An Appreciation: Judi O'Dea


JUDI O’DEA WAS BORN in Dublin on October 27th, 1967 to Irish concert-pianist Veronica McSwiney and tenor Michael O’Dea. She commenced her piano studies at the College of Music, Chatham Row and when the family moved to Manchester in 1981 she continued her studies with Marjorie Clementi and later at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

She was a very fine pianist and from a young age her ambition was always to teach. Her dedication to the art of teaching was such that she took a Masters degree specialising in piano education at Reading University in this regard.

In 2003 she returned to live in Dublin. She quickly became established as a teacher – in recent years teaching at Alexandra College in Dublin – and was in great demand. She was able to reach out and engage with her students on many levels. She had unending patience and a total belief in their abilities. She would always find the opportunity to praise them and would get the best from them, regardless of their age or level of ability.

She had the knack of always finding the right piece to suit the particular personality of the person who sat in the chair beside her and she allowed for all styles of music to be part of the learning experience. Her incredible instinct in assessing the capabilities of each individual student was amazing, as was her skill in always making the study of the piano fun.

Her talent for accompanying became evident at an early age also, and in the past number of years she was in great demand in this role.

She had a steely determination that would see her fight her illness from the moment it was diagnosed. Since hearing the news that she would need surgery in 2006, Judi refused to let her sickness get in the way of her work or her social life.

She was determined to carry on with her life as normal and never wavered in honouring her many commitments. She bravely recovered from a brain operation in 2006 to continue her work as teacher, accompanist, and examiner.

Unfortunately, in January of this year, the illness returned and this last fight was just one battle too many. Sadly she passed away on April 21st in Beaumont hospital.

She touched every person with whom she came in contact; such was her gentle disposition. Her cheeky smile and that mischievous look in her eyes will no longer be witnessed, but she will not be forgotten by anyone she came in contact with. What she gave to her students lives on in their work and through their love of music.

In January when she got sick, like a caterpillar she curled up and went to sleep. But now she has turned into a beautiful butterfly, free to fly from shoulder to shoulder of all who love her and miss her hugely – family, friends, colleagues and students.

Judi is survived by her mother Veronica, her sister Aisling, who is violinist with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and her brother Karl.