Bringing the Wealth Home

Growing up in Ireland in the 80’s and 90’s was an experience that greatly shaped me as a human being and as a musician. The sense of community, kindness, humour and respectful way about people was deeply impressed upon me. I wanted to be a part of it, I wanted to jump on every opportunity to be involved. Arriving to the island as a young child, I was welcomed by inquisitive classmates who showed me the lay of the land. Having had low numbers of immigrants in recent times in comparison to other countries, the arrival of newcomers from across the world as of the late 90’s felt exciting, fresh and like Ireland had not only been discovered, but had discovered itself.

But life on the island also had its downsides and geographical limitations. Every violinist of note during those decades, and in the ensuing time, left the island to study at third level. Although this might seem like a natural next step for many an aspiring musician, this journey to artistic development is less common in other parts of Europe. In Germany, Austria, the UK, the Netherlands, to name just a few, the abundance of good string teachers enables students to find a teacher of renown between one city and the next.

However, in Ireland, the cost of studying abroad comes at great expense not only to the families of young musicians, but to the continued legacy of string-playing in Ireland: it commonly results in a loss for the classical music eco-system, whilst other parts of the world gain yet another great Irish talent.

As the child of parents who came to Ireland during a monumental shift in the emerald isle’s history, I’ve observed a country teeming with enthusiasm, openness and indeed pride in its heritage in the arts. While my parents taught hundreds of eager violin and viola students from every County, I made my way through primary and secondary school, and later, through university in Dublin.

I was the first to win a music scholarship at the High School Danum in Dublin. My mother, ever enterprising yet struggling at the time to make ends meet, suggested the idea to the school as a way of instilling a greater appreciation for classical music and of sowing the seeds of what would become and continues to be a thriving school orchestra today.

Time went by, the Celtic Tiger began to roar and the amount of people who could afford private tuition or had access to excellent teaching at public music schools increased. Children received clearer paths to exploring their potential – we can see that on the Feis trophies that carry the lists of names engraved in their silver. They read like a who’s who of players in notable ensembles and orchestras in Ireland and abroad, as well as soloists, teachers and arts leaders.

Significantly, the string orchestra of my mother’s school, Young European Strings Chamber Orchestra – the only chamber orchestra to win every Feis Ceoil since the inception of a chamber orchestra prize – was a place for community and for raising the bar on performance standards, not least because it regularly invited outside opinion. The school’s committee fundraised annually to invite a renowned artist from overseas to do a project with them, allowing the players access to music-making beyond their bubble.

As committed educators, we need to provide access to young players to outstanding teaching by extraordinary international artists. That holds true both for individual as well as collective experience.

Creating the National Concert Hall’s International Master Course has come out of a wish to place chamber music and collaboration within a broader context. It’s an important hothouse for learning and networking for young talent and, ultimately, the best incentive for people to come together and build a better future for classical music in Ireland. It enables young Irish talent to be in contact with teachers they could only access if they were abroad, provides scholarship for those that could not afford learning without financial support and is a melting pot of international and Irish students playing and performing together during a decisive period in their development. That precious moment when they set out to become professionals, that profound moment when they decide whether there is intrinsic motivation to bring their acquired knowledge back home one day.

As a child of Ireland, I want to be part of a bright future and want to give back some of the opportunity that the island has provided me.

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The National Concert Hall’s International Master Course announces its sixth edition from 29 July until 3 August 2024. This unique summer festival academy takes place in Ireland’s premiere classical music venue and provides performance opportunities playing alongside internationally renowned musicians. The NCH IMC has a focus on chamber music and offers daily individual tuition. Workshops for contemporary music and composition are held within its framework too.

Faculty members are Gwendolyn Masin (artistic direction and violin); Sarah Christian (violin); Hartmut Rohde (viola); Maximilian Hornung (cello); Nicholas Rimmer (piano); Emma O’Halloran (contemporary composition) and Zoë Conway (Irish fiddle). First-reading chamber music coachings are guided by Abigail McDonagh (violin), Martin Moriarty (viola), and Patrick Moriarty (cello).

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L-R: Adrian Brendel, Gwendolyn Masin, Martin Moriarty and students of the NCH IMC 2023