Studying music is seen by many as a life choice rather than a career move or educational conquest. Most postgraduate courses available in Ireland assume that potential applicants are music graduates and the entry requirements of most programmes reflect this. In some cases however, a degree in a suitable related subject will be sufficient or admittance can also be acquired on the grounds of a performance or interview, depending on the content of the course in question.
The number of options available and their diversity from one another is reflective of all possible musical tastes and talents. The range on offer is also evidence of the room for variation within music itself. The focus can be on performance, theory, technology, or composition.
In the University of Limerick there are five Master programmes, one of which is entitled MA in Community Music. A one-year fulltime course that provides the skills and knowledge needed to forge a career as a successful musician or music administrator in community organisations. The course itself intends to develop abilities to facilitate the expression of work and talent effectively in a wide range of circumstances. Great emphasis is placed on performance and interaction within the curriculum. Graduates from this course are not pub singers or that guy on Grafton Street that warbles out of tune constantly. They tend to direct themselves towards careers in schools, multicultural arts groups, or arts councils.
Alternatively, UL’s MA in Classical String Performance provides students with the most advanced classical tuition possible in violin, viola, cello and double bass. For the more theoretical types there is the MA in Ethnomusicology, which focuses on analysing the place music has in culture - using critical theory from contexts such as anthropology and gender studies. The MA in Music Therapy seeks to educate and prepare students for the profession of the same name. Typical graduate career paths would include using music skills in therapeutic work while working in special schools, nursing homes and helping those with intellectual disabilities. A more exotic choice might be the MA in Ritual Chant & Song, which concentrates on Western plainchant as well as the relevant Irish traditional songs.
NUI Maynooth is another university renowned for its provision of music education at postgraduate level. The continual growth and position of information technology in music production has been recognised by the college with the inclusion of a MA in Computer Music, which explores the music applications of technology. Anyone who prefers the library to the computer lab might be more interested in the MA in Musicology, which is very research based. Those with a fondness for the stage will enjoy the MA in Performance & Musicology, which strives to juxtapose performance and practice with the theories governing musicology. All participants take part in a public recital at the end of the course.
Taught courses available at Trinity College Dublin follow a similar theme. The MA in Music & Music Technologies is based largely on the relationship between music and technology, and how the latter can help or hinder the growth of the medium. Trinity also provides an alternative for those who prefer to research the history and role of music with the existence of the MA in Musicology & Music Theory, which is critical and analytical in looking at historical case studies and contemporary theory. This programme can be likened to the MA in Musicology on offer at UCD where there is also a strong emphasis placed on research; but the load is lessened with an annual field trip to cultural locations such as Paris or Vienna.
As far as research options go music lovers are well provided for at Dundalk IT where opportunities are available in Musicology, Traditional Irish Music, Music Technology, Composition and Performance. Focus areas include Music Modelling and Audio Circuit Design. A current example of a research project is a study of the tradition and innovation in the vocal music of Arnold Schoenberg. A more technical based project, which is ongoing, is the development of an automated flowchart generator for C-sound audio.
Careers in music are as diverse as the courses available. The most obvious question that needs to be addressed is exactly where your interests lie: on the stage, in the recording studio or in a library? One common characteristic no matter what your personal calling is a need for flexibility. There is a wealth of opportunities out there for those willing and able to be versatile in their careers. The typical career paths can be divided into the creative, performance, production/direction, and teaching arenas; yet there are many possible diversions and combinations within this rough estimation.
Due to the budget cutbacks affecting primary and secondary schools the provision of music education at Junior and Leaving Certificate level is certain to suffer. This will invariably cause restrictions on the number of music teachers employed in both areas, meaning that one very certain career path for music graduates might now face upheaval. However one way to avoid employment issues and to supplement income is by taking advantage of the hugely popular and well-paid option of giving home lessons. Non-qualified teachers claiming to be highly skilled plague this market, and the need for those with the requisite qualifications and teaching ability is higher than ever.
Perhaps the most important consideration to bear in mind when choosing a postgraduate in music is the passion you are sure to have for it. The chance to study your obsession at such a focused level is an exhilarating opportunity and well worth the sacrifice of time and money.