Student Experience

Lukas O'Brien


Medicine Stage 6

Performance Highlights: I am lucky to have performed extensively locally and abroad whilst I was growing up. I won the McCullough Cup for woodwind concerto at Feis Ceoil in 2012 which resulted in performing a concerto as a soloist with the Dublin Orchestral Players the following December at the Honourable Society of Kings Inns. I performed in the United Arab Emirates with the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland, I was lucky enough to play in that orchestra for 6 years. I also have diplomas in music performance from the London College of Music and Trinity College London (DipLCM,ATCL,LTCL). Music has also allowed me to perform in Sweden, Belgium, The USA, England, and Germany in recent years. I am extremely grateful to be a performing arts scholar at UCD, and I would highly recommend the experience to anyone!

‌Ad Astra Experience: With Ad Astra, I’ve been able to continuously improve and challenge myself as a classical musician, whilst pursuing a separate degree in the process. My very first event for Ad Astra was a masterclass series in August 2013 with Conductor Roy Goodman. It was a hugely enjoyable week, I still remember vividly the recording he played of himself as a boy soprano singing Allegri Miserere with Kings College Choir, Cambridge. After the recording finished, there was a collective silence in the room, and it was the sound of mutual admiration and respect for a fellow musician; a beautiful realisation considering the room consisted of Medics, Maths, and Actuary students! Aside from this reverie we’ve had ample opportunities to perform as ensembles: another huge advantage of the Ad Astra programme. Unless studying undergraduate music at a conservatory, it is difficult/near impossible to play chamber music at a high standard in your university. With the Academy, we have some of the best musicians in Ireland right on campus in Belfield, and the Artistic Directors of the Academy encourage ensemble playing as often as possible. We perform on campus regularly, in the O’Brien centre for Science, and Memorial Hall Richview, amongst other venues around the city of Dublin. We’ve been lucky enough to travel abroad in recent years with the Academy. In January 2017, we went to Amsterdam. Here I had a Masterclass with Aisling Casey; principal oboist of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and the strings had tutelage from The Amsterdam Conservatory string faculty head; Kees Koelmans. We had a highly engaging trip to Toronto, Canada in March 2018 to play at the residence of the Irish ambassador, as part of their St Patricks day celebrations.

Anna Mitchell


Psychology Stage 1 

I am a new member to the Ad Astra Performing Arts Academy this year and so far, my experience has been phenomenal. I had decided in 6th year not to pursue music professionally, but I knew I didn’t want to let go of my passion for the violin. The Ad Astra Academy has enabled me to do this. By being a member of the Academy, I am able to study both Psychology and the violin to equally high levels. This is a gift that I am very grateful for. It is not easy keeping up the high level of violin performance required as well as adjusting to college life, but the Academy has been very helpful. It is very important to have a balance between my music and my studies, and not to let either suffer. Being an Ad Astra scholar keeps me busy, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

The Academy has already given me countless opportunities to pursue my interest in music that I would not have been given otherwise, and I try to get involved with events organised by the Academy as much as possible. We regularly give recitals and performances in the college and this year we will travel to Canada. It is a wonderful platform for me where I get the opportunity to meet likeminded people and to collaborate with other Music and Drama scholars. I have the chance to work alongside other great musicians in chamber music ensembles and in the UCD Symphony Orchestra too. The Ad Astra Performing Arts Scholarship has also aided the development of my violin skills outside of the college. I have the ability, freedom and support to participate in masterclasses and competitions thanks to the Academy. It is great to be able to bring my talent to UCD as you can see the enjoyment it brings to the community. The recitals and ‘pop-up’ performances we have given this year have been really appreciated by the other students and this makes it all the more fun.


Eithne Nic an Ríogh


Medicine Stage 6

A typical day: Busy! I have to fit in music practise and sometimes performance, as well as my academic work, of course. Being an Ad Astra Performing Arts Scholar certainly requires dedication and it is important to be available to perform when invited to do so. However, it is very enjoyable and you get to meet other students with similar interests. From the very first day I felt that I belonged to the UCD community. By contributing to the community in this way I feel a sense of involvement which is very rewarding.

Performance experience: I play both cello and piano, and have won many national competitions for both instruments, including the Junior Piano Rose Bowl and the J J O’Reilly Concerto Cup in the Feis Ceoil. I have performed with the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland and with the Royal Irish Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra and travelled to places such as Japan, Dubai, U.S.A., Norway and England to perform. I’m now a member of the UCD Symphony Orchestra and as an Ad Astra Performing Arts Scholar I also perform at various college events such as the Foundation Day celebrations. The Ad Astra Scholars also have social events where we meet informally and get to know one another and the staff members who are involved with the Ad Astra programme.

Oisin Friel

Viola and Vocalist

Medicine Stage 6

Performance highlights:  As a violist, I've been fortunate enough to have performed in the United Arab Emirates with the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland. I travelled to Switzerland and Norway with the chamber orchestra, and took part in a number of masterclasses. As a singer I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform in venues such as The White House in Washington DC, New York City's Metropolitan Opera House, and in our own National Concert Hall.

Ad Astra advantages: Music, like any skill, requires a huge amount of practice time if it is to be done properly. Fortunately, this year I have adequate time to practice both viola and singing while still retaining control over my academic work, and the Ad Astra Academy is to thank for that. Until recently, I wanted to study music performance on a professional level, but following completion of the HPAT exam I decided to study medicine. My intention is to develop my music to as high a standard as possible, and to maintain my performance skills as an amateur. Ad Astra allows me to do that, which I am very pleased about. The scholarship programme has given me the means to combine my academic expectations and my musical passions and it is something I would recommend to anyone with serious musical interest.