Cork pianist: Classical music has a lot to offer... and can lift people's spirits

The Cork Orchestral Society PRIMZ Trio concert takes place tomorrow (Thursday, April 7). We chat to member Dr Gabriela Mayer, Head of the Department of Keyboard Studies at MTU
Cork pianist: Classical music has a lot to offer... and can lift people's spirits

Dr. Gabriela Mayer (piano) is set for a concert by PRIMZ Trio tomorrow night, April 7

TELL us about yourself;

I am a pianist, lecturer and Head of Department of Keyboard Studies at the MTU Cork School of Music. Ireland has been my home for over 20 years, after living in four other countries. College education in USA and Berlin, Germany as a Fulbright Scholar. Completed Doctoral Studies in Music performance at the University of Maryland, USA.

Where were you born?

I was born in Timisoara, the rebel city in Romania, a cultural centre and great city for music and theatre. After attending a specialist performing arts high school, I emigrated to the United States.

Where do you live?

Cork city, Ballinlough.


I live with my Canadian husband, David Whitla, who is a double bass player and lecturer. We have two beautiful children.

My daughter, Alina, is now 20 years old; she is a cellist and active chamber musician. She is studying in a full time performance course in Switzerland, as well as participating in various masterclasses and courses in Germany and Ireland.

Sylvan, my son, is 16 years old, and plays piano and percussion. He has represented Cork in international competitions and performance courses in Germany and Austria, and performed in the RDS in a Rising Stars concert.

Best friend?

I have made many good friends in Cork, and manage to stay in touch with friends from other parts of the world as well.

Earliest childhood memory?

A sunny day on a balcony with singing birds.

Where was your most memorable holiday? We had a magical family trip down the Shannon, on a rented boat which acted as our home while we drove it up and down the river, stopping to take in historical sites, nature walks and picturesque villages.

Favourite TV programme?

Chef’s Table.

Your signature dish if cooking?

Pistachio Chicken with Tarragon Sauce, fondant potatoes and roasted vegetables.

Favourite restaurant?

Out of the Blue in Dingle and Pink Elephant in Kinsale.

Last book you read?

Dune by Frank Herbert.

Best book you read?

Stumbling On Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert – a hilarious take on how the mind works and why and how it is so hard to define and achieve happiness.

Last album/CD/download you bought?

Sam Perkin – Flow.

Favourite song?

Unforgettable – by Nat King Cole / Natalie Cole.

One person you would like to see in concert?

La Scala Opera Company.

Do you have a pet?

Yes, Luna is a black labradoodle – more of a Labrador, and a great family dog.

Morning person or night owl?

Night owl, particularly ahead of a deadline…

What makes you happy?

My family is very important to me and it is great to be able to share music with both my husband and my children.

Teaching and playing, as well as running a department, means I have a chance to interact with many students, colleagues, parents and the general public. I am happy to see my former students’ careers take off in many directions, and believe that they are making a difference to the next generation.

One of my goals is to show that classical music has a lot to offer to the general public, and can lift the spirits, no previous knowledge is required, really.

Last summer, I worked on an experimental show in the Blackrock Castle based on the music of Beethoven and texts by Shakespeare, with Regina Crowley, entitled Notes to a Star. It was a way to bring music and text outside of the concert and theatre halls, and we got a great audience response.

With the PRIZM trio, we hope to bring a taste of Spanish sunshine and French Impressionist music to Cork audiences.

The Cork Orchestral Society PRIZM Trio Concert is scheduled for April 7 in the Curtis Auditorium in the MTU Cork School of Music.

The PRIZM Trio features myself, Gabriela Mayer (piano), Maria Ryan (violin) and Aoife Nic Athlaoich (cello) – it is a chamber group founded in 2017 by Cork-based professional musicians who are committed to bringing live music and innovative programs to audiences in different formats. The programme for this concert features beguiling piano trios by Debussy, Shostakovich, and Spanish composer Joaquín Turina.

Spendthrift or saver?

Both, I like to spend money on lovely experiences, and save elsewhere…

What else are you up to at the moment?

I am about to publish a book called The Art of the Unspoken – the result of many years of performance research on piano literature. It will be published by Peter Lang, of Oxford.

Last weekend I performed and presented two collaborative projects in the PERFORM_LIVE, the first festival - conference of Music Performance Research in association with the National Concert Hall, Dublin. Each day featured professional Irish and international artists performing and discussing their work in a wide range of genres and formats.


Dr Gabriela Mayer is currently the Head of the Department of Keyboard Studies at the MTU Cork School of Music. As a recipient of a Fulbright Graduate Fellowship to Germany in 1997, she studied piano performance at the Hochschule für Musik ‘Hanns Eisler’ in Berlin. She also completed a Doctorate in Musical Arts at the University of Maryland in the USA, graduating with the highest honours. In America, she taught at the American University in Washington DC and Smith College in West Virginia.

Since moving to Ireland, she has engaged in teaching as well as performing both solo and chamber music recitals.

Her area of artistic research revolves around rhetorical and linguistic influences in Classical and Romantic piano music and the application of these concepts to teaching and performance.

Her interest in effective practice and performance preparation has led to being part of the ‘Potential to Performance’ project, a collaboration with collegues from Finland, the Netherlands, Germany and Australia. A related website was launched in 2017, with the most recent collaborative seminar held at the Sibelius Academy in 2019.

Her students have won prizes and awards in piano performance and chamber music competitions, and many of the MA graduates she taught have secured professional careers and continue to be active as performers.

As a performer, she continues to be actively involved in concerts and regularly collaborates in chamber music projects with colleagues from the professional Irish orchestras and the MTU Cork School of Music.

In addtion, she has given concerts and masterclasses as part of the Erasmus programme at European partner institutions.


The Cork Orchestral Society PRIZM Trio Concert is scheduled for April 7 in the Curtis Auditorium in the MTU Cork School of Music. See

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