Warning: potentially volatile subject matter to follow
From what I can tell, there seem to be many more highly regarded (professional) male fiddle players than female. In general, the only woman univerally agreed upon as a truly top-knotch fiddle player is probably Liz Carroll. Can any other woman come close to having the respect and status as a living legend that John Carty, Frankie Gavin, or Seamus Connolly have? It’s even more puzzling since there seems to be a very large number of amateur female fiddlers or fiddle-owners, to be found taking lessons, in slow sessions, and at workshops and concerts. Several fiddle teachers that I know have an overwhelming majority of female students. Why are there relatively few highly regarded female professionals when so many girls are taking fiddle lessons? Why are the fiddle competitions at fleadhanna disproportionately filled with boys? Even among younger gigging fiddlers, men predominate in numbers, and the relatively few women who move in those circles are rarely as good as most of the men (though obviously there are exceptions.)
There’s more: of those female fiddlers who do become well-known professionals—Eileen Ivers, Win Horan, Liz Knowles, and even Liz Carroll on her last two albums—there seems be a trend towards a particular style of flashy playing that is not just as marked with the men. Is it that they’re all just following in Eileen’s footsteps? Obviously there are counterexamples on both sides, but has anyone else ever noticed this? Several of the younger female fiddlers that I know also lean more towards that style, for example, the fiddler at the Nine Fine Irishmen in Las Vegas, and none of these are among the exceptions I was thinking of.
These comments are based on my experience and my opinions, as well as my awareness of the larger community’s opinions of various players. I would be very interested to know if anyone has noticed a similar thing, or if this is all in my head!