Bláthnaid Conroy Murphy

Freelance Musician
Self Employed
Ireland
Music
Bachelor of Music
2009

It's hard to pick out just one highlight of my time at Maynooth because I enjoyed so many aspects of the whole experience. I loved in particular singing plainchant under the guidance of Dr. John O'Keeffe, and in general, getting to perform in many different types of ensembles. The music degree gave us the space and time to look at a varied range of musical subjects, something you don't have as much time to do in real life.

I was very lucky to live on campus as well, which allowed me a lot of fun time with friends! The campus itself, particularly the south campus, was incredibly beautiful, and I used to spend time walking around in the frost taking photos of the scenery of nature.

My favourite thing was walking past that amazing tree in St. Joseph's square during autumn, when the leaves would be all shades of reds and yellows!

I won an entrance scholarship based on my Leaving Cert points, which granted me a place in the campus accommodation and €1000.

I was a member of the Chamber Choir and the Choral Society. We got to sing in the famous Carol Service at Christmas time, which of course is a wonderful event to be a part of.

I also sang in Maynooth Early Music Ensemble which performed both Medieval and Renaissance music. The highlight of this group was singing Allegri's Miserere in the beautiful Chapel on the South Campus. 

I enjoyed the use of the sports and fitness facilities on the North Campus. I was a member of the Yoga club and attended classes there.
 

Maynooth gave me a different experience of University from the majority of my peers from school. Since we were all from Dublin city, most people went to Universities in the city and lived at home. I was lucky enough to get the chance to move away from home and have my unique college life. I think also the fact that Maynooth University is situated in a small town, gives you a healthy sense of isolation and the ability to concentrate on and immerse yourself totally in what you're studying.

Time away from home is great because it gives you a chance for some personal growth as well. You have to learn how to look after yourself; cook and clean, and deal with other people that perhaps don't clean... All good things to learn!

I found the people of Maynooth and the University staff to be quite kind and caring, and I felt the college wasn't so big that you became anonymous. Of course, the music department was small, which I think made it easier to get to know our peers and professors. I made some great friends during my time here. I also really enjoyed the beautiful grounds of the college. You are surrounded by the serenity of nature, which is a lovely place to relax and go for a walk when you need to clear your mind after some intense studying.

I learned a lot about what I was and wasn't good at in terms of subject choice, and I think that's important to know in life.

In terms of musicality, the best learning I did was in John O'Keefe's Plain Chant Performance module. He taught me how to really learn a song, how to get to the essence of the meanings of the words, and how to embody them in performance. It was quite peculiar and profound, but it really has had an impact on me to this day.
 

If you're interested in music, it's a fantastic degree to do; better still if you already have some musical education and instrumental ability under your belt. When I did my degree there was a wide range of subjects available in different areas, whether it was essay based subjects, music theory, composition, computer music or performance. Because of this, you can tailor the degree to suit your strengths.

As with any degree nowadays, don't be expecting to be handed a job on a plate when you walk out of college. You will have skills that will be useful and adaptable for many jobs, but you have to know your strengths and be able to market them and promote yourself a lot. I have read that people with music degrees are among the most employable of all, because they learn self-management, team work, business and customer awareness, problem solving, communication, numeracy, and IT skills (http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/oct/11/music-students-employab...).

Music is universal and gives you the opportunity to relate to people all over the world. I have travelled the globe through my music and have made connections with people everywhere because of it. I joined the Irish vocal ensemble Anúna in Ireland, through which I met The Wiggles, who subsequently invited me to join their performing cast and move to Australia and tour internationally with them. My music work has brought me to Japan, China, USA, Canada, Singapore, New Zealand, Iceland, Holland, Belgium, Germany, England and of course all over Ireland.

My final advice would be to follow your own interests and work hard at perfecting what you love doing.