'I am really proud of the work I do and the people I get to meet along the way'

The Blackwater Valley Opera Festival gets underway this week, we talk to Cork woman Shauna McCullough, who will be taking part
'I am really proud of the work I do and the people I get to meet along the way'

Shauna McCullough from Music Generation Waterford, who lives in Rathcormac

Shauna McCullough, who lives in Rathcormac, is a Music Development Officer with Music Generation Waterford, who are involved in the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival. She features in our Person to Person

TELL us about yourself;

I’m Shauna, I am the Music Development Officer for Music Generation (MG) Waterford, a graduate of CIT/MTU Cork School of Music and University of Limerick.

Music has been a huge part of my life since I started playing trumpet in primary school and I have been lucky enough to be able to continue having music in my life in so many ways since.

I started working with Music Generation Cork City in 2011 as a tutor and had the most amazing experiences working with children, young people as well as colleagues who are truly passionate about music education.

Since 2018, I started my role as MDO for MG Waterford, which involves working with a team to create ways for children and young people to experience, access, and create music across Waterford city and county.

My job is incredibly varied, as I sit and write this I have just arrived home from a day in the Theatre Royal with a dream team and 30 second-level musicians lifting the roof with savage musicality. Tomorrow, I will be working behind the scenes prepping for another totally different exciting partnership as we roll out an outreach programme that is part of the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival.

That is a musical journey from AC/DC (rock) to Gluck’s Orfed ed Euridice (opera) in less than 24 hours, where would you get it, like!

Where were you born?

In the Coombe Hospital, Dublin, and grew up not too far from there in Dublin 12.

Where do you live?

I live in Rathcormac, just out the Dublin road past Watergrasshill. I love it here, we’ve been working on renovating our forever home, it’s a little bungalow near the village which is also a handy enough spin to work in Waterford. 

I head past Fermoy, through to Lismore and Cappoquin, on to Dungarvan and Youghal, all places that will experience Blackwater Valley Opera Festival in 2022.


My mam and two younger sisters live in Cobh and I live with my partner Mark and our cat Diego in Rathcormac.

Best friend?

I couldn’t possibly pick just one – I am so lucky to have many friends in my life, if I were to single one out I’d never hear the end of it from the others!

Earliest childhood memory?

Oh janey, I must have been about five or six and we had headed on a fishing trip with my nana’s sister and her husband. I remember being on the boat with this absolutely giant yellow life jacket and I was munching away on ham sambos, when they caught a mackerel fish and I called it ‘Macky’ and made them throw it back in. I was convinced he would be a forever friend if I saved him!

Person you most admire?

This is such a hard question, it changes depending on what’s going on for me at any given time. But I defo hold great admiration for people that are truly passionate about something and show up with their whole selves, raw and honest.

Person who most irritates you?

Myself, definitely. I am the hardest on myself and set the bar so high that I end up working, working, working and crashing. 

I’ve tried to get better at work/life balance, during lockdown I hopped on Done Deal and bought a lathe from a lovely man in Tipp’ and started to learn how to turn wood on YouTube, making bowls, gonks and those type of things.

Where was your most memorable holiday? Undoubtedly Sicily, we found this gem of a spot in Lingualossa called Villa Neri.

Favourite TV programme?

I really enjoy watching Other Voices, or the Ireland in Music series on RTÉ lately. Aside from that, I am addicted to Neighbours and Four in a Bed!

Favourite radio show?

The Art House with Elmaire Mawe 8am – 10am Sundays on 96fm. Then a re-tune and on to Cerys Matthews from 10am until 1pm, BBC6 Radio.

Your signature dish if cooking?

Oh, either a veg korma (Happy Pear recipe) or chicken and chorizo risotto. Jeez, I’m starvin’now!

Favourite restaurant?

In Cork, can’t beat a pizza and pint in Rising Sons after a stroll around the city. Waterford… there is a gorgeous bakery in Lismore called Vinilo bakery, absolutely amazing for bread and pastries. ‘AndChips’ in Dungarvan is also a real treat, a gourmet takeaway by chef Eunice Power. She is also the chef behind the dining and picnic table options for anyone looking to amplify their Blackwater Valley Opera Festival opera experience with a pre-performance meal.

Last book you read?

Circe, by Madeline Miller which is the road of an outcast hero in Greek mythology.

Best book you read?

Ah no way, I can’t choose one, so here’s two totally different ones that come to mind straight away, Star of the Sea, by Joseph O’Connor and Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden.

Last album/CD/download you bought?

Balkan Paradise Orchestra. I enjoy any music with a good brass line!

Favourite song?

Another impossible question! Ezra Collective, Chris Malinchak, Imelda May, Pink Floyd, Stone Roses... the list is endless.

One person you would like to see in concert?

I look forward to seeing all the young musicians we work with, past, present and future, through Music Generation Waterford - realising their goals and their dreams by seeing them in concert.

Morning person or night owl?

Night owl!!!

Your proudest moment?

I started teaching cornet to this amazing little person when she was in Greenmount National School as part of Barrack Street Band & Music Generation Cork City partnership. Now she is a 3rd year music student in UCC, Quercus Scholarship recipient, lead brass in well-known Cork ska band Pontius Pilate and the Naildrivers, and is heading off to Cape Cod for the summer.

Seeing the small part I played in her success reinforces the reasons why I took this career path. 

I am really proud of the work I do and the people I get to meet along the way.

What makes you happy?

Being busy, having a purpose, and moving forward in life creatively and with adventure.

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone that was generous in spirit and made a positive difference. I try to turn up and be in the moment with whomever I cross paths with and whatever I am doing.

What else are you up to at the moment?

Prepping and working with three inspirational Music Generation Waterford team members: Elizabeth Drawl Stuttard, Fiona Flavin and Chloé Mills, and the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival team; we are going to create the most exciting Discover Opera and Discover Singing experiences for some 250 primary school children throughout May and festival week, June 1-5. 

We are also collaborating with Amy Gillen, flautist and 2021 recipient of the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival Bursary Award, hoping she will inspire the young flautists we work with, through our wind instrument schools programme with musician educator Danny Pullman.

To find out more about Blackwater Opera Festival, visit www.blackwatervalleyoperafestival.com.

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