Irish Freemasons Young Musician Of The Year Competition Returns for Tenth Year

Recognised internationally, the prestigious Irish Freemasons Young Musician Of The Year Competition returns for the tenth year and is one of the most important dates in the calendars of young musicians who will be the future of classical music in Ireland and around the globe. 

This year’s Competition will take place before an International Jury, chaired by Jane Carty, as follows:

·         The Semi-Finals – Thurs. 10th October 2019 @ Freemasons’ Hall, 17 Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 @ 1.00pm and 7.00pm

·         The Finals – Saturday, 12th October 2019 @ Freemasons’ Hall, 17 Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 @ 7.00pm

The prestige of winning this competition opens many doors for these young musicians from high profile engagements to performing concerts, teaching internationally and holding positions with professional orchestras around the globe.  This competition is recognised internationally. 

How winning the inaugural competition in 2010 enhanced Macdára Ó Seireadáin’s career:   “Winning the competition was of great importance to me for a number of reasons – firstly the prestige and engagements that came with such an award helped a great deal in improving my artistic profile. In the years following on from the competition, I have gone on to perform and teach internationally, have performed concertos with a number of orchestras both in Ireland and Germany, and have gone on to hold my first position in a professional orchestra in Austria. Winning the competition helped kick-start the process which has led to all these things, and as such, I would have to say that its overall contribution to my professional development was of enormous value”.   Macdára is currently performing in Hanover where he is following his first love with a chamber music series with his own chamber group. He is also principal clarinet with the prestigious Tiroler Festspiel Erl Orchestra in Austria. He makes frequent visits throughout Europe, the United States and China and back to his homeland, Ireland, to play with the RTE Orchestras.    At the invitation of the Artistic Director of the IFYM, in view of his subsequent international career Macdara was a member of the Jury for the 2017 Competition. This is the first time a Winner was asked to do this. 

Alex Petcu, who won in 2013, is a brilliant young percussionist from Cork School of Music.  Alex was awarded the ‘Rising Star Award’ from the National Concert Hall, where he has since given a number of concerts and released a CD.

2014 winner Gary Beecher, a gifted young pianist, also from Cork, has been continuing his studies in Europe and playing in concerts both there and in Ireland. As part of his 2014 Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the Year prize, he made his debut concerto performance with the RTE Concert Orchestra, conducted by their principal conductor, John Wilson, at the NCH in August 2015, playing the Schumann Piano Concerto.   His performance was broadcast live on RTÉ Lyric FM. 

2017’s winner Violinist Richard Thomas debuted playing the Sibelius Concerto at the National Concert Hall on his 22nd birthday with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra.   Described as the next Nigel Kennedy Richard Thomas has delighted audiences in Ireland and the UK as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player.   He has co-led the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland, lead the RIAM Symphony Orchestra and was also the inaugural leader of the RIAM Philharmonia, with whom he worked under Maestri Kenneth Montgomery, Andrew Mogrelia and Gerhard Markson. Richard is also a regular deputy violinist with the Ulster Orchestra, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and RTÉ Concert Orchestra, with whom he recently joined for a five-concert tour of China.    Richard currently plays on a beautiful 1732 Nicolaus Gagliano violin, kindly on loan to him from Florian Leonhard Fine Violins, made possible by the Irish Freemason’s Young Musician of the Year Award.

AMY GILLEN (23) (pictured), Winner of the Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the Year 2018, performed with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra at the NCH in June. This performance was part of her prize for winning the Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the Year Competition.

Amy, from Donegal, is a graduate of the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin, and is currently studying for a Masters in Music Performance at the Royal College of Music in London.

Since becoming the Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the Year in October 2018 she has performed extensively as Principal Flute with the RTE Concert Orchestra and the Ulster Orchestra. In 2019 she has also won the McCullough Cup at the Feis Ceoil, the RTE Lyric FM bursary and the RDS Jago Award.  

It is important to The Irish Freemasons, as part of their community outreach, to recognise the longstanding association that Freemasonry has had with music.  Music has always played an important part of masonic life.  Many performers and composers have been members of the craft, including Haydn and even John Walter Bratton (who wrote the music to The Teddy Bear’s Picnic!)  Many people will know about Mozart as a Freemason.  Mozart wrote many pieces of music for use in Masonic Lodges.  

Members of the International Jury for 2019 are: Jane Carty (Chairperson of the Jury), Eric Kushner (USA)     Maighréad McCrann (Ireland),Andrew Mogrelia (U.K.), Michael Pugh (U.K.), and   Seamus Crimmins (Ireland),

Fifteen competitors will perform at the Semi Finals and four of these will then be chosen by the Jury to go on to the Final.  The Semi Finals on 10th October and the Final on Saturday, 12th October 2019 are open to the public. Tickets are on sale at Freemasons Hall, 17 Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 from September 1st. The Final particularly sells out very quickly.

The Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the Year Competition Prizes to be awarded by The Grand Lodge of Freemasons of Ireland are:

·         1st Prize:          €5,000

·         2nd Prize:         €3,000

·         3rd Prize:          €1,500

·         4th Prize:          €1,250

There are two extra prizes in addition:

·         ‘The John Vallery Memorial Prize’ (sponsored by Mary Beattie in memory of her husband, the viola player, John Vallery). This prize is €1,000 and will be awarded to the competitor (in either the semi-finals or the final) who, in the opinion of the Jury has given the best performance by a String player in the 2019 competition.

·         ‘The Conrad O’Sullivan Memorial Prize (sponsored by Mrs. Geraldine O’Sullivan in memory of her son, Conrad).   This prize is also €1,000 and will be awarded to the competitor (in either the semi-finals or the final) who, in the opinion of the Jury has given the best performance by a Wind or Brass player in the 2019 competition. 

The following will also be offered to the Winner of The Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the Year 2019 Competition:

·         A solo engagement during 2020 with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra

·         Submission of the recording (at RTE LYRIC FM’s discretion) of the Winner’s performance to the European Broadcasting Union New Talent Competition, as RTE Lyric FM’s entry for 2019. 

·         A Recital engagement at the National Concert Hall during 2020

·         An engagement at the ‘Music in Monkstown Festival’ in 2020

The patrons of the competition are: Jane Carty, Dearbhla Collins, Eamonn Lawlor and John Rowden. Full Biographies of the Patrons are available on the competition website which is 

The semi-finalists at The Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the Year 2019 Competition are selected by the Music Colleges themselves from the cream of their students.  Competitors must be full time students for the college year 2018 – 2019, pursuing a Degree in Music Performance at Undergraduate, Post Graduate or Doctoral Level, or a Post Graduate Diploma in Music Performance at the following Music Institutions in Ireland who offer Performance Degrees:

·         The Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin

·         The Technological University, Dublin

·         The DIT Conservatory of Music, Dundalk

·         The CIT Cork School of Music, Cork

·         The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick (MA in Classical String Performance). 

·         Queen’s University Belfast

Music has always played an important part of masonic life.   Here is an interesting list of Masonic Musicians:

Classical: Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Josef Haydn, Emile Schikenader (Librettist of The Magic Flute), Jan Sibelius, Thomas Arne,  Johnann  Christian Bach (Son of J S Bach), Michael Balfe,  Luigi Cherubini, Charles Francis Gounod, Franz Liszt, Felix Mendelssohn,  Giacomo Meyerbeer,  Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle (‘The Marseillaise’), Sigmund Romberg, Sir Arthur Sullivan, Samuel Wesley.

Popular:  John Philip Sousa, Louis Armstrong,  William ‘Count’ Basie, Irving Berlin, George M Cohan, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Al  Jolson, Paul Whiteman

And finally, John Walter Bratton (who wrote the music to The Teddy Bear’s Picnic!)

Jury Members 2019

Full Biographies and pictures of the jury are available on the competition website which is

JANE CARTY – Patron & Artistic Director and Chairperson of the Jury:

In June 2010 Jane Carty was awarded the highest honour the Royal Irish Academy of Music can give – The Fellowship Honoris Causa (FRIAM).   She was born in Dublin.  Having studied in Paris, Strasbourg and Perugia, Italy, she started her career as a teacher of Piano, Theory and Composition at what is now the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama. A singer, pianist and cellist herself, she presented and produced documentary music programmes for Radio from the major European Music Festivals during her subsequent career as Executive Producer for RTE. She organised and directed national competitions for choirs, singers, instrumentalists and composers, and was the Founder/ Director of the RTE Musician of the Future Festival.   See website for her biog:

Eric Kushner (USA) – Juror:

Eric Kushner was born in Louisiana, USA and began his horn studies with 12 years of age. At 15 he performed as a soloist with the New Orleans Philharmonic Orchestra. From 1979 until 1982 he studied at the New England Conservatory with Prof. Thomas Newel and continued in Detmold, Germany with Prof. Michael Höltzel. 1984 he became solo hornist of the Lower Austrian Tonkünstler Orchestra in Vienna. In 1986 he was appointed solo hornist with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and held that position for over 30 years. In 2018 he moved down the section and is working in the Vienna Symphony as a low horn player. In recognition of his many years of service in the Vienna Symphony he was given an honorary Professor title by the city of Vienna. He has performed for many years with Concentus Musicus under Nikolaus Harnoncourt on natural horn and performs regularly in festivals throughout Europe, the USA and Japan. As a soloist he has appeared with the Vienna Symphony, the Tonkünstlerorchester, the Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg the Wiener Kammerorchester under the conductors Fabio Luisi, Vladimir Fedosejev, Vaclav Neumann, Georges Prêtre, Hans Graf und Frans Brüggen and has recorded extensively for CD and radio productions world-wide.

Maighréad McCrann (Ireland) – Juror:  Maighréad McCrann has been Concertmaster of the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra since 1993. In 1997 she was appointed Professor of Violin at the University of Performing Arts in Graz. During this time she has also enjoyed a versatile career as a soloist chamber musician and directing chamber orchestras from the violin. Her passion for teaching has resulted in many masterclasses and intense coaching with youth orchestras of Spain, Cataluña, Columbia, the Viennese Jeunesse Orchestra and the National Orchestral Institute in Washington. Born in Dublin where she studied music with Brian McNamara, she graduated from Trinity College of Music in 1984 and commenced studying in Vienna with Ernst Kovacic, and further violin lessons with Sandor Vegh and David Takeno. She was a member of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and played baroque violin with Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s Concentus Musicus.

Andrew Mogrelia (U.K.) – Juror:  British conductor Andrew Mogrelia has had an exceptionally versatile career as a prolific recording artist and conductor of both symphonic and ballet repertoire. He has conducted many of Europe’s leading orchestras including the Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic, BBC Symphony and BBC Scottish Symphony in the UK, the RTÉ NSO in Ireland, Residentie Orchestra and Dutch Radio Symphony in the Netherlands and the Slovak Radio Symphony and Slovak Philharmonic in the Czech and Slovak Republics, among others.   Andrew has worked with ballet companies including English National Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Finnish National Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet, both Australian and West Australian Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre in venues such as London’s Royal Festival Hall and Barbican, Metropolitan Opera House (New York), and Sydney Opera House. He was Music Director and Principal Conductor of San Francisco Ballet from 2003-2005 and in 2009 was named Principal Guest Conductor of Queensland Ballet and returned each season before becoming Music Director from 2013-2015.

In 2016 he conducted the Australian Ballet’s performances of Swan Lake in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne, returned to the RTE National Symphony (Dublin) for an Opera Gala with Celine Byrne and conducted concerts at Queensland Conservatorium and Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts (both included Stravinsky’s 1919 Firebird suite) and Nutcracker for Hong Kong Ballet with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta.    He was Conductor-in-Residence at the Birmingham Conservatoire (UK) from 1992-2002 and has worked with the National Youth Orchestra (UK & Ireland) and the New Perspectives Ensemble at the Royal College of Music in London. From 2005-2012 he was Music Director of the Orchestra at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, establishing a major programme of orchestral concerts, workshops with distinguished guest conductors and a week- long Residence for
composer/conductor John Adams. He conducted Adams’ Harmonielehre and Wound Dresser in the presence of the composer.   He has an extensive discography of some 30 recordings on the Naxos label and his recording of the complete Sleeping Beauty was Gramophone magazine’s “first choice among all available recordings”.   Contemporary music projects include Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (Maxwell Davies’ Vesalii Icones), performances of works by Colin Matthews, Ross Edwards, Brett Dean, Steve Reich and John Adams and working with renowned bassist Edgar Meyer in Australia, conducting his 3rd double-bass concerto with the composer as soloist.

2017 engagements included concerts for the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin, Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts and a performance of John Adams’ “The Nixon Tapes I” with Opera Australia Orchestra, Chorus and soloists in the concert hall of Sydney Opera House in celebration of the composers’ 70th birthday year. Works by Bryce Dessner and Jonny Greenwood were also featured.   2018 engagements included the Final of the Dublin International Piano Competition with the RTE National SO, a return to HKAPA and Giselle for HK Ballet. In 2019 he will return to the Dutch National Ballet for Swan Lake.

Michael Pugh (U.K.) – Juror:    After studying at the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Michael came to international prominence by being the only British pianist in its history to be awarded the Prix d’Or at the Aarau International Piano Competition in Switzerland.    As a soloist his performances have captivated audiences both in the UK and abroad, from London to Osaka, collaborating with conductors such as Sir Simon Rattle, Marin Alsop and Alexander Briger.

As a collaborative artist he has appeared in the QEH in London’s Southbank Centre, Salzburg’s Festspielhaus, Zurich’s Tonhalle and the Lund Art Gallery, Sweden, and performed in Metz, Paris, Berlin and Florence (with Amici di Toscana) as well as at festivals in Pienza, Montalcino and Rome, at both Aldeburgh and Cheltenham Festivals, and with Graham Johnson’s Song Makers Almanac.    Media activities have included live broadcasts for the BBC and LWT, NKH Japan, Funen TV Denmark, Rai 3 Italy and ARVO Dutch TV.    His discography includes work for Miramax Films , Sony and EMI.    In September 2012, Michael was invited to join the staff of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Séamus Crimmins (Ireland) – Juror:   Séamus Crimmins was appointed Executive Director, RTÉ Performing Groups, in 2007, a position he held until his retirement this year.  RTÉ’s performing groups include RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet, RTÉ Philharmonic Choir and RTÉ Cór na nÓg – over 350 performers in all. His twin passions for music and broadcasting have resulted in him holding several other key positions in RTÉ: he has served as Senior Music Producer, commissioning Editor and, most notably, as the first Head of RTÉ lyric fm.

For more on Seamus see:

The Patrons

Dearbhla Collins – Patron is one of Ireland’s finest and most versatile musicians. As well as being an accomplished and prize-winning solo pianist with a distinguished performing career nationally and internationally, she is respected equally as chamber musician and vocal coach and musical administrator.   She is the Executive Artistic Director ofthe prestigious triennial Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition in Dublin.  She is a Patron of the Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the Year Competition. 

Dearbhla was a member of the Board of the National Concert Hall, Dublin from 2010 – 2015 having previously served two terms as a Director of Culture Ireland.  She is also a piano teacher and Vocal Coach at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.  She often teams up with her brother Finghin Collins for 4-hand recitals and 2 piano performances.   Dearbhla has travelled regularly to China, where she has given performances with bass John Molloy, mezzo soprano Aylish Kerrigan and soprano Lynda Lee, including a recital of Irish music in the prestigious National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing.  Dearbhla regularly plays for classes and masterclasses with Dame Ann Murray and has also played for lessons with Sir Thomas Allen, Sergei Lieferkus and Brigitte Fassbender.   Performances include concerts with sopranos Sarah-Jane Brandon, Anna Devin and Pumeza Matshikiza; mezzo-sopranos Tara Erraught, Rachel Kelly, Dame Ann Murray and the late Bernadette Greevy; tenors Paul Austin Kelly, Paul McNamara, Mark Padmore and Robin Tritschler; baritones Gavan Ring and Detlef Roth. These performances include engagements nationwide in Ireland, in the US, Germany, Tunisia, Paris and the Wigmore Hall, London. She has also toured the US with Tara Erraught and given masterclasses and recitals in Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan in China.   She has worked with the NSOI, Opera Ireland, Opera Theatre Company and Welsh National Opera.  In 2006 she coordinated, in association with the Austrian Embassy, all major events taking place in Ireland to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart.     Dearbhla was the moving force behind the 2003 Dublin Hugo Wolf Festival, when under her artistic direction the complete songs of the Austrian composer were performed for the first time in Ireland. She curates Dublin Song Series with her brother Finghin in partnership with the National Concert Hall and the Hugh Lane Gallery.   Other projects included concerts at the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin with Angela Brower, mezzo soprano and BBC 3 recordings with Egyptian soprano, Fatma Said.

Eamonn Lawlor – Patron: Before joining RTÉ lyric FM when the station opened in 1999, Eamonn was one of Ireland’s leading news and current affairs broadcasters. He was RTÉ’s European Correspondent for ten years and presented the ‘Six One’ news and ‘Prime Time’ on RTÉ One.   More recently he was the ‘voice of music’ on RTÉ lyric FM, presenting The Lyric Concert (Mon-Thurs, 8.30pm-11pm) as well as the regular Friday night RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra concerts live from the National Concert Hall.   He holds an MA in Modern English and American Literature from University College Dublin. Since his schooldays he has been passionately interested in the Arts, particularly music and literature. 

Since his retirement from broadcasting he has been actively pursuing his interests in Buddhism, languages, literature and music, and has appeared on stage as reader/narrator in Michael Murphy’s Stories, Poetry and Dreams and Simon Morgan’s Keep the Home Fires Burning

John N Rowden – Patron: started playing piano at the age of eight, realising his ambition by transferring to organ at the age of 16. He studied under W S Grieg at St Patricks Cathedral, Dublin, and then later became a protege of Ralph Vaughan Williams. He has played at the National Concert Hall Dublin, The Ulster Hall Belfast, The Guildhall in Derry, Notre Dame, Paris and Liverpool Cathedral, England; not to speak of most of the Churches in and around Dublin. He was accompanist to many Choral Societies including the Seafield Singers, and has been Grand Organist of the Grand Lodge of Ireland for over 20 years.


Full Biographies and pictures of the 2019 Semi-finalists are available on the competition website which is

Claire Austen                 Piano                            RIAM
Murrough Connolly        Classical Guitar             Cork School of Music
Robert Finegan             Saxophone                   TU Dublin
Ben Gannon                  Oboe                            RIAM
Oran Halligan                Piano                            RIAM
David McElroy              Violin                            Cork School of Music
J.J. McNamara              Piano                            RIAM
Connor McQuillan          Piano                            Queen’s University Belfast
David Mitchell               Flute                             Queen’s University Belfast
Molly O’Shea                Violin                            Cork School of Music
Kieran Sharkey              Trombone                     TU Dublin
Louise Sullivan              French Horn                  Cork School of Music 

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