AT just 35, Ciara Glasheen-Artem has been given a major responsibility as the new head of MTU Cork School of Music. The Cobh native feels honoured to have been entrusted with this role, which is a good fit for her as the college is a place she says “means a huge amount to me”.
“I feel that, despite my age, I have a lot to give. I have a lot of support which is extremely important. In the city, the School of Music is part of a collaborative effort in the arts.
“We work together to champion what we do and to constantly put ourselves out there as being a centre in Cork for excellence in the arts.”
While Ciara didn’t necessarily see herself in her new leading role, she says she always had an interest and a strong desire to improve the already high standards at the School of Music.
An oboe player who has performed throughout Europe, the U.S, Central and South America as well as Asia, Ciara is also an experienced educator who has lectured on the Bachelor of Music programme at the School of Music.
She was a lead graduate teacher for the University of Colorado from 2011-2016 where she provided pedagogical training and professional development for graduate students and trainee teachers.
She is principal oboist with Camerata Ireland and has toured with them to major venues such as New York’s Carnegie Hall, the National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai, India and the Royal Opera Versailles in Paris.
While Ciara loves teaching, she says it is limiting in terms of the bigger picture at the Cork School of Music. This includes equipping students for a life working in music.
“People who are graduating are mostly starting out on a freelance portfolio career where you need to have different skills. Our students are graduating with all of the skills that are relevant in this industry.
“Building the profile of performance practice as research is going to be very important at the School of Music. Sometimes, when you’re working in the university sector, the idea of performance doesn’t necessarily always translate as clearly or as neatly into the research world.
“So I’ll be championing what we’re doing and reminding everyone that performance is research and is a significant part of our output. When sending graduates out into the world, we make sure they have all the entrepreneurial skills they need to build their careers, such as their own branding.
“There are certain modules that students can take in that area. I think we need to flesh that out a bit more, looking at the business side of music and drama.”
KEEP ON PLAYING
Ciara is being handed the baton by former head of the Cork School of Music, Aiveen Kearney. While Ciara will have to do some administrative work, Aiveen has advised her to continue playing her instrument to keep her hand in.
“I personally would see maintaining playing as important. It’s going to be very important to have that relationship with the industry. It allows me to get an insight into what’s happening in music for our students.
“Also, it will enable me to maintain all of the contacts that I’ve made and potentially provide opportunities for students down the road. So I think it’s important to have my finger on the pulse.
“Ultimately, the bottom line, regardless of how many hours I sit at my computer, has to be the students and their employability. When graduating, it’s vital that they have the skills they’ll need to develop their own careers.”
A VARIED CAREER
Looking back on her own career, Ciara says she wasn’t just performing, but also teaching. “I worked for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Colorado as well. I did a lot of different things and enjoyed the creativity of it.”
Ciara also enjoys the variety in her career in music and teaching. She feels that a portfolio career path for initial graduates can be very enjoyable.
“It’s also important for graduates to figure out what specifically they see themselves doing for most of their lives. Do they enjoy teaching? Or do they love performing?
"When they leave college, they may be doing auditions for jobs in orchestras or they might be trying to get signed by a label or they might be auditioning for drama companies or for the West End. They will need to figure out what lifestyle they want.
“I think it’s exciting to do different things rather than sticking with one thing. When you’re young, it’s nice to be able to explore different areas.”
Until she was 19, Ciara was a flautist.
“The oboe was my mum’s favourite instrument. When I was young, she would talk about a colleague of hers who used to play the oboe.
“A secondary school teacher, my mum said she’d see if she could get me oboe lessons.
"Now, I feel it’s an extension of myself. I feel I can communicate everything that’s inside myself without having to actually say what’s going on.”
A MUSICAL FAMILY
Ciara’s mother, a self-taught guitarist with “a beautiful singing voice” and her American father, a great lover of music, encouraged their two children to pursue a career in music. Ciara’s brother, Ruairi, is a musician, a percussionist composer and an educator based in London.
“We got a huge amount of support from our parents. They didn’t try to steer us away from music. I suppose their philosophy is that if you love music and are willing to work hard, you’ll make a living out of it.”
FORMER HEAD OF CORK SCHOOL OF MUSIC REFLECTS ON HER TIME AT HELM
Recently retired head of the MTU Cork School of Music, Aiveen Kearney points out that it is the largest musical conservatory in the country, hosting over 400 concerts, conferences and community events annually. And in the last year alone, the state-of-the-art building had 450 full-time students and over 2,000 part-time students.
“Full-time students are continuing to increase as the BA in musical theatre rolls out and the DMus comes on-stream as part of the vision of the new Munster Technological University,” says Aiveen.
“The over-arching sense of satisfaction and achievement, and what has made a challenging job so rewarding, is feeling so proud as an audience member at one of the outstanding drama productions, or at a packed concert in City Hall, featuring CSM staff and students - or seeing students achieve acclaim nationally and internationally.
“The school is so privileged to have such a wonderful building, but that takes only second place to the high calibre of teaching which students receive.
“This is due, in no small way, to the partnership of all staff at every level - executive, teaching, administrative, technical and facility management - to provide the best education and experience for students.”
Aiveen also acknowledges the part she has played “in promoting the collegiate and supportive ethos of the school, whereby both students and staff are facilitated to achieve their full potential, even in these most difficult times for the arts community.”
SURVIVING CHALLENGES OF COVID-19
Aiveen says the heart of music and drama resides in live performance. And “the creativity and endurance of both staff and students at CSM during the Covid-19 restrictions was so evident in the recent Live@UnionQuay event, an online performing arts festival, showcasing the excellence at the school and featuring ninety performances which were recorded in spring, 2021.”
Having been head of the school since November, 2000, Aiveen is looking forward to having more time for family and friends as she considers “various options”.