Early Start Semester

Early Start Semester in Irish traditional music


Following the phenomenal global success of Riverdance and groups such as The Chieftains and Celtic Women, Irish traditional music is one of the most popular folk musics on the international stage. Cork city and surroundings are home to a vibrant traditional music culture and University College Cork is itself internationally renowned for its commitment to Irish traditional music and its excellence in Irish traditional music studies. 
The Early Start Semester in Irish traditional Music is a unique opportunity where students engage in Irish traditional music studies through workshops, lectures and fieldtrips on Irish traditional music at the Department of Music, University College Cork. The course engages academically with Irish music, song and dance at both practical and theoretical levels.

Course Detail

The Early Start Semester in Irish traditional Music is an introductory program that is suitable for students from all backgrounds, fields and disciplines.  To-date students from a wide range of areas have successfully participated on the course.  These include students who major in subject areas such as anthropology, sociology, history, women’s studies, cultural studies, science, art, film studies, technology and music. 
The program facilitates students to engage in a wide range of topics relating to Irish music and culture through a combination of lectures, workshops and fieldtrips. Students learn not only about music in Ireland but also about cultural and society in general.  Active music-making classes play a significant part of the month long program.  Students are given the opportunity to engage in group workshops in Irish traditional music, song and dance. Participants have the opportunity to learn tin-whistle and bodhrán at introductory levels by visiting musicians.  All of these are suitable and accessible for students who have had no prior experience.
Live music is an integral element of the course. Students attend many live music concerts in Cork city and surrounding areas.  Opportunities to witness the various musical practices in Ireland are facilitated through attending formal and informal concerts. A fieldtrip to West-Cork and Kerry provides students with an excellent opportunity to see the musical culture and vibrancy in areas outside of the city.  The fieldtrip provides students the opportunity to learn about the history of the music and to see first-hand some of the landscape that has informed and inspired the musical culture in Ireland.  
The program is designed to give students the opportunity to engage with the musical culture of Ireland while meeting students from other places.  The program culminates in an open-mic night where tutors, lectures and students themselves are given the opportunity to participate at various levels of choice. 

Course Practicalities

The course consists of approximately 15 lecture hours and 15 workshop hours. Reading material will be assigned that will compliment and relate to fieldtrips and lectures. Three days of fieldwork takes place throughout the course and attendance at live music concerts play a key role in the fieldwork. Students are also encouraged to engage with listening material that is available online, through the library and in live music contexts.


Assessment for this course involves a series of portfolio written submissions, practical group assessments and contribution to an online Blog. Written submissions are based on reflections from fieldtrips, live music concerts attended and guest lectures. Practical group exams are based on the instruments that students have engaged with throughout the semester. Students contribute to the online Blog discussion throughout the course based on experiences encountered throughout the course.

Who teaches on this course?

The course is taught by a combination of members of the Department of Music, UCC, Guest lectures and researchers of Irish traditional music and local Cork based performers and teachers of Irish traditional music. Staff at the Department of Music are leading experts in a range of areas including Irish Music Studies, Ethnomusicology, Anthropology and Popular Music studies. Students also get the opportunity to meet some of Ireland’s leading researchers and performers from various parts of Ireland.  The principal lecture and course coordinator is Michelle Finnerty.

Related Courses:

After completing the Early Start Semester in Irish traditional music, students may choose to engage in numerous academic and performance course options offered by the Department of Music. The courses take place during the Autumn Semester. For information on all Music courses at UCC that are open to visiting students, click here
Some courses are special options designed exclusively for visiting students:
Mu1V01, Introduction to Irish Traditional Music
Mu1V02, Introduction to Jazz
Mu1V04, Introduction to Music in Modern Ireland

Why Study this Course?

Unique aspects of the course

The Early Start Semester in Irish traditional music provides students with multiple opportunities for social engagement in their learning experience. Fieldtrips, workshops add enjoyable live music experiences facilitate the enhancement of communications skills and cultural awareness.

Skills and Careers Information

This course will facilitate the development of aural skills and musical analysis skills as students are exposed to the various musical traditions in Ireland. They will also develop practical skills in the areas of Irish traditional music, song and dance. Engagement with the study of a musical culture can contribute greatly to students’ ability to research and understand cross-cultural awareness. 

Student / Graduate / Employer Perspectives

Students who engage in the Early Start Semester in Irish traditional music gain employment in a wide variety of careers.

Contact Us:

For Further Information or Queries on the programme please contact:
Michelle Finnerty, Coordinator of the Early Start Programme
T: 021 4904530

Department of Music

Roinn an Cheoil

T23 HF50