the Emmy nominated BBC America’s television series, Copper and was presented with a Peabody Award for the ESPN documentary entitled, “The Complete Angler”. She produced a PBS / American Public Television special, “Cherish the Ladies, An Irish Homecoming” that won a Mid-Atlantic Emmy. Additionally she has worked and has been a featured soloist in Ric and Ken Burns’ critically acclaimed PBS documentaries “New York” and “The Way West.” Her involvement on the “Celtic Twilight” series of CD’s led to two platinum albums with over 1,000,000 in sales. She has toured with the Eagles’ Don Henley and was a featured soloist on the final Lord of the Rings soundtrack.
When it comes to traditional Irish music, Joanie Madden is a purist and a keeper of the flame. Her passion in life is to nurture and pass down the culture to the next generation that was so lovingly passed to her. She leads annual educational bus tour to Ireland, “Joanie Madden’s Musical Tour of Ireland” and for the past eight years has organized a very successful Irish music cruise, “Joanie Madden’s Folk ‘N Irish Cruise” that has brought thousands of people together for a week of incredible music, song and dance with lectures, workshops and concerts on the high seas with entertainment by the leading luminaries in Irish Music. For five years, she also was the director for the Augusta Heritage Celtic Music Week in Elkins, West Virginia where she took over the helm from noted scholar, Dr. Mick Moloney. Joanie is a highly acclaimed teacher and has taught classes at dozens of music weeks in North America and Ireland. She is actively involved in the New York Irish music and dance scene and in the past five years, she proudly has had three of her whistle students winning All-Ireland Championship titles.
Since its inception in 1985, Joanie has been the leader and driving force behind the all-female Irish music and dance troupe, Cherish the Ladies. As the group enters it’s 34th year, her devoted, tireless leadership of Cherish the Ladies has been crucial to that ensemble’s growing global appeal. As the first full time all-female ensemble, she continues to break down barriers as she leads the group around the world to perform in the finest venues while representing the strong roots and pride as Irish-American ambassadors of Celtic music.
During their travels, Joanie and Cherish the Ladies have also attained numerous awards and achievements including; named Best Musical Group of the Year by the BBC; Top North American Celtic Group at the Irish Music Awards; Entertainment Group of the Year by the Irish Voice newspaper; chosen as the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’s International Group of the Year at the Celtic Connections Festival in Scotland; Irish Organization of the Year by the City of New York and voted Top North American Celtic act by NPR.
Joanie and Cherish the Ladies have shared the stage with such noted entertainers as James Taylor, Joan Baez, Emmy Lou Harris, James Galway, Pete Seeger, Vince Gill, Nanci Griffith, The Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem, The Chieftains and have been the lead soloists for over 280 nights of symphony performances. “The Celtic Album,” their collaboration recording with the Boston Pops Symphony led to a 1999 Grammy nomination for best classical crossover. Their reputation and popularity led to Bob Dylan requesting the band to perform for his private function following his sold out celebration of his 35 years in the music business held at Madison Square Garden.
Joanie has become one of the most visible Irish musicians in the world over the past three decades. Not only is she renowned as a composer but also as a highly energetic and invariably entertaining stage performer. Her huge repertoire of music spans a wide range of expression, from exuberant dance tunes to slow, stately and evocative pieces. She is a consummate musician and one of the most mercurial and revered figures in Irish music today.