Who am I?

Photo: Fred van 't Slot
Photo: Fred van 't Slot

 

I am an Irish oboist living in Amsterdam and am Principal Oboe with The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. Prior to this post, I was Principal Oboe with the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic until its closure in 2013, and my first job straight out of college was as Co-Principal Oboe with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. 

 

I grew up in Ireland's second biggest city, Cork, which has a vibrant (classical) music life and which gave me a solid musical foundation. Before deciding to study Oboe in Germany, I completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at University College Cork, focussing on Music and Applied Psychology. While studying at UCC I got accepted into the European Union Youth Orchestra at the age of 18 as one of the 'school' members, meaning they saw talent but not enough experience and so I was invited to rehearse for 3 weeks with the orchestra which was totally mind-blowing. Two years later they accepted me as a full member and which I remained for the next 4 years until I got my first job. At the time I had no idea where I was in the pecking order among my European peers, and playing with this orchestra helped me realise that maybe my dream of one day playing in a great orchestra might not be so unrealistic. Coming from an island on the periphery of Europe with no oboe 'school' to speak of, hardly any orchestras and no internet yet(God, I'm showing my age!), it was impossible to have any real concept of my level among peers. All I knew was that I wanted to do this. Maybe it was better that way.

 

I moved to Germany to study with Prof. Klaus Becker at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hannover. He turned out to be the perfect teacher for me - strict, but very supportive, and with a good sense of humour, while also understanding that some mornings he had to give me a break as I had had a late shift waitressing in the local smokey Irish pub to fund my studies. After four years with him I moved to Amsterdam to take up my first orchestral job position, having chosen Holland because of a certain double bassist, but I continued travelling regularly to Hannover to study with Klaus for another three years.  

 

Winning first prize at the Isle of Wight International Oboe Competition(now Barbirolli Competition) shortly after arriving in Amsterdam led to some important concert appearances, including a début recital in London's Purcell Room and performances at the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, Finland, the Besançon Festival, France, the Isle of Man's Mananan Festival and the West Cork Chamber Music Festival, Ireland. Over the years I've gotten to play with some great players and orchestras, too many to mention(if you're really interested, my official biography has more info) and I have been a jury member on a number of occasions, including Chairperson of the Jury for the European edition of the Lions Club Oboe Competition and the Grachtenfestival Conservatoire Competition.

 

I began my formal musical education at the Cork School of Music, studying oboe with Sarah Burn and piano with John Gibson. Many a piano lesson was spent talking about the oboe with Mr.Gibson(to kill time as practising piano was not top of my priorities), and resulted in him writing Anach Cuain for me. Later I had oboe lessons with Albert Solivérese and Helmut Seeber in Dublin, the train fare partially funded by busking on Winthrop Street.

 

Teaching is a huge passion for me and I was professor of oboe at the Rotterdam Conservatoire(Codarts) in The Netherlands for many years, am a visiting lecturer at the Cork School of Music in Ireland and I give regular masterclasses abroad, such as at the renowned Dartington International Summer School. You can read more about my philosophy and approach here. I love learning new things and am usually studying something. Recently I completed a Masters of Arts degree in Education with a specialisation in Leadership & Management, before this I dabbled in Biological Psychology & Photography, and presently I am studying Body Mapping to enhance my oboe teaching skills. What drives me the most is anything associated with the oboe and motivating students to become the best they can playing this frustrating but beautiful instrument. I admit, I am a bit of a nerd, but I am eager to pass on the training I got, not just from Klaus Becker, but also growing up immersed in the rich music-life of Cork, and from my time in Holland.

 

When not oboe playing, I am also closely involved in a number of music related projects. I am one of the founding members of the initiative Splendor, an award winning new temple for music in the centre of Amsterdam, and my love of teaching resulted in co-founding the educative wing of Splendor, Splendor Kids, which focuses on music education for pre-school children. 

 

I am also one of the founding members of the award-winning LUDWIG, a brand new music company, formed in 2012 by a group of ambitious & determined colleague musicians and creative thinkers, all well established in the cultural world. LUDWIG derives its inspiration from its artistic spiritual father, Beethoven, whose entrepreneurship and musical vision were revolutionary. In 2018 we won a Grammy Award with the Canadian soprano/conductor Barbara Hannigan for our first recording together, Crazy Girl Crazy. 

 

In 2014, together with Irish friend Deirdre Daly, I founded the DeeAispora Foundation, which is committed to promoting the richness of Irish music and musicians through the annual St. Patrick's Festival in Amsterdam. 

 

You can read more about all of these projects here

 

Being a principal oboe player, I am usually to be found at my kitchen table making reeds, a source of occasional tears and sporadic euphoria. Apart from this, I love & prefer to spend time with my daughter, husband & friends, reading(usually non-fiction), occasionally jogging in the park and curling up on the couch with a good glass of wine. I try to go back to my home town of Cork as much as I possibly can - that Irish tug on the heart strings is still, after being half my life abroad, very strong. And since 'home is where the heart is', I consider myself blessed to be able to call two beautiful places, Cork & Amsterdam, home.