My Weekend: Summertime is low-key for me... but first there's summerSING! 

The composer spends his free time watching sport on television or walking the beach with family
My Weekend: Summertime is low-key for me... but first there's summerSING! 

Robbie Pender, the director of Fermoy Academy of Music and Arts, is coming on board for summerSING! as a vocal coach.

Robbie Pender, the director of Fermoy Academy of Music and Arts, is coming on board the summerSING! children’s arts festival as a vocal coach. He features in My Weekend.


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work: I was born and raised in County Waterford, where I started my first music lessons in a rural primary school, mainly to miss a bit of class for 20 minutes each week.

What followed was an incredible music education at the WIT School of Music, in too many instruments (all to varying degrees of success), and years in the school’s esteemed choral programme. I moved to Cork in 2013 to study the bachelor-of-music degree at the Cork School of Music and haven’t made it home to Waterford since!

Since then, I’ve been working extensively in music education and also as a conductor and musical director.

‘By day’ I’m the director/principal of a growing music school in North Cork, The Fermoy Academy of Music & Arts, and ‘by night’ I direct several different ensembles and choirs around Cork and Waterford.

Vocal tuition is probably where I feel most comfortable and get the most enjoyment. I’ve facilitated schemes with Sing Ireland, IMRO, and the Arts Council and this year have tutored with the Irish Youth Training Choir.

I get huge satisfaction from seeing students moving along to better things and I’m proud that several students have gone on to study performing arts full time in the UK and Ireland, perform with some of the national ensembles, and a few have appeared on all the recognisable music and talent shows you can find on telly at the moment, too.

My interest in music is diverse and I try to be active in as many different disciplines as possible. For example, in the space of a week late last year, I penned some new arrangements for John Spillane’s upcoming album, orchestrated a film soundtrack for recording in Budapest, and performed in a few concerts, all while keeping up with my daily teaching and conducting engagements. In a way, I treat these projects as hobbies, and I suppose it keeps me sane.

I’m currently finishing up a master’s studies in the Cork School of Music, where I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing people and musicians on some different projects and learn some important (and tough) lessons along the way.

Pictured at The Triskel Arts Centre, Cork, are (Front) Julia Nowaczek, Chloe Power, Natalya Bujdasz (Back) Leigh Kelleher, Noemi Pisa, Robyn O'Leary and Pattie Bujdasz, from Cork School of Dance getting ready for the summerSING! festival.
Pictured at The Triskel Arts Centre, Cork, are (Front) Julia Nowaczek, Chloe Power, Natalya Bujdasz (Back) Leigh Kelleher, Noemi Pisa, Robyn O'Leary and Pattie Bujdasz, from Cork School of Dance getting ready for the summerSING! festival.

I’ve also come on board as a vocal coach for summerSING!, an amazing children’s singing and music festival that’s happening this July 11 – 15. It’s definitely one to check out for any parents reading!

What is your ideal way to spend a Friday night?

An ideal Friday is out to meet a few friends and catch up on the week gone by, although I’d never say ‘no’ to a nice dinner and a film if the offer is there.

Lie-ins or up with the lark.. which is it for you?

Each weekend is different, but if there are no plans, it’s a lie-in for me!

Does work creep into your weekend at all?

Invariably so, be it rehearsals, workshops, or performances, weekends usually fill up across the year. I’m learning to take a break from the ‘admin’ and boring stuff across my weekends, slowly but surely.

If money were no object, where would you head to on a weekend city break? And who would you bring with you?

I love cities with history and good architecture. If I’m hopping on a plane, I’d probably aim for somewhere with a bit of sun, too. Maybe Barcelona or Dubrovnik, for the best of both worlds!

Closer to home, is there some place you like to head to recharge the batteries?

Having recently relocated to Fermoy, there is a huge amount on our doorstep. 

Any time spent by the Blackwater River is time well spent.

Nearly every visit home to family In Waterford involves a trip to Tramore, for a walk on the beach or a coffee in the town.

Do you like to catch up with family/friends at the weekend?

Each and every chance possible.

Do you get to indulge any hobbies? Even as a spectator?

Watching sport is probably my favourite thing to do. If I had a clear run at a rainy weekend, I could watch every single football game possible on a Saturday (Arsenal fan), before topping up with GAA and golf on the Sunday. My own sporting career was cut short early in my teens, but I’m occasionally found playing five-a-side these days.

Entertain or be entertained? If it’s the latter, do you have a signature dish? I’d pick being entertained every time. In terms of hosting, I’ve only just about managed to prep dinner for groups of four people, so I won’t be entering Come Dine With Me any time soon.

Sunday night comes around too fast.. how do you normally spend it?

Sunday night is always spent in, usually with a nice takeaway trying to catch a breather before we do it all again come Monday.

What time does your alarm clock go off on Monday morning?

Embarrassingly, there’s no set routine. Each day is scheduled differently and particularly with other projects and deadlines thrown into the mix, things can get a bit laissez faire.

‘Work’ for me usually begins from the late morning onwards until late, so I usually spend the wee hours or the early morning time to catch up on all the projects that I wouldn’t consider as the day job.

Anything else you are up to right now?

Besides prepping for summerSING! with its incredible artistic team and staff, I’m trying to take it easier for the summer months. I have a few dates booked in for the UK and further afield for some performances and educational masterclasses.

I’ll be spending a bit more time writing music across July, too: Finishing up a suite of orchestral arrangements of Billie Eilish songs, a set of choral works for children’s choir, as well as some other small bits I’ve been putting off from finishing over the past months.

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