Music Study Program in Ireland Takes Root

Program from the MSU Office for Education Abroad partners with the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin.

Senior Music Education student Mady Steffen playing a traditional baroque flute during a master class.
Music Education Senior Marissa Casano enjoyed the weekend excursion to the Wicklow Mountains.


After an early summer trip to Ireland that organizers characterized as outstanding, the College of Music at Michigan State University has formalized the “Music Performance in Ireland” program into an annual excursion.

As a faculty-directed program offered through the MSU Office for Education Abroad, the program partners with the Royal Irish Academy of Music. The primary area of study is flute, be it a primary or secondary instrument for music majors and minors. While the first trip in 2017 included the College of Music flute studio, the experience was so energizing that organizers would like to see the attendee pool expand.

“The focus this year was clearly on flute playing, and as the originator of this program that makes sense to me,” said program director Richard Sherman, professor of flute in the College of Music and principal flute with the Chautauqua (New York) Symphony and Lansing Symphony orchestras. “We had such an amazing experience with our partners there that I would love to see the pool of applicants expand to include other musicians as well as students who would benefit from an incredible two weeks of art and culture.”

Program coordinator Emily Roberts explained that in the program’s first year, the trial run trip of sorts in 2017, all participants were college and graduate level flutists. In fact, flutists who sign up do not have to be from MSU, and out-of-state tuition is waived. The program, however, is eager to field inquiries from other students who may be interested.

“Flutists attend master classes with a focus on orchestral flute and piccolo, traditional and contemporary Irish flute playing, and we organize a lot of other activities that allow participants to see Dublin and the countryside while taking in concerts and having a variety of experiences,” said Roberts, a doctoral candidate in flute performance who studies with Sherman.

For College of Music majors and minors, the program fulfills elective credits. Non-music majors should check with an academic advisor to see how these elective credits may be used in their programs.

“The whole idea of this program is to create a situation where students can immerse themselves in Irish music and culture for 17 days,” Sherman said. “The Royal Irish Academy of Music is a terrific partner institution, and with their help we’re able to make this a life-changing, personal growth opportunity for students.”

Students like Marissa Casano, who traveled with the program in its inaugural year, agree.

“It is one thing to sit in a classroom and hear a lecture, but it is an entirely different learning process to actually experience the music in a cultural setting,” said Casano, a senior from Troy, Michigan, majoring in Music Education. “We listened to live street performers, traditional Celtic bands, and professional Irish flutists. I experienced music in an entirely new way.”

The 2018 program will run from May 30 to June 15. Applications are due by March 1, 2018. Sherman and Roberts said the program is ideal for flutists, but they welcome inquiries from prospective attendees with a musical background or strong interest. More information can be found on the program Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MusicInIreland/) or by emailing Roberts at rober967@msu.edu.

“The musicians that are brought in by Professor Sherman are the best of the best,” Casano added. “By traveling internationally, I was able to gain confidence and learn more about myself through experiences inside and outside of the classroom.”

Kate Falck, also a Music Education senior who went on the inaugural trip, agreed. "This is an extremely flexible program which can be applied towards creative musicianship credits and elective credits," added Falck, "and the coordinators and professors put in countless of hours of hard work to make this program work for every student who wants to participate. I loved that we had ample time to experience the culture of Ireland in addition to the music of Ireland. There were so many different players and educators brought in who we had the opportunity to learn from, and I felt like all of their perspectives, expertise, philosophies, and teaching strategies gave me many ideas which I can employ in my classroom as a future music educator."

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