Liz Baker, a music teacher from California, spent part of her summer on Performing Arts Abroad’s Irish World Academy Summer Music Intensive, where she immersed herself in the music of Ireland. There are so many things I could say about…
Train in Irish music at The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance (IWA) this summer! This two-week intensive is built around a central structure of small master classes, where you will have an unparalleled level of access to tutors who are leading experts and performers on a specific instrument (or voice). Lectures, illustrated talks, workshops, and other activities are packed around the master classes to give you both a broad understanding of the tradition as well as advanced practical skills. While the emphasis will be on practical instruction, students will also gain an understanding of the history and development of Irish music, right in the heart of where it was developed! All training occurs in the beautiful IWA facilities on the banks of the River Shannon, and you will be invited to participate in nightly traditional jam sessions in the campus pub.
“I literally have nothing bad to say about this program! All of the logistics were made clear from the start of the application process and because of this I felt very comfortable with leaving the country by myself. The classes were all great with some truly phenomenal instructors in the Irish music scene. The food was good, transportation was easy to arrange and the culture was relatively easy to adapt to. Most importantly, my fellow students became very close friends over just two weeks and I know that we will keep in touch even though the program has ended.”
Performing Arts Points of Interest
Dolan’s is a music venue and restaurant well-loved by the Limerick community. The venue is a lively atmosphere that hosts local and international bands frequently. There are also numerous events happening often at the site. Past events have included launch parties, “An Enchanted Evening” by the Cecilian Musical Society, and the Limerick Animal Welfare Lip Sync Battle.
The Red Hen
The Red Hen is a restaurant bar in Limerick known for its live music. The Red Hen took a unique approach in their origins as a late night venue as they built their brand around the music they wanted to attract. The Red Hen is so committed to new, local music that the first 4 bands that played at the bar didn’t even have a name yet! Each week the Red Hen hosts at least 3 live performances.
The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance
Part of the University of Limerick, the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance is a creative space for musicians, dancers, and artists of all types. The academy hosts events and performances for the public and university community.
PAA Home Base
The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance is the pinnacle of performance and academic excellence housed at the University of Limerick. Founded in 1994 by Professor Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, the academy has come to find its true home on the beautiful banks of the River Shannon in a state of the art building, which includes two theatres, a recording studio, and individual dance studios, providing an inspiring creative space for all who study there.
About the Location
Limerick is Ireland’s third largest city with the cultural excitement of a metropolis and the charm of a town. Named as Ireland’s 2014 National City of Culture, the easygoing city will captivate you with its surrounding bright green landscape, friendly residents, and historical buildings. Explore ancient castles, walk along the River Shannon, or spend the day in Limerick’s modern downtown. Limerick is an artistic center with countless venues for Irish music and dance as well as a rich history. The city’s mild weather makes it easy to take advantage of the old world pubs, delicious restaurants, and many sports venues. Limerick is the perfect starting point from which to explore Ireland’s West and Southwest regions. Within driving distance of the city are the Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle and Fold Park, Adare, Killarney, and the incredible scenery of Galway.
On-campus accommodation is provided in the magnificent Cappavilla Student Village on the banks of the River Shannon, and only a brief walk away from the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. Participants will have single rooms in a six-bedroom house. Houses are integrated with international and local students living together, meaning you will have the chance to make Irish friends as well as meet students from other countries. Included in the cost of housing are shared amenities of a fully equipped kitchen, living room, internet, cable TV, and in each bedroom a bed, desk, and wardrobe. Each room is single occupancy with a double bed and private bathroom.
Village management lives on site and is on call 24 hours a day. They are committed to making your living situation a positive one, and with years of experience hosting new and international students they can help you with any problems that may arise from homesickness to housemates.
Summer facilities in Cappavilla student village include:
- All bedrooms are en suite (private bathroom) and include quality study space
- Fully fitted kitchen/living room equipped with all necessary utensils, oven and fridge freezer
- Color television
- Central heating
- Telephone in each house
- Nightly security patrols
- Secure bicycle storage
- Bed linen and towels are provided for the length of stay.
- Internet access is provided free of charge to Blas students through the Glucksman Library on campus.
A Day in the Life
The Participant Experience
“Blas” means “taste” in Irish Gaelic, and this program gives you the opportunity to focus on training in your primary instrument, while getting a “taste” of other instruments and even dance! You have full control over your masterclass schedule, and can choose from any number of instruments offered, or singing. The first few days of the program will be spent with our Site Director, John, exploring Limerick and the region of Ireland where it is situated. Then you will be handed off to our Program Director, Pam, who will get you oriented to the intensive training program. Once the training starts, your days will be packed from early in the morning to late at night with traditional Irish music. The weekend between the two weeks of training is meant for relaxing and a full-day excursion where you will visit the iconic Cliffs of Moher, along with other famous landmarks in the region.
You will book a flight to arrive at Shannon Airport (SNN) before 10:00 a.m. on the arrival day. You will be greeted by our Site Director, John, who will transport you to your housing at the University of Limerick before taking you on a campus orientation walking tour to familiarize you with the place you will call home for the next 17 days. You will then meet at an on-campus pub called The Stables Bar and take a bus to the city centre of Limerick for a walking tour and welcome meal. After the meal, you will see other areas of Limerick including King John’s Castle and St. Mary’s Cathedral. Time will be allotted for shopping to pick up anything you may have forgotten, and to get a local SIM card for your phone. After enjoying coffee to keep you awake after a long day, you will return to campus to settle in to your room and get a good night’s sleep.
The following day, you will join the group for a day-long excursion to Lough Gur and the town of Kilmallock. On Saturday, you will have a relaxed “food tour” of downtown Limerick, including a visit to the wonderful milk market to try local specialties. Sunday is the last day before your rigorous training schedule begins, and you will have the day free to enjoy the campus and town, and do whatever you need to prepare.
A Typical Day
A typical day on the Blas training program includes the following components:
- Lectures on ethnomusicology and the history of Irish music and dance by renowned professors
- Masterclasses where you train in one specific instrument at a time (you will choose a primary instrument and are welcome to train in others as well)
- A daily Tutor Concert where you will see your instructors perform together
- Irish Gaelic classes to learn the traditional local language
- Dinner in the on-campus restaurant (included in the program cost)
- Nightly traditional Irish music and dance session at the campus pub
- Ticket to the Blas concert series (one concert per week), showcasing Ireland’s finest talents
- Ensemble rehearsals to prepare for the final student performance (second week only)
- Final performance showcasing what you have learned
To download a sample timetable for this summer’s training, please click here.
To download a comprehensive list of Blas music instructors, please click here. Note that final instructors will be chosen closer to the program’s start date.
Now in its 22nd year, the Blas program is offered by the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at The University of Limerick. Located in one of the most beautiful and vibrant artistic communities in Ireland, Limerick has consistently been named one of the emerald isle’s best places to visit, and was named the 2014 Irish National City of Culture. The University has been hosting international students who want to be immersed into culture for years, and prides itself on the welcome atmosphere it offers. The Irish World Academy is renowned as a place to “break new ground, to find your own voice, to rediscover older sounds and gestures or to reinvent received traditions,” and the Blas program is a unique and prestigious opportunity.
Because Blas is run out of the University of Limerick, you have the option to receive an academic transcript for 3 credits. Your Program Coordinator will ask you if you are interested in this option during your application interview.
Founder and Executive Director
Reynolds graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008 with a degree in Theater and African and African American Studies. For an honors thesis Reynolds filmed, edited, and produced a full-length documentary in Kenya with Haba na Haba, a group using performance for education and social change in the slums of Nairobi. This project earned him the Forum on Education Abroad Undergraduate Research Award. A year later, Reynolds organized a trip to bring Haba na Haba to the United States for a tour of St. Louis and Washington University. Immediately after graduation, Reynolds worked in Rwanda as a filmmaker for Millennium Congregations, an interfaith organization connecting communities of faith in the United States with development projects in Rwanda’s Bugesera District. Reynolds then served two years with Teach for America, teaching in the South Bronx and receiving a Masters Degree in Education from Hunter College. He completed a second graduate degree in African Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington, and his Masters thesis focused on the impact of donors on the creative process of Theatre for Development (TfD) groups in Kenya.
Reynolds has traveled extensively in Africa, spending time in Ghana, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He also studied acting, voice, and movement at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Reynolds is a two-time Rhodes Scholarship finalist, the inaugural recipient of the Dred and Harriet Scott Award for the Advancement of Human Rights, and the winner of two research fellowships. He was also a Dialogue Fellow for the Xenia Institute, has twice served as the co-director for the Roosevelt Institution’s International Diplomacy Center (Washington University branch), and was president of the Graduate Students of African Studies (GSAS) at Indiana University.
Reynolds lives in Northampton, MA with his wife Julia who is a professional costume designer and his daughter Lily who is a cute baby. In his free time Reynolds likes to play his guitar, go hiking, act in local productions, hit the karaoke bars, sing with his dog Captain (the best doggy singer in the universe), and play various yard games such as KanJam, cornhole, “cups”, and Kubb.
Ireland Program Director, Summer Intensives
Pam leads the training component of our summer intensives with the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in Limerick, Ireland. She coordinates the training schedule, organizes the weekend excursion, selects the instructors, and overseas every aspect of the two-week intensive training course.
Pamela Cotter is a dancer, choreographer, and teacher from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. In 2006, she moved to Ireland to pursue the BA in Irish Music and Dance at the University of Limerick, from which she graduated with First Class honours (2010).
She went on to complete the MA in Ethnomusicology at the University College Cork (2011) with honours, where her thesis took the form of a comparative analysis of the leading organisations in traditional Irish music and dance, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha. Before moving abroad, Pamela also completed a Diploma in Honours Social Science with a double major in Child Studies and Women Studies from Vanier College, Montreal, Quebec.
Pamela began dancing at the age of ten, focusing on Tap, Irish, and Ballroom. Since moving to Ireland, she has had the pleasure of dancing with several shows around Europe and the UK, including performances at the Munich Philharmonic and the Festival Interceltique de Lorient. Most notably, Pamela was commissioned in 2010 to choreograph a new Irish music and dance show, Scéala, later performed in Torino, Italy.
Pamela is a qualified Irish dancing teacher (T.C.R.G.) with An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha and is currently lecturing on both undergraduate programmes at the Irish World Academy, the BA in Irish Music and Dance, as well as the BA in Voice and Dance. She is also working on a research PhD that examines the communal participatory events which take place during Irish traditional music festivals.
Ireland Site Director
John supports all participants on our Ireland programs, acting as the main point of contact throughout their stay in the country. He coordinates airport pickup, arranges housing, leads cultural excursions, and manages the 24-hour onsite emergency phone.
John was born and raised in Ireland. He grew up on a dairy farm in Tipperary before heading to college. He studied at the National University of Ireland, Galway and University of Limerick. During his wonderful four years of college in Galway John loved the various productions staged by the world-famous Druid Theatre. During his year studying for his Masters in Limerick John loved attending visual art exhibitions and Drama performances at the renowned Belltable Arts Centre. Now he loves immersing himself in the cutting-edge arts scene in Dublin.
John adores travelling and has lived and worked in five different European countries. He has taught in Spain, Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom, worked on farms in the Netherlands and has led study abroad programs in the British Isles and Austria. John believes both international education and travel are essential in today’s world and is on hand to help smooth our participants’ paths whilst abroad.
John is married to Anja – 17 years and counting! Together they have two teens (Nathan 17) and tween (Lauren 15). When John isn’t dealing with teen vs tween friction and angst he loves watching westerns, war films and watching/tweeting about sport. He’s completely crazy about almost all sports and promises to take participants to see a match of one kind or another. All in all he’s a very friendly person who always wants to help others achieve their goals.
“Blas is one of the best experiences I’ve had. It gave me the opportunity to make friends from several nations and a wide variety of ages, work with some of Ireland’s greatest musicians, and immersed me in Irish music. I met people I know I’ll continue friendships with and talk to for a long time. The faculty at Blas were wonderful and helpful. I one hundred percent recommend this program!”
“During my time at the Blas Summer School, I had one of the best experiences of my life. I made friendships and connections that will last a life time, I learned about traditional Irish music and dance, and I got the chance to work with some of the best Irish musicians and tutors out there.”
“It was incredibly refreshing to learn how another culture experiences music. With the opportunity to learn Irish Traditional Music, I was able to enjoy music free from any competitive atmosphere. I felt free to try new instruments and I felt welcomed by musicians of all levels. Experiencing music from a different cultural context brought new life into my approach towards music. Music became a means of therapy rather than a means to gain a competitive edge. This was just the kind of trip I needed to bring life into my own approach towards composition and performance.”
From the blog
By Elizabeth Graber and Mac Sinise You learn a lot of strange facts in Ireland, especially when you discover a book called Etiquette for Girls by Lucie Heaton Armstrong while searching through an antique shop. That’s where this gem came…
Jared Coller is a music industry major at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is a percussionist, and has also studied piano, tuba, guitar, ukulele, Chinese cucurbit flute, harp, string methods, scoring and arranging, and composition. This summer he attended the Blas…
How it Works
The information on this page provides details for a sample group program. Note that every group is different, and we will work with you to cater the experience to your group. To connect with us and begin organizing a program for your group, please follow the “Get Started’ button below and submit an initial questionnaire. We will then contact you to set up a discovery call where we can go into more detail about your group’s needs and what we can offer.