Scholarships for three Irish musicians


THREE IRISH musicians have been awarded scholarships to attend the world-renowned Berklee College of Music in the US this summer.

Áine O’Donnell, a singer songwriter from Bundoran, Co Donegal, and drummers Daniel Walsh and Aaron Johnston, from Cork and Dublin respectively, were selected to travel to the college’s Boston campus following music workshops at Newpark College in Blackrock, Dublin, this week.

Two other Irish students, Dublin pianist Robert Cunney and Roscommon guitarist Francis Simon, won full scholarships for the college’s online courses.

The opportunity to study in Berklee’s famous jazz-orientated faculty has attracted people from outside Ireland. Following the Dublin auditions, musicians from England and Norway were also selected for the college’s summer programme and to participate in its online courses.

Berklee has strong links with Ireland. Its director of admissions, Damien Bracken, is a classical piano player from Dublin who studied composition at TCD, while Riverdance composer Bill Whelan is on the school’s board of trustees.

In 2007, U2 guitarist The Edge was awarded an honorary degree by the college.

Mr Bracken, who has worked at Berklee for 23 years, said coming back to Dublin was a pleasure and the musical talent on show was impressive.

“Ireland is full of musical talent. It’s rich with musical talent and that was definitely demonstrated at our programme here this week,” he said. “We knew that if we came here to recruit for talent we would find it.”

The college’s alumni includes Quincy Jones, Keith Jarrett, Steve Vai, John Mayer, Aimee Mann and Melissa Etheridge. Its annual intake is some 4,000 students and it has 500 lecturers. Berklee alumni have received over 175 Grammy awards.

“I didn’t expect it at all,” said an overjoyed Ms O’Donnell following her selection. “Going to Berklee is just a dream. I went to Boston five years ago and saw Berklee and just thought it was amazing. And when I discovered they were coming to Dublin I took my chance. I’m delighted to get a scholarship from never thinking I’d even get into the course.”

Ms O’Donnell, who plays guitar and piano, said she hoped to learn how to read music and explore its theory.