Q: What have you been doing since leaving Ulster University, Magee campus?
My main occupation is a freelance piano teacher. I teach in my home town in Dungiven and in Derry with the McGinley’s School of Music & Drama.
My first time teaching the piano was in my lower sixth year of high school. I was asked by a family friend to teach his children piano. I remember being so worried about taking on that kind of responsibility, but I really enjoyed it! Whilst I was at university I was offered a piano teaching job with the McGinley's School of Music & Drama. It was great to expand into Derry and I gained a lot of confidence working in the school alongside Ray and Michael McGinley.
Since then I have expanded my pupil-base to over 40 students in Dungiven, Derry and surrounding areas! When the pandemic occurred in 2020 I was even able to expand onto online teaching which enabled me to have regular online students in England! I started my own business because I wanted to create opportunities for music within my community. Teaching music is very rewarding for me! I have a warm sense of pride to come back to my home town and share the knowledge I gained while at university.
Q: What has been your biggest achievement to date?
When working in music you get to be a part of so many wonderful experiences. But my biggest achievement to date has to be the building and completion of my teaching studio in my own garden in Dungiven. It kept me motivated through the pandemic and wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my family, friends and in particular, my Da for building the studio and my uncle Martin at Air Cool Engineering for supplying air conditioning units to maintain the temperature of my instruments.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge to date? How did you overcome it?
Moving from university into the working world only to be met by a global pandemic was challenging! I was starting to dedicate all my time to my teaching, building up student numbers and planning new projects when all came to a halt. I had to quickly dive into the world of online teaching and adapt very quickly. It was hard to remain positive and energised as the pandemic progressed. The arts have been hit badly and it’s only now in 2021 we have seen a possible security in any music industry jobs returning. Thankfully it worked out well in the end for me and online teaching has now become a new resource!
Q: What is your best memory of Ulster University?
It has been two years since I left Ulster University Magee and the memories I have are some of my best. Participating in IPO New Music Ensemble and Choir allowed me to meet lots of new people and receive so many wonderful opportunities. The most notable was representing the University as part of the Ulster University Choir at the premiere of Paul Mealor’s Requiem in Carnegie Hall, New York. I am still in touch regularly with most of my close friends from university, meeting up from time to time. I have also kept in contact with some of my lecturers too, working with them even after my time at Ulster.
Q: What are your top tips for UU current students?
Say yes to everything. Keep an open mind and make the best of these three years because they will pass so quickly. University is a time to explore new avenues, try new things and meet new people. These may be the very things that help you to find your new path, your next job, a new passion, friends and life partners.
Q: What advice would you give recent graduates?
Firstly, not to panic! That first step into the working world is terrifying if you have no plan of action but there are so many resources for students out there to help improve CV’s, interview skills, funding etc. Northern Ireland is small but there is so much potential, space for new projects and ideas on community levels. Work in small steps letting things build over time but remember that sometimes things won’t work out in your favour, and that is ok! Just keep moving forward.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
I am currently focused on building my teaching facilities. I have a few small projects in mind for my students in future. Possible group workshops and performance showcases if lockdown restrictions remain lifted. In terms of education I have plans to complete a Masters in Piano Studies or a PGCE in the future, but I am unsure just yet.
On a more personal note I want to travel once it is safe to do so. I would love to go interrailing across Europe and explore Asia and maybe visit New York again. Who knows, lots of possibilities!
Q: Do you have any “golden rules” in life?
My mammy always says “‘if it’s meant for you, it won’t pass you by” and I stick by that!!
Q: Do you stay in touch with Ulster University?
Yes! I love visiting the Magee campus and the Foyle Arts building, working with lecturers and my past ensemble groups.
Recently Dr Rob Casey invited myself and two recent graduates, Leah Bell and Moya Sweeney, to perform for UTV News. It was in relation to the promotion of the new Ulster University Record Label, Outworker Recordings which has captured quite a bit of attention which is exciting!
I have always shared my willingness to engage with all my lecturers, and previous to the pandemic was still a part of the IPO New Music Ensemble attending rehearsals weekly.