Since breaking into mainstream popularity in 1996, Ireland's Máiréad Nesbitt has enjoyed a successful career both as a solo performer and fiddler for prominent productions like Celtic Woman, Lord of the Dance, and Riverdance. Born in Loughmore, County Tipperary in 1979, Nesbitt studied music from a young age, beginning with piano, then focusing on the violin. While studying at London's Royal Academy of Music and Trinity College of Music, she began to forge a career as a classical violinist while taking more Celtic-oriented side gigs with artists like Clannad, Van Morrison, and Sharon Shannon. Her first major break came in 1996, when she was invited to perform in Michael Flatley's production Lord of the Dance, where she acted as lead fiddler until 1998. She then moved on to Flatley's second show, Feet of Flames, where she again played lead fiddle until 2001. Nesbitt was featured heavily on the soundtrack recordings to both shows and also appeared on the soundtrack to Riverdance. She made her solo debut in 2001 with Raining Up, a collection of traditional and contemporary Irish and Scottish tunes fused with modern production elements. Having cemented her place in the crossover Celtic folk-pop world, Nesbitt was a perfect fit for the wildly popular Irish ensemble Celtic Woman, which debuted in 2004. Along with singers Chloë Agnew, Órla Fallon, Lisa Kelly, and Méav Ní Mhaolchatha, Nesbitt would tour the world and record a string of highly successful albums under the Celtic Woman banner. While the lineup of vocalists shifted numerous times over the years, Nesbitt would remain Celtic Woman's fiddler for 12 years until her departure in 2016. That same year she released her second solo effort, Hibernia, and announced that she would be launching her own line of signature violins. ~ Timothy Monger
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