BMus (Strings)

  • Application deadline
    24 March 2023
  • Course duration
    4 years
  • Course accreditation
    Trinity Accredited Course
  • Course fee
    €3,000 per annum
  • Course fee (non-EU/EEA)
    €21,000 per annum

Course Introduction

An Introduction from Head of Strings and Chamber Music, Sarah Sew

The RIAM combines traditional values of fundamental technical excellence with a modern and holistic approach to learning. In every aspect of the course students are encouraged to study in depth, connecting all areas of learning, both academic and practical.

Through the generous 2 hours of one-to-one lessons per week, students have the space to concentrate on both technique and repertoire, and develop a rapport with their principal study teacher. In addition to this, students also have access to visiting artists in masterclasses, multiple chamber music coaches, performance class tutors, accompanists and sectional tutors, which include principal players from Ireland’s professional orchestras. 

The BMus offers string players a wide range of performance classes, such as orchestral excerpts classes, audition workshops, historical performance classes, contemporary techniques and performance training. In these classes, students refine their practical performance skills, cultivate a breadth of knowledge and develop critical listening skills.

Chamber music is at the heart of music making and all string players are placed in a string quartet or piano trio. Groups are mentored by designated chamber music coaches and through coaching sessions, independent rehearsals, workshops and masterclasses, these groups mature and develop. 

Through an exciting programme of concert opportunities, internal and external, published in our events calendar, students build up their performing experience.

My ambition is for each string player to grow through their four years of study into an innovative artist able to communicate his or her own genuine ideas, and to graduate from the RIAM with passion to work hard and a conviction to find meaning.

Sarah Sew


Photo: Colm Hogan

Course Outline

Accredited by Trinity College, the University of Dublin, the RIAM BMus is a four-year degree. Each study year has 30 weeks in total from September to June: 24 academic teaching weeks and 6 performance spotlight weeks. There are no academic classes during performance spotlight weeks, but practical lessons continue across all weeks.

The Strings Faculty focuses on the three main areas of performance: solo, orchestral and chamber music. This is combined with supporting academic studies and RIAM Holistic modules to allow students to develop into a complete musician.

Solo Performance

The course is designed to balance the forming of a sound technique, the exploration of repertoire and the development of each student’s own artistic personality.

With 2 hours of one-to-one lessons per week, students have the space to work in depth with their principal study teacher. Mid-year technical exams focus on technical preparation and students are encouraged to explore creative programming whilst still covering core repertoire in their public end-of-year recital exams. The progression through the four years of the BMusPerf culminates in a complete concerto performance and full-length public final recital.

Competitions, such as the Maura Dowdall Award, promote not only experience in competitive solo performance, but also offer the winner the exceptional opportunity of a solo engagement with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra.

In our wide range of string performance classes, students develop stage presence and build up their mental performance strength. Additional classes include historical performance, audition training and contemporary techniques. In performance class, students develop critical listening skills, learning to give constructive feedback based on their ever-growing breadth of knowledge. Students build their own musical personalities, form individual tastes and opinions whilst maintaining an openness to the many different interpretations that can be effective. 

Following on from the introductory historical performance classes, students have the option to take second study historical performance. These students have additional one-to-one lessons with a baroque specialist and also have priority to perform in RIAM Early Music Ensemble.

The RIAM Strings Faculty has two International Visiting Artists, Daniel Rowland (violin) and Xuefei Yang (guitar) and these artists along with other high profile artists give regular masterclasses. Recent artist visits include Natalie Clein (cello); Gareth Knox (viola); Mauricio Fuks (violin); Hannah Roberts (cello); David Daly (bass) and Alban Gerhart (cello).

Orchestral Performance

Throughout the four years of the BMusPerf students take part in RIAM Podium, the Centre for Performing Ensembles. String students perform in the following ensembles:

  • RIAM Philharmonia, a sinfonietta orchestra performing with world-renowned guest conductors
  • RIAM Chamber Orchestra, an un-conducted string group
  • RIAM Early Music Ensemble, exploring historically informed techniques and period performance through the use of Baroque instruments and bows
  • RIAM Opera Orchestra, performing in fully-staged opera productions
  • RIAM Contemporary Music Ensemble, tackling modern and newly written works

Orchestral training is project-based, emulating the professional music world. RIAM Philharmonia projects begin with intensive sectionals, build up to tutti rehearsals and culminate in a high profile concert with a world-renowned conductor. Sectional tutors include principal players from the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Irish Chamber Orchestra and Ulster Orchestra. Recent guest conductors include Gerhard Markson, Jonas Alber, Kenneth Montgomery and Atso Almila.

Specialised orchestral excerpts classes and audition-training workshops allow students to develop the skills necessary to gain professional orchestral work. In Year 3 of the BMusPerf, students undertake an orchestral exam, focussing in on these audition-training skills in preparation for the orchestral profession.

RIAM has mentoring agreements with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ Concert Orchestra and Irish Chamber Orchestra and students are selected from internal and external auditions for these opportunities. Selected students experience a real life professional setting, sitting in with these orchestras and playing alongside professional orchestral players.

Chamber Music

Chamber music is central to developing both listening and communication skills. All string players are placed in a string quartet or piano trio. Groups rehearse both independently and also with a designated chamber music coach. Many students are also placed in duo sonata partnerships with pianists. Students are actively encouraged to also form their own chamber groups, with additional coaching on offer to self-formed groups.

We aim for chamber groups to work together over a long-term period, to develop lasting musical partnerships that can continue into the profession. Regular visits from a variety of internationally renowned chamber musicians allow RIAM chamber groups to receive both additional private coaching and chamber music masterclasses. Recent visitors include the Navarra Quartet (UK/Netherlands) and members of both Trio Gaspard (Germany) and the Van Baerle Trio (Netherlands).

There are multiple concert opportunities for chamber music groups in the well-attended 11.11 Coffee Morning Concert Series. We partner with organisations throughout the island of Ireland to offer performance opportunities to our outstanding chamber groups. In 2018/19, RIAM string quartets and piano trios were selected to participate in masterclasses at the National Concert Hall (Emerson Quartet), Belfast International Festival of Chamber Music and West Cork Chamber Music Festival. In addition, large-scale chamber music such as string sextets and octets are also programmed in special side-by-side projects, where advanced students play alongside professionals in venues such as the National Gallery of Ireland.

Supporting Academic Studies

The academic component of the degree adds an intellectual foundation to practical instrumental studies, increasing each student’s depth and breadth of knowledge.

In Years 1 to 3, students study a number of core modules: Harmony and Counterpoint, Aural training, Analysis and History. There are also shorter modules in Music Technology, Instrumental Pedagogy, and Free Composition.

In Year 4 there is the opportunity to explore a specialist own choice elective: Dissertation, Composition, Music Technology, Analysis or Conducting.

RIAM Holistic – the working musician

RIAM Holistic modules are designed to develop students into flexible and adaptable artists, ready in mind and body for the demands of a career in music. Students study:

  • Career Strategy
  • Entrepreneurship
  • The Principles of Pedagogy
  • Music in the Community
  • Contemporary Music Collaborations
  • Yoga
  • Performance Psychology

For a more detailed description of the course requirements, please refer to our course handbook.


Performing Opportunities

  • Solo and chamber music opportunities at RIAM’s well-attended 11.11 Coffee Morning Concert Series.
  • Competitions, such as the Maura Dowdall Award, which offers the winner a solo engagement with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra.
  • Guaranteed performance opportunities with the RIAM Philharmonia performing with world-renowned guest conductors and RIAM Opera Orchestra performing in fully staged opera productions. Additional performance opportunities with RIAM Chamber Orchestra, RIAM Early Music Ensemble.
  • The opportunity to audition for Mentoring Schemes with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and RTÉ Concert Orchestra; and side-by-side opportunities with the Irish Chamber Orchestra and Irish Baroque Orchestra.
  • Continually programmed high-profile opportunities for our most advanced students, often collaborating in chamber music with professional artists. Recent and upcoming performances include internationally renowned venues such as the National Gallery of Ireland, American Irish Historical Society (New York) and the Centre Culturel Irlandais (Paris). 
  • Partnerships with organisations throughout the island of Ireland to offer performance opportunities to our outstanding chamber groups, including masterclasses at the National Concert Hall, Belfast International Festival of Chamber Music and West Cork Chamber Music Festival.

Career Destinations

Róisín Walters
No. 3 First Violin, Britten Sinfonia

Tara McNeill
Violin and recording artist, member of Grammy nominated group Celtic Woman

David O’Leary
No. 3 Second Violin, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Niamh Molloy
Cello, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Mark O’Leary
Double Bass, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Karl Sweeney
Violin, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra

Sarah McMahon
Cello, Academy of Ancient Music, Callino Quartet

Sarah Quinn
Sub-Principal Second Violin, London Symphony Orchestra

Ailbhe McDonagh
Cellist, recording artist and composer, RIAM teaching faculty

Sarah Moffatt
Violin, La Serenissima, the Sixteen, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment


Why Choose Us

The BMus degree at the RIAM takes in small numbers of string students each year, and this is for a reason. If you study with us we will give you a lot of contact time with expert tutors. This includes:

  • Two hours each week in your one-to-one lesson
  • Weekly sessions with an accompanist
  • Regular chamber music coaching
  • A range of orchestral opportunities
  • Frequent masterclasses with internationally renowned artists
  • Small academic classes to help you excel in theoretical studies

Dublin is a bustling and vibrant capital city of Ireland, now the only English-speaking country in the EU. Ireland is ranked 10th in the Global Peace Index and is therefore one of the most peaceful countries in the world to study.

As an associate college of Trinity College, the University of Dublin, RIAM students graduate with a degree from one of the top universities in the world. RIAM students have access to Trinity’s gym, sports clubs and societies. You can have the university experience, but with classes in the intimate setting of a conservatoire.

Entry Requirements

The closing date for applications is 21 December 2022. 

Auditions are held in January.

You will be asked to perform two contrasting pieces after which there will be a short interview.

You will also take a written theory test and an aural test. You don’t need to have studied grades to apply, but we do recommend Grade 6 RIAM Local Centre/ABRSM theory level as a minimum standard.

Normally applicants receive their result within one month of the audition/interview.

Full details about entry requirements can be found at the following link: Undergraduate Entry Requirements 

Course handbook