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Sharon Goldwasser, Round the House

~ Friday, June 1, 2007

Sharon Goldwasser is the fiddle player in the traditional Irish band Round the House. The band started about eight years ago with Sharon, Mike Smith, and Dave Firestine. About five years ago Claire Zucker joined the band as a vocalist. Round the House recently released its second CD, “‘til the wee hours,” to critical acclaim. On January 23, 2004 the band, together with the championship dancers from the Bracken School of Irish Dance, presented its third show at the Berger Performing Arts Center, to a very enthusiastic and appreciative audience.

While Sharon is best known within the Tucson Irish Community as a member of Round the House (and mother of Bracken dancer Simon Williamson), she is not even Irish. She came to Irish music via contra dancing and found her niche.

A bit of history: Sharon grew up in Redlands, California, where she studied classical violin between the ages of 9 and 14. Then she switched to playing guitar and singing during high school and college. Sometime after moving to Tucson she discovered early music, playing mostly Renaissance music on the recorder. As an undergraduate at the University of California at Santa Cruz Sharon discovered contra dancing. When she moved to Tucson, she was delighted to find regular contra dances. As a graduate student with limited finances, she discovered that she could gain free admission to the contra dances if she brought an instrument. She started to bring her guitar and recorder, then about sixteen years ago taught herself to play mandolin (a fretted instrument with the same tuning as a violin). A couple of years later she began playing the fiddle, a very different experience than the classical violin she had learned. Fiddle playing is in the aural tradition, and she had to learn to listen to the music and immerse herself in the style, using the notes only as the skeleton of the tune, to be further interpreted and ornamented. She continues to play regularly at contra dances.

Contra dance uses a diverse repertoire, drawing tunes from old time, New England, French Canadian, Scottish, and Irish traditions, among others. From this background Sharon entered the world of Irish music, immersing herself in the tradition. Because Tucson did not have traditional Irish musicians to teach her, she started attending workshops in California, joined a traditional Irish music Listserv, and corresponded with various Irish musicians who made recommendations for further study. She really started meeting members of the local Irish community when she began playing at sessions at the Harp & Shamrock.

Sharon has been a teacher since 1990, currently teaching middle school science. She worked as a field biologist for two years in California and Arizona. She received her Masters in Ecology from the University of Arizona. She taught on the Tohono O’Odham reservation for six years, then one year in the Catalina Foothills, one year at Amphitheater, and now is in her sixth year at Vail.

Sharon’s husband, Chuck Williamson, is also a musician, who often can be seen at sessions with a variety of instruments (from guitar to hammered dulcimer, to tin whistles and harmonicas). Daughter Rose, nearly 16, has been known to sing an Irish song or two (and studied Irish dancing for a year). Son Simon, nearly 14, continues to dance with the Bracken School and enjoys occasional performances with Round the House.

In Ireland traditional music is learned by living in the midst of the tradition and being tutored by a local master. Sharon would love to nurture a new generation of children in Tucson to play Irish music. She has been instrumental in bringing workshops to town (Liz Carroll, James Kelly, Randall Bayes, and Roger Landes) and plans to continue to keep the tradition alive here in Tucson.
(January 2004)

Sharon Goldwasser

Contact: Sharon


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