History of the Orchestra

Now in its 15th season, the UCD Symphony Orchestra is University College Dublin's flagship instrumental group, with a membership in excess of 80 players. It is a professionally-led ensemble that offers student scholarships and can be taken for academic credit irrespective of study programme. It provides a vibrant learning environment and a great platform for students to meet new people across the entire university spectrum. Sectional tuition is provided by principals from the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and RTÉ Concert Orchestra.


The UCDSO’s repertoire centres on concert works from the 19th and 20th centuries, while a wider audience has been cultivated with popular events, such as a Night at the Movies series, a concert of music for young people in 2013 and two concert performances with live band of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album in 2015. The UCDSO engages in joint projects with university orchestras outside Dublin, and has traveled in the past three years to Mannheim in Germany and Uppsala in Sweden. The orchestra is a member of the European Network of University Orchestras and is taking part in the 2017 European Student Orchestra Festival in Belgium. Plans for the 2017–18 season include an evening dedicated to ballet music, a show with the Bootleg Beatles and a performance of the Deutsches Requiem by Johannes Brahms with the UCD Philharmonic Choir at the National Concert Hall in Dublin.

Conductor Biography

Ciarán Crilly is Artistic Director of the UCD Symphony Orchestra and a Lecturer in Orchestral Conducting in the UCD School of Music, where he teaches modules on performance and analysis. He is an Artistic Director of the UCD Ad Astra Academy for the Performing Arts and a former Irish Research Council Scholar. He was Principal Guest Conductor of the Dublin Symphony Orchestra (2003–06), Principal Conductor of the Dublin Orchestral Players (2007–15) and has directed the Orchestral Manoeuvres summer course at the Royal Irish Academy of Music since 2014. Other conducting experience includes concerts/recordings with the Dublin Screen Orchestra, Savaria Symphony Orchestra, Miró Chamber Orchestra, Baden Sinfonietta, Dublin County Choir, Mornington Singers, Mannheim Uniorchester, EAR Ensemble, Hibernian Orchestra, Irish Film Orchestra, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Dublin Baroque Players & RIAM Symphony Orchestra.


Ciarán holds degrees from King's College London (BMus), Goldsmiths, University of London (MA) and University College Dublin (PhD), studying violin at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and orchestral conducting at the Prague Conservatory of Music. He has participated in conducting master classes and competitions throughout Europe, including the 2005 Cadaqués Orchestra International Conducting Competition and the 2006 Besancon International Competition for Young Conductors (Highly Commended). As a violinist and violist, he has also worked with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Irish Film Orchestra, Orlando Chamber Orchestra, Marlborough Baroque & Irish Sinfonia.

The Grattan Prize

This annual prize was established to honour Deirdre Grattan, a colleague who did so much to support and develop the UCD Symphony Orchestra, on her retirement from UCD in 2009. The Grattan Prize is awarded to the orchestra’s outstanding musician of the year and is usually presented at our annual National Concert Hall event in the spring. The recipients have been:


2010 Christopher Rooney (Trombone)

2011 Maeve Garde (Clarinet) & Daniel Roe (Percussion)

2012 Aoise O’Dwyer (Viola)

2013 Rachel Rynne Lyons (Violin) & Eithne Nic an Ríogh (Cello)

2014 Helen McArdle (Violin)

2015 Lukas O’Brien (Oboe)

2016 Sam Sinnott

How to join

Whether you are musically talented or have expertise in other areas, the UCDSO could use your help. There are various ways to get involved from helping with the library to concert promotion.

Auditions take place at the beginning of semester and you do not need to be studying music. The first step is to contact us by filling out the form on this site. An audition is typically 10 minutes long and you are required to perform a prepared piece as well as some sight-reading.


Rehearsals take place in the Astra Hall, UCD Student Centre. Regular rehearsals are on Monday evenings at 6.30–9pm (please help to set-up from 6pm) with extra sessions scheduled in the run-up to concerts. These all take place is a friendly yet hard-working environment. Sectional rehearsals are taken by highly experienced professional musicians.