Hi everyone! My name is Holly and I’m a 3rd year BA Voice student at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance (IWA), here in UL. 

I’ve been singing and performing my whole life, so as soon as I heard about the IWA, there was no doubt in my mind about where I wanted to go after my Leaving Cert. Being from Limerick, I couldn’t believe my luck that such a state-of-the-art facility was so close to me, with a fantastic range of modules, electives, and many opportunities to perform. The website caught my eye, but as soon as I attended UL’s open day and saw the IWA for myself, my mind was made up! 

Personally, I found out about my course from other Limerick-based performers who were either completing or had already completed an undergrad from the IWA. The vocal/performance scene in Limerick is close-knit, so everyone seems to know everybody! 

Not only do we study crucial subjects like music theory, vocal pedagogy, and music production technology, but we also learn to play a variety of instruments, sing as part of a course-wide choir, and study music from other countries, cultures and time periods. I have thoroughly enjoyed studying areas such as community music, song-writing, vocal health, anatomy and music education. On top of our weekly one-on-one vocal and keyboard lessons, we each have the opportunity to take a range of dance modules like hip-hop, aerial, movement analysis, and Irish dance, just to name a few. Every semester brings a variety of new classes and topics and you will always be spoilt for choice! 

As a lifelong fan of musical theatre, I was delighted to be able to take it as a module in my degree – taught by seasoned West End professionals, Jean McGlynn and Hollie O’Donoghue. While musical theatre is my first love, our exposure to all musical genres has opened my eyes to other styles. Our classes on choral skills and conducting led me to join Sing Ireland and to audition and become a member of the Irish Youth Choir. After a semester of one-on-ones focusing on jazz, I also joined the Limerick Jazz Workshop. 

Studying at the IWA, I quickly came to realise that it is more of a community than a department, and everyone is extremely welcoming and encouraging. The broad assortment of subject choices means that it accommodates all types of performers and allows organic crossover between the various streams, so, as a voice student, I have not only formed friendships with other singers, but also with the dancers and musicians.  

The facilities and equipment on hand are second to none, with purpose-built theatres, recording studios, rehearsal rooms, and dance studios. 

Being a Voice student at the IWA has given me countless experiences and opportunities in the field. Pre-COVID, we travelled to Dublin to perform in Liberty Hall as part of the “Uisce Salach” project with Softday and we also performed at the Limerick Fling in the University Concert Hall here in Limerick. COVID-19 restrictions meant that we were unable to travel or perform live for the public, but we still managed to (remotely) record “As I Roved Out” and I also collaborated with some MA Song-writing students as a vocalist on their original composition . With ad hoc visits from the likes of John Spillane, Emma Langford, Paul Brady, and more – you just never know who you might meet! 

Volunteering is at the heart of UL and during my time here, I’ve received two volunteering awards. In 1st year, I received my Bronze President’s Volunteer Award and in 2nd Year, I received the COVID-19 President’s Volunteer Award. I’m currently working towards my 3rd award. 

A major stand-out experience at UL that cannot be overlooked, is down to the never-ending list of clubs and societies available to its students – something for everyone. I’m currently the Public Relations Officer for Dance UL and have made some amazing friends and memories as a result! Each week, we host a range of dance classes in a variety of styles such as hip-hop, Irish, and contemporary. We also attend the annual InterVarsities, which is an all-Ireland competition between the dance societies in each college. I could not recommend Dance UL enough; however, if it isn’t quite your thing, there is a club or society for everyone at UL. Definitely try to get involved! 

Last semester, I undertook my Co-op work placement at RootStrings Artist Management, where I learned more and more about the music and performance industry daily. Here, I gained practical experience in social media management, public relations, administration, copyright, career planning, digital media and web design. Depending on the week, this could involve creating digital content for the artist’s social media pages, contacting potential promoters, administration, coming up with ideas for a particular artist’s brand or online presence or even writing a press release for an upcoming Christmas album. I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent at RootStrings, and found each week both worthwhile and exciting, as my role and tasks changed so often. This also means that I’ve gained a well-rounded and varied experience that will benefit me greatly in my future career, no matter which direction I take. 

As much as I enjoyed my Co-op, I’m also delighted to be back at the IWA to complete my 3rd year. The time has flown so far! I can’t recommend the BA Voice enough and would highly encourage anyone with a love for performing to come to the IWA.