Born in the Woodlawn section of The Bronx, New York, Joanie Madden has found her musical inspiration in her ancestral home of Ireland. The first American to win the Senior All-Ireland championship on the tin whistle, Madden is the youngest member inducted into the Irish-American Musicians Hall of Fame. The founder and leader of Cherish the Ladies, a band comprised of first generation Irish-American musicians, Madden has been equally successful on her own. Her second album, Song of the Irish Whistle, released in 1996, is the top selling whistle album of all time. A second volume was released in 1999.
Madden inherited her musical skills from her parents. Her mother, Helen Meade, a native of County Clare, is a dancer of Clare sets. Her father, Joe Madden, who hails from County Galway, is an amateur accordion player. Although she took five lessons on the piano, Madden didn't discover her musical voice until a family friend introduced her to the tin whistle. With money earned by babysitting, she began studying with Jack Coen, an influential East Galway-born whistle player who lived around the corner, at the age of thirteen. Madden took to the instrument instantly. After learning two songs, she began performing with her father's band. Her skills were further sharpened during jam sessions with fiddler Eileen Ivers, who attended the same elementary school. Within five years, Madden had become so proficient on the instrument that she easily placed second for the first of two consecutive years in the All-Ireland competition. She received her first gold medal, in 1983, at the age of twenty-five, the same age that her father was when he won the competition as an accordionist.
Shortly after receiving the gold medal and returning to New York, Madden received a congratulatory phone call from Mick Moloney. During their conversation, Moloney explained that he was putting together a series of concerts that would showcase the leading female Irish-American musicians at the Ethnic Folk Arts Center in New York. The series, called "Cherish The Ladies" after a traditional jig, proved a success. An album compiled during the series was named one of the best folk albums of 1985 by the Library of Congress. The same year, an album, Fathers and Daughters, was released which featured each of the women performing a duet with their father.
A more formal band was organized in May 1987, sponsored by the Ethnic Folk Arts Center and the NEA. This group has continued to work together and has released five additional albums -- The Back Door in 1992, Out And About in 1993, New Day Dawning in 1996, Threads Of Time in 1998 and At Home in 1999 -- as well as a "best of" compilation.
Madden has balanced her involvement in Cherish the Ladies with solo performances and recordings. Her debut solo album, A Whistle On The Wind, was released in 1994. Madden has performed half a dozen times with the Boston Pops and played on their Grammy-nominated album, The Celtic Album. Madden has also performed on albums by Sinead O'Connor, Pete Seeger, Andy Cooney, and Eileen Ivers. ~ Craig Harris