UCC International Office courses

Early Start Semester in Irish Traditional Music

About This Course

Fact File

Course Outline

The Early Start Semester in Irish Traditional Music presents a unique opportunity for students to engage in Irish traditional music studies through workshops, lectures and field-trips on Irish traditional music at the Department of Music, University College Cork (UCC). 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 its surrounding area is home to a vibrant traditional music culture, and UCC is itself internationally renowned for its commitment to Irish traditional music and its excellence in Irish traditional music studies. The course engages academically with Irish music, song and dance at both practical and theoretical levels.

The Early Start Semester in Irish Traditional Music is an introductory course 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 course facilitates students to engage in a wide range of topics relating to Irish music and culture through a combination of lectures, workshops and field-trips.

Students learn not only about music in Ireland but also about culture and society in general. Active music-making classes play a significant part of the month long programme. Students are given the opportunity to engage in  group workshops in Irish traditional music, song and dance. They have the opportunity to learn tin-whistle and bodhrán at introductory levels from 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 Corkcity and its surrounding areas.

Opportunities to witness the various musical practices in Ireland are facilitated through attending formal and informal concerts. A field-trip 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 field-trip provides students with 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 course is designed to give students the opportunity to engage with the musical culture of Ireland while meeting students from other cultures. It culminates in an open-mike night where tutors, lecturers and students are given the opportunity to participate at various levels of choice.

Additional Teaching Mode Information

Lectures; seminars/field trips

Course Practicalities

The course consists of approximately 15 lecture-hours and 15 workshop-hours. Reading material will be assigned that will complement and relate to-field trips and lectures. Three days of fieldwork takes place throughout the course, and attendance at live music concerts plays 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 field-trips, 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.

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.

Why Choose This Course

The Early Start Semester in Irish Traditional Music provides students with multiple opportunities for social engagement in their learning experience. Field-trips and workshops add enjoyable live music experiences and facilitate the enhancement of communication 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. Students 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 the student’s ability to research and understand cross-cultural awareness. Students who engage in the Early Start Semester in Musics in Ireland gain employment in a wide variety of careers.


The minimum grade point average (GPA) requirement for admission to the program is normally 3.0 out of 4.0

Fees and Costs

€8,380- The cost of all field trip activities are covered as part of the programme. Students are required to purchase a tin whistle to participate in this workshop

How Do I Apply

See Visiting US and Non-EU Students for how to apply.


For queries regarding course content or timetables please contact