Universities/Colleges offering post-grad studies in Traditional Irish Music

Universities/Colleges offering post-grad studies in Traditional Irish Music

Hello,

I’m American, I’m about to complete my Bachelor’s degree, and I’ve been strongly considering studying Irish Traditional Music academically in Ireland. I did the Blás summer school at University of Limerick last year, and gathered plenty of information on their particular program, but I was wondering what others’ opinions were, and what other schools out there might offer such a program. I understand Cork has a comparable one, as well as some smaller colleges.

I’ve heard varying things on these programs, ranging from "best decision of my life" to "a way to balk foreigners for their non-resident tuition rate." I’m hoping to get others’ opinions/experiences in some of these programs.

I’ll note that the main goal I have for this isn’t necessarily career-based… I have a technical degree to fall back on, and truth be told I’d probably go back to an IT job once finished. The primary goal is to spend a year abroad relatively cheaply on a student visa, be immersed in the music, absorb as much as I can, and do it while I’m still moderately young and relatively unattached. I understand that there are other ways to accomplish this, but focusing on a degree seems to be fairly "streamlined" and economical.

Thanks,
Chris

Re: Universities/Colleges offering post-grad studies in Traditional Irish Music

Look into a working holiday visa as well, which would give you that year away and not cost you tuition. Heading to a trad hotspot, perhaps setting up regular lessons and hitting as many sessions, festivals, concerts, and workshops as possible might be a different way to go.

I am also American and went to UCC for an MA in music, although not in traditional music performance as you are considering. I enjoyed Cork thoroughly, and actually got into trad while I was there. I found the instruction at UCC to be very good, and I have been able to use skills I learned during my degree in my professional life.

However, I have met a good few people who have done MAs in performance, particularly the one in Limerick and it’s a decidedly mixed bag. For people who want to teach or want to have the master’s qualification, it seems to have worked out (you apparently get better pay as a primary/secondary school teacher with a postgraduate degree in Ireland, so it’s a popular option for that set). For people who just want to learn about the music, however, it seems like going a more independent route is the way to go. I’ve heard from many people that they didn’t learn more than they could have on their own during the time spent doing the master’s, and that it’s basically a way for very good musicians to get a bit of academic legitimacy rather than a rigorous training program.

If I were you, I’d pick one of Dublin, Cork, Sligo, Galway, or Ennis, find a teacher for your instrument, and just spend the year playing and hearing as much as you can. If you pick one of those places, you’ll be able to find a session every day of the week, there will be many concerts on throughout the year, and you’ll be in a good spot to be able to get out to sessions and festivals in other parts of the country as they pop up. Plus, there are bound to be young trad-minded individuals there who you could possibly team up with to get gigs or busk with for a bit of extra money and practice. There are many other good places for trad, obviously, but those 5 also have the benefit of being fairly large cities/towns with all the infrastructure that comes with that.

If you have any specific questions about living in Cork, going to UCC, or being an American in Cork, you can PM me. I loved it there and go back often, in part because while I was "unattached" when I went, that status had changed by the time I left!

Re: Universities/Colleges offering post-grad studies in Traditional Irish Music

If you aren’t going to use that degree for a careeer, save yourself the money and do exactly what bigscotia said. Go for a year, pick one of those places, find a great teacher (do your research, as teaching is different from just being the best player) and spend your money on that…. and totally immerse yourself in music… daily.

You will learn much, much more. I am excited for you. As you said, and seem to understand….this is not something that you will be able to do later in life.

Best of luck with whichever of the two paths you choose.

Re: Universities/Colleges offering post-grad studies in Traditional Irish Music

"that it’s basically a way for very good musicians to get a bit of academic legitimacy rather than a rigorous training program."

From what I hear, that seems to be ‘nail on the head’.

I suppose it depends on yourself. The advantage of the academic route is that it would oblige you to focus. Whereas the travel and play option is more open and you could fall off the rails etc. 🙂

Posted .

Re: Universities/Colleges offering post-grad studies in Traditional Irish Music

Last I looked (okay, 10 years ago), Irish unis were charging about 9000 Euros per year for non-EU students on a postgraduate degree. Might be more now. So it’s really not "a relatively cheap" way to spend a year abroad. Bigsciota’s suggestion is better if that’s your goal.

From what I’ve seen and heard, the trad music degrees are indeed ways for people who are already excellent players to give themselves a bit of academic legitimacy. And party. A lot.

Re: Universities/Colleges offering post-grad studies in Traditional Irish Music

…and occasionally do strange things that aren’t session-friendly to the music… and party. A lot.

Re: Universities/Colleges offering post-grad studies in Traditional Irish Music

Fair. On the other hand, I did a couple postgraduate degrees that were as useful as a traditional music masters, but a lot less fun.

Re: Universities/Colleges offering post-grad studies in Traditional Irish Music

What BicSciota and Matt Leavey said. If It was me (at your age) I would have leaned a lot to Matt’s suggestion.

Just sayin’

Re: Universities/Colleges offering post-grad studies in Traditional Irish Music

http://applications.bcfe.ie/course-PTH-Higher_National_Diploma_in_Irish_Traditional_Music_Performance.html

The above may be of interest to some. The Ceolteoir course has been running successfully for quite a few years now. It is based in the Ballyfermot College of Further Education, and musicians such as Alan Doherty (flute), Tony Byrne (guitar), Daoiri Farrell (Vocals/bouzouki), Gavin Whelan (whistle), to name but a few, have passed through the two year programme. Its run by Paul McGrattan (Flute), with an excellent faculty on board, including the aforementioned Tony Byrne teaching accompaniment, Niamh Parsons (singing) and Paul Kelly (fiddle/mandolin/craic). Recent guest tutors have included Mick McGoldrick and Kevin Burke.

The good news: No tuition! As a college of further education, BCFE does not charge a tuition fee (beat that Trump’s America!). The course fee per year, including registration, is, €572 iirc.

The bad news: Dublin is horribly expensive. I really wouldn’t like to be renting here. Although the saving in not having to pay international student fees to a university would certainly offset this. Plus, the college year runs September to May. You could always spend the three summer months in Dingle, playing gigs for tourists. 🙂

The good news, addendum: There is a thriving music scene in the capital. You could be playing sessions seven days a week. Plug yourself in, and there’s no shortage of gigs. You’ll meet, through the course, world class players, and develop plenty of local contacts if you felt like exploring the country on your downtime.

Re: Universities/Colleges offering post-grad studies in Traditional Irish Music

I’m biased as I work in the Institute but I would also suggest considering the MA in Traditional Music Studies offered by Dundalk Institute of Technology. It is a blended programme requiring just two residential weeks in the year at the Institute with the rest of the programme delivered online. This is one of the reasons for it attracting significant overseas attention.
Dundalk is located in a beautiful and historic region. Halfway between Dublin and Belfast, I can be at a session in either in about an hour, the ITMA is very accessible and the Institute is just off the motorway. In saying that, the locality has great music - Gerry O’Connor and Zoe Conway are just two of the higher profile fiddle players in the area but like lots of places in Ireland, there are too many underappreciated musicians here to name them all.
The Institute itself has been developing its reputation in the area of Irish traditional music in recent years. The Traditional Music Ensemble is well-established and has toured internationally - we were the first Irish Higher Education Institution to perform at the International Society for Music Education when we toured in Brazil in 2014 and we performed again in Glasgow in 2016. We’ve also perfored in North America and Norway in the past three years. Our postgraduates are completing very important work that is being recognised - for example Dr Seán McElwain was awarded a TG4 Gradam Ceoil for the dissemination of research undertaken as part of his PhD on Sliabh Beagh that he completed at DkIT.
There are lots of options and I would be happy to chat to anybody further. Information on the taught programme is available here: https://www.dkit.ie/programmes/ma-traditional-music-taught
There are also research programmes and scholarshop opportunities if you are interested in that aspect. https://www.dkit.ie/irish-traditional-music-ethnomusicology

Re: Universities/Colleges offering post-grad studies in Traditional Irish Music

Himself, thanks very much for that reference, that looks very enticing…

Dceol, I looked into that program, but I was really looking to do something in-residence. Regardless, I’ll keep it in mind, thanks!

And to all others that suggest taking the "just move there" route, I’m currently looking at the "Critical Skills Work Visa," and as a trained software developer I’d qualify…