As a young girl, renowned Irish fiddle player and composer Liz Carroll felt lucky to grow up in a household full of musicians with a rich Irish history. But what she didn’t know, is that the music of her family would be the basis of her entire career.
“I didn’t take music in college, because I thought this is just Irish music, there’s no place for this,” said Carroll, now 61. “It’s not jazz, it’s not classical. I kind of kicked myself because I thought there was a place for it, but I didn’t realize it at the time.”
Carroll went to DePaul University, in her home state of Chicago, to study social psychology. Shortly after graduating, she found a job teaching at a Catholic elementary school, though she quickly realized the job wasn’t as fulfilling as she originally thought.
That’s when she knew she needed a change, Carroll said. After being asked to play on a six-week state department tour in West Africa, she knew it was time to leave her current profession to follow her true passion for music. Carroll has been playing and composing Irish music professionally ever since, and has become one of the most notable American-Irish musicians to date.
Carroll has won a variety of awards throughout her musical career, including the Senior All-Ireland Championship at age 18, the National Heritage Award Fellowship in 1994, a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional World Music Album for her duet album “Double Play,” with guitarist John Doyle, and the Cumadóir TG4, Ireland’s most significant traditional music award, among several other accolades.
She’s also had the opportunity to perform for President Barack Obama at the 2009 St. Patrick’s Day luncheon held at the Capitol Building in Washington D.C..
With 13 albums under her belt, and another one she intends to release this year, Carroll is taking to the road and bringing her eclectic Irish music performance here to East Lansing. She is scheduled to perform at the Michigan State University Community Music School with frequent collaborator and guitarist Jake Charron and local dancer Nic Gareiss Feb. 23.
The trio hopes to bring a collection of new and familiar tunes for friends, new and old, to hear, and for Carroll that’s all she needs to have a good time performing.
Carroll explained that it’s the sense of community, and her fellow Celtic musicians that she’s fostered surrounding Irish music that motivates her to continue playing and composing. That, and she simply loves playing the music for who’ve never heard of it before, with the hopes that they’ll become more interested in it too.
“It’s lively. It’s dashing. It’s intense, and it’s just all-around great playing,” Carroll said. “The speedy tunes can get that reaction without really knowing what it is, and then I think the slower songs are version of those fast ones. Those ones are way more accessible for most people.”
Expect to hear a list of songs from Carroll’s most recently released album with the String Sisters, “Between Wind and Water,” as well as some never-before performed songs off her upcoming duet album with Jake Charron.
For Carroll, however, all she hopes and expects to see from her upcoming show in East Lansing is “some old friends in the audience and maybe some new ones too.”
“Hopefully they’ll bring their friends and we’ll have a great night,” Caroll said.
Ten Pound Fiddle Presents: Liz Carroll, with Jake Charron and Nic Gareiss Community Music
School 4930 S. Hagadorn Road East Lansing, MI 7:30 PM Admission: $20 public, $18 fiddle members, $5 students