Fiddle-L Anthology 1999

A Tour 'Round The World Of Fiddling

Performer Bio



Sharon Goldwasser, Tucson, Arizona ( /

Sharon was born July 30, 1956, in San Bernardino, California. She holds an M.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and works as a science teacher. She is a member of Tucson Friends of Traditional Music.

Sharon is of Eastern European Jewish heritage. Her father, Leo Goldwasser, was born in Akron, Ohio; and she believes her mother, Ruth Davis Goldwasser, was born in Long Island, New York. She is the first in her family to play the fiddle, which she has been playing since the age of 9 while in Redlands, California. She adds that she participated in the school music program and private classical lessons until about age 14. At this point she stopped playing for many years, but took three months of fiddle lessons in 1994. She has also had a few informal lessons with friends, and has participated in the Summer Solstice Festival for several years, "mainly on Irish fiddle, contra and ceili dance band music and a bit on Cape Breton fiddle". Sharon's not sure which was the first fiddle tune she played, because "I came into an open band for contra dances playing guitar - and then gradually switched to mandolin & then fiddle - so I can't really say. But I learned most of my tunes from sheet music." She notes that she's been playing Sean Ryan's Jig a lot lately and she also enjoys The Foxhunter's Reel. "Martin Hayes does a nice job with the jig, as does Kevin Burke. I love James Kelly's version of The Foxhunter's Reel from an old l.p., more recently released on a cd by Shanachie". Sharon adds that her favorite fiddler is James Kelly.


Sharon enjoys a multitude of tunes, including jigs, slip jigs, hornpipes, marches, slow airs, polkas, a few mazurkas & strathspeys... "some weird middle Eastern tunes sometimes". Occasionally she utilizes cross tuning. As mentioned above, she plays mandolin and used to play guitar, and also plays the recorder. Guitar is the instrument she prefers for backing up fiddle tunes. She plays for dances "all the time - for the contra dances in Tucson for more than 10 years, for Irish step dancers, & once in a while for other dancers (Scottish, Irish, English, renaissance, belly dancers)". She is in a band, called Round the House. She says at some point she may play in a synagogue and in addition to twice monthly dances, she currently plays in weekly sessions, other gigs and parties, weddings, and the like. Sadly, she played at her father's funeral shortly before this Anthology began.


Sharon entered two fiddle contests, but does not particularly enjoy them. Her first contest entry was at the Tucson Celtic Fesival, where she won first place against her sole competitor, Dave Firestine "(mainly a mandolin player who entered as a lark)".


Regarding her fiddling style, Sharon says it depends on the situation. "I'm most interested in playing Irish right now, but have a generic contra dance style (white bread fiddle, I call it) and can pretend to play old-time but a real old-time fiddler can spot me in a minute!" In response to the number of styles in existence, Sharon answers, "... hmm... I guess I'd say more than 12! Right off the top of my head I can think of old-time, Cajun, Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, Texas, French-Canadian, Tohono O'odham, Mariachi, bluegrass, country & western... and that doesn't even count all the divisions of styles within some of those..." She adds that there are a lot of Mariachi players in southern Arizona.


Sharon transcribed the label in her violin: "Jules Bourcard / Luthier a Rouen 1910". She notes it is a Strad style with a rich and kind of dark sound. Right now she uses a foam sponge shoulder rest pad given by her children's violin teacher. She plays with Thomastik Dominant strings and uses an American made bow from 75-100 years old, and notes she would eventually like to upgrade.


"It's my form of escape & gives me a lot of pleasure."


Sharon wrote the tune Mind Your Step in 1997, inspired by her son's step dancing. She learned The Rambling Pitchfork in 1995 from the Matt Cranitch Irish Fiddle Book. Her husband, Chuck Williamson, plays guitar on the tunes. "He is a classical - turned fingerstyle guitarist (his role model is Zan McLeod)." Dave Firestine plays mandolin: "my mentor on mandolin and now frequent musical partner in crime for contra dances & Irish music events".