“The talent at the Academy of Popular Music was nothing less than breathtaking....they were something else...it is important to maintain a vibrant cultural space, particularly at a time of economic recession, and great credit was due to the directors, staff and tutors of the Academy for their nurturing and creativity...the Academy will be of great benefit, not just to the young people of cork but also further afield”
“Thank you so much for having Ceola this week at your band camp. It was the best camp she has ever attended to date. Yesterday when they performed, I saw something in her I had never seen before. She was confident, maybe even overconfident :D But she most of all was comfortable in her own skin. She faced the fear and sang her heart out in front of so many. I'm so grateful to you. Thank you for switching a light on in her. ”
“From my two years of attending the Academy of Popular Music I would just like to say that not only does the academy let your creativity and passion for music blossom, but the experience and the people that come with going to the academy is something that you can't miss. The Academy of Popular Music is one of the best things about my life it makes me look forward to my week. I look forward to meeting my friends at The Academy and I look forward to the lessons, which can be about music, but you get valuable life lessons too. So let's get one thing straight, the Academy of Popular Music is like a huge family. Music is our bond and our soul, and if you are truly passionate about music, well, you are welcome to our family any time”
“After being in the Academy for over 3 years, not only has my playing greatly improved thanks to the teachers, but I've met so many great people to play with and have had some of my best experiences recording and gigging with different people. I can confidently say that I would be a completely different person without the Academy and strongly recommend it to any musician out there looking to improve their skills or meet other like-minded people”
“My daughter is one of the youngest playing keyboards at the school, and I went to the Christmas concert expecting to listening to loads of tripe before I could see my daughters bit and go home. Only I genuinely enjoyed every act and felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck for some of them. The talent is real, palpable and wonderful. And the camaraderie of the performers warms the heart. I am excited to see what the wonderful performers/students will do next and am delighted my daughter gets to be a part of it. She loves the school, and so do I”
“Trish Rooney vocal coached me between the ages of 14 and 18 and she was an essential decision for my vocal training. Trish’s teachings taught me not only cutting edge vocal techniques and about vocal health, but her classes also allowed me to develop as an artist. Trish helped me retain my individuality as a singer while also pushing me to experiment with other genres.
When I started receiving lessons from Trish, my self-confidence on stage was quite poor, however she helped me improve my stage fright by leaps and bounds through exercises and frequent vocal concerts that she organized for her students. Trish is one of the rare vocal coaches that you can tell is genuinely invested in her students. Under her teachings, she was always a quick message away if I had any queries about my voice or performance techniques.
I am now studying a BA (Hons) vocal degree in creative musicianship at BIMM London and my acceptance was largely down to how well Trish prepared me for the audition. Throughout my time with Trish, she was constantly organizing Master classes, gigs, and coming up with new vocal techniques. I would certainly say she is one of the most dedicated popular music vocal coaches in Ireland, perhaps even further afield”
“Hi my name is Sam O'Brien and I've been studying at the Academy for the last three years. I have really enjoyed my time at the Academy because I've improved as a musician thanks to the help from the tutors, and I've also gotten more confident when performing in front of an audience. I have played at many different concerts thanks to the Academy, and each one has been a great experience. I've learned about my own instrument as well playing in bands and learning music theory. The tutors are all very helpful and encouraging, and they are a huge part of what makes the Academy a great place to learn music. I look forward to my lessons at the Academy each week, and I can't wait to go back in September”
“As keynote speaker at the Academy’s Conference on Music Education in April 2014, I was delighted to be able to hear performances from many of the students. I was very impressed by the professionalism of both the students and staff. All of the students performed at a very high standard. They were extremely enthusiastic and clearly enjoyed what they were doing.
Overall, the experience was inspirational. Playing instruments and music that inspired the students had clearly had an enormous impact on them. The Academy is providing opportunities for students to develop a wide range of musical and other transferable skills and is doing so at a very high level. I wish it and all its students every success”
“I can’t tell you how lucky the city of Cork is, to have the Academy of Popular Music. But I can tell you, that I wish there was one in every city in the country.
Because: It’s a cutting edge institution, with the very best of motivated, committed tutors, who are gigging musicians in their own rights and who “know the ropes” of the world of the freelance musician. It has the best programs and structures that I have seen nationwide, the best of opportunities for young musicians (of all levels) to progress (at their own pace) both in solo tuition and more importantly in group ensembles of many shapes and sizes. Which is the context in which most music is shared subsequently. And best of all, it also has tuition in Music Technology, which is not even the way of the future, but rather, the here and now. Not only does this make them aware of the applications in daily use in music production worldwide, but also puts them several steps ahead, in terms of Leaving Certificate Music, should they choose to pursue such, and indeed, the many Creative Digital Arts third level course that now appear as CAO options.
And, students get to learn their music, and musicianship, and relevant theory and harmony, through genres of music that they love. So practice is not a chore. And so they attain more readily. And become accomplished musicians, who still love their chosen subject! I wish it had been around %0(cough!) years ago!!! And keep listening, cos there are major plans afoot!!”
“From the very first lesson with my singing teacher Trish Rooney, I knew I was going to love it. Everything Trish had to say and teach made sense to me and made singing so much easier. I am incredibly grateful to The Academy of Popular Music for everything they do and have done for me. I know without doubt that I would not be where I am today without their help, teachings, guidance, support and their faith in me. It is what The Academy is all about. We are a team. We work together and we support one another and in doing that, we watch one another grow as performers and artists”
“The Academy has helped me excel in my instrument by not only learning how to play it but also learning how to utilize it in a band environment. From going to the Academy I have gained confidence from playing gigs, which are always fun! The Academy has also helped me with the band I am in now because I have learned how to chart songs, to be prepared for soundchecks, and the importance of learning songs before practice and gigs. From studying theory I can now write my own songs and have a basis from more instruments. All of the tutors are extremely friendly and great at what they do, they have also helped me grow as a person and a musician. I have also met some amazing friends there with the same interests and passion for music as me. I have been going there for four years now and every summer I am always excited to go back”
“My daughter Éabha is in the Junior House band 'Electric Flames', she is a vocal student too & she absolutely loves it. I'm so proud of everything she & the other members have achieved so far!! It's been an amazing experience for her as she's only 11 but she has already learned so much & the older kids (teens!!) are so warm & welcoming.... Can't wait for the 5 yr anniversary concert in the 29th, as Éabha would say it's going to be "epic" particularly if last Saturday's gig is anything to go by”
“I am thrilled to be the head external vocal coach at The Academy of Popular Music! As an American Idol vocal coach, I have worked with countless talented singers over the years. And I consider the singers from the Academy to be of the highest caliber”
“As the Lord Mayor of Cork and the first citizen of the City, I, Terry Shannon, am greatly honoured to be involved with The Academy of Popular Music. It is a great addition to music education in our City. The Academy's creative and innovative method of teaching students is greatly welcomed and I wish them every success in the future”
“The Academy is genuinely one of the best things to ever happen to me. I've made so many amazing friends and been on so many incredible journeys... Thank you to each and every one of you for being so unique in your own way”
“I would highly recommend the Academy of Popular Music. I have learned so much. Me, being a singer, I have improved my voice with techniques, warm ups and tips. Whether playing an instrument or singing, you get to show your talent every few weeks at the ensemble classes. Many opportunities like concerts appear in the Academy. I sang at a concert weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. In the Academy, you learn a lot of things in a fun and serious way. I have been involved in the Academy for about 3 years and I have learned so much while loving every minute of it. The tutors are absolutely amazing. They attend to every one of your enquiries and support you at all times. I love the Academy and every week I cannot wait to go to the classes. I will definitely be attending the Academy for many happy years to come”
“What a great show everyone a brilliant afternoon with some amazingly talented people none more so than Paul and Trish. And what can I say about Jamie Stanton that man can rock - being an AC/DC FANATIC he made my day with ‘Thunderstruck’. Really though thanks everyone for giving Cian a great opportunity. He has had a blast up there and absolutely loves it. Thanks again and enjoy your summer”
“Our son loves the Academy of Popular Music. Saturday afternoon is the highlight of his week. The Academy provides is a very creative learning space. It's great to see so many young people having the opportunity to rock the School of Music. The teachers and students seem to enjoy the interaction in and around the classes. The staff are approachable, polite and helpful”
The Academy Of Popular Music is probably one of the best music programs in the country. I should know, I've been a student there for nearly 4 years. With a team of exceptional tutors (including The Voice of Ireland Vocal Coach Dr Trish Rooney who is the principal of APM), students learn to improve their skill and technique. In fact, the majority of the musicians I've reviewed for this blog are students and alumni. This particular gig, which was held in Cyprus Avenue, is just one of many opportunities these young musicians get to perform for a crowd.
The gig was opened with a set of covers by one of the Academy's three house bands, The Black Clouds. The set had some contrasting songs, giving the band members a chance to show off their versatility. The first stand out for me had to be their take on the timeless classic that is "Teenage Dirtbag". The harmony arrangement for the female vocalists (Julianne Hayes, Tamara O'Driscoll and Alana Hanley) were just stunning. The contrasting relaxed and energetic drumming here was also a major factor, props to Adam O'Driscoll for delivering. A cover of "Ruby" gave the band the opportunity to show their energy. Recognition here has to be given to one of the vocalists in particular: Resty Makinano. He has an amazing stage presence, capturing the essence of a true rock singer and bringing the lyrics in this song to life with subtle actions. Strong points for guitarists Jake O'Driscoll and James Kelly were most evident during both "Ruby" and "Toxic", where the two had a chance to play more heavily as well as tossing in some pedal effects. I just want to note here that despite a guitar strap malfunction in the middle of a song, James continued like nothing had happened, fair play! Keyboardist Christian Bongcayou and bassist Eve Kelly tie the band together with strong backing chords, melody and rhythm assistance. Overall, The Black Clouds work strongly as a group and they definitely know what they're doing.
Next up was Rory McCarthy performing his original song "Night Safari" accompanied by guitarists Jake O'Driscoll and Daire Horgan, bassist Michael Riordan, and drummer Kate Dunlea. First and foremost, this song turned out extremely well considering the arrangement was only put together the previous day (shoutout to Karl Rooney). It's certainly a catchy track, giving off a very soulful vibe reminiscent of John Newman. The band do an excellent job of enhancing this vibe by providing an uptempo, funky backing for the vocals. Rory without a doubt has one of the most powerful male vocals I have ever heard, and this song does his voice justice.
Sarah O'Callaghan took to the stage next with her original "Future Self", playing the keyboard as well as singing. The accompanying band was comprised again of Jake O' Driscoll, Daire Horgan, Michael Riordan and Kate Dunlea along with Rory McCarthy, Ellen Lucey and Federico Di Battista on backing vocals. There are some very nice lyrics in this song with a nice swingy feel to the melody. I'd class this as folk-pop, along the lines of Colbie Callait and Gabrielle Aplin. Sarah's beautiful mid-range vocal is perfect for a song like this. Subtle harmonies in the chorus and a gentle guitar riff in the verses make this song all the more special. "Future Self" stands as proof that a song doesn't need to be overly energetic and uptempo to get stuck in someone's head. Sarah needs to be commended for her songwriting skills, this was amazing!
Next was The Academy's youngest house band, The Electric Flames. The group is comprised of vocalists Amy Mulcahy, Kelly Collins, Éabha McCarthy and Gabriel Byrne, bassist Ben Warren Flynn, guitarist John O'Callaghan, keyboardist Maggie Harris, and drummer Ellie O'Brien. What can I say about these guys? First of all, talk about stage presence! The group radiated confidence, and the girls out front were so feisty - I loved it! As with the first house band, the contrast in the set made it all the more interesting. The youngsters covered a selection of songs from "Riptide" to "Seven Nation Army". The standout for me had to be their take on Twenty One Pilots' single "Stressed Out". As well as getting to showcase their vocals, this song gave them the chance to do some rapping. A song like this is also a perfect opportunity for the drummer, bassist and keyboardist to show off as they are a main basis in most Twenty One Pilots tracks. "So What" by P!nk was another strong point in the set, and really showed off the confidence of the singers. I felt this was the best chance in the set for the guitarist to play more heavily, and he did a great job! Speaking of the guitar, Academy theory tutor Paul Hannon needs to be acknowledged for joining in with the band (g'wan Paul you legend). These guys make a really good band, and considering their ages they are just phenomenal!
Following up was Julianne Hayes with an original song titled "I'm Not Gonna Sit Around". Accompanying herself on the guitar, the song was presented with a real singer-songwriter style vibe. First of all, the song is gorgeous. In fact, I've been watching the video I took of it on repeat since I heard it. The lyrics are just beautiful, and she has the voice to match. What I really love about this is that it starts out quite gentle, and after a gradual crescendo slowly builds up, ends with a powerful final chorus. In terms of presentation, less was definitely more here. Simple guitar self-accompaniment was the perfect way to go. Julianne's songwriting skills are as impeccable as her singing voice. I don't know what else to say - I just adored it!
Some of you reading this may remember The Naysayers from last month's gig in GroundFloor. Well, Academy guitar student Daire Horgan's band (comprised also of singer Megan Luddy, guitarist Eve Harrington, bassist Cathal O'Donovan and drummer Darragh McKenzie) took to the stage in Cyprus Avenue for another performance of their original track "Ms Rigby". Seeing as their singer couldn't make the gig last month, I was delighted to finally hear her with them. The song is so lively and energetic. Doubled-up guitar playing put together with some savage drumming and a solid bass line provide a great platform for the vocals. I've said it once and I'll say it again: this is some tune!
Áine Connolly performed the final original of the gig with her song "Lonely Ghost". Seeing as I'm so used to seeing her sing this with just piano self-accompaniment, it was a massive difference to see her play with a full band. Assisted by guitarists Jake O'Driscoll and Daire Horgan, drummer Kate Dunlea, bassist Michael Riordan, and backing vocalists Julianne Hayes and Hazel Long, the song was given a new lease of life. I have to acknowledge Áine's bravery in giving the backstory of "Lonely Ghost" before singing it. The lyrics are nothing short of gorgeous, and the vocal harmony arrangement is purely stunning. The guitars, drums and bass are very relaxed, providing the track with a nice bit of swing. Áine is one hell of a singer, and her talent with lyrics is God-given. Keep doing what you're doing Áine, I can't get enough of it!
Bringing the gig to a close was the Academy's third house band and winners of Cork's Got Talent 2015, The Silver Linings. The group is comprised of vocalists Nicole Mannix, Federico Di Battista, Ellen Lucey and Rory McCarthy, guitarists Daire Horgan and Jake O' Driscoll (filling in for the band's usual guitarist Rob Keating), keyboardist Sam O'Brien, drummer Kate Dunlea, and bassist Michael Riordan. Bass lines were a major factor in this set, giving Michael the perfect opportunity to show off (especially in "Superstition" and "Beggin"). Drums and keys are, in my opinion, the most important instruments in "Hold The Line" and "Feeling Good", and Kate and Sam live up to the energy in the original tracks. The guitarists were quite impressive throughout the set, especially Daire in "Superstition" and Jake in "Hold The Line" (more pedal work - nice!). I don't even know where to start with the singers. Nicole and Ellen are the epitome of the classic soul and power ballad divas. Their voices have so much intense power, yet they manage to control them perfectly. The two guys showcased the full extent of their vocal ranges, even hitting some insane high notes. As I said earlier, Rory's voice in unbelievably strong, perfect for the songs they were singing. While Federico's vocals are a bit more subtle, he still makes as strong of an impact. His voice brings some contrast to the group, and gave a hint of intensity to "Feeling Good". Overall, The Silver Linings are a band that work so perfectly together, and they deliver with confidence. Just amazing!
It's times like these that make me insanely proud to be an Academy Of Popular Music student. This gig just proved how hard working everyone is, and how much dedication goes into each performance. The Academy Of Popular Music will be celebrating its 5th anniversary with a special concert on Sunday May 29th, and it'll definitely be worth checking out. Stop by for some good music performed by the most talented young musicians the country has to offer!”