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Talented young musicians to benefit from personal development Accelerator Academy

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2-year programme run by global law firm Eversheds Sutherland in partnership with the Royal Irish Academy of Music

Leading top 10 global law firm, Eversheds Sutherland Ireland is delighted to announce that four talented young musicians will become the newest members of its innovative Accelerator Academy. These promising candidates will benefit from a 2-year programme of professional ‘off stage’ development, including financial assistance.

The Accelerator Academy is run in partnership with the Royal Irish Academy of Music to open more doors for exceptionally gifted musicians to help them realise their potential, on and off stage and develop sustainable careers.

The four high performing musicians selected to participate in the 2021 Accelerator Academy are:

  • Pianist, Lucy Byrne
  • Pianist, Joe O’Grady
  • Pianist, Defne Gultoprak
  • Flute player, Lera O’Connor

Over the next 24-months, these instrumentalists will benefit from several Accelerator Academy services to help with their personal and professional development. This includes mentoring from the Academy’s ambassador and renowned concert pianist, Finghin Collins, including a bespoke masterclass.

The Academy programme also includes valuable life skills such as communication skills, career coaching, financial support to help cover out of pocket expenses (eg travel to masterclasses and competitions), and a work placement opportunity (paid) in the private sector.

Alan Connell, Managing Partner at Eversheds Sutherland Ireland said:

“We recognise, as we all move forwards out of the pandemic, the truly important role that music and the arts play in our lives and society, and for young people like these four enormously talented musicians. The entire sector was one of the most impacted by COVID-19.

As Ireland’s leading international law firm, we have a strong tradition and culture of investing in world-class people and nurturing young talent. The philanthropic and personal development Accelerator Academy was developed to help these young people develop life skills so they can work through any challenges and thrive on and off the stage, whether they become professional musicians or end up working in the arts sector or pursue alternative careers. It aims to prepare them for promising careers and we wish them every success for the future.”

Deborah Kelleher, Director of the Royal Irish Academy of Music said:

“It is very special for the RIAM, as Ireland's leading music conservatoire, to partner with a law firm of Evershed Sutherland's standing both nationally and globally. Both institutions are committed to nurturing talent, and these four exciting young musicians are worthy recipients of the awards. I have no doubt that participation in the Accelerator Academy, in combining musical skills training with complementary inter-disciplinary coaching, will enable our high performing and dedicated young artists to develop healthy, sustainable, and successful careers.

I am grateful to Eversheds Sutherland for continuing their support for a second cycle, and to Finghin Collins for continuing his role as mentor.”

Finghin Collins, Artistic Director of Music for Galway and Accelerator Academy ambassador said:

“As a proud alumnus of the RIAM, I am delighted to continue my role as Ambassador for the Accelerator Academy with the RIAM and Eversheds Sutherland. I look forward to playing my part to ensure our academy members get as much as possible out of their experience. Well done to Eversheds Sutherland for continuing to support young Irish musicians in their endeavours on and off the stage.”

This is the second group of entrants to participate in the Eversheds Sutherland and RIAM Accelerator Academy programme for highly accomplished young musicians. In 2019, pianist Dida Condria, violinist Julieanne Forrest, violinist Claire O’Connor and cellist Catherine Cotter were selected to participate in the programme. Also, in 2018 four young talents in Irish athletics were the first members of Eversheds Sutherland’s Accelerator Academy; medallists Patience Jumbo-Gula, Sarah Healy, Rhasidat Adeleke and Sophie O’Sullivan all benefited from the programme as they continue to compete at the highest level.

About Eversheds Sutherland

Eversheds Sutherland is a global top 10 law firm that provides multidisciplinary legal advice and solutions to a global client base ranging from small and mid-sized businesses to the largest multinationals. 

The firm has 74 offices in 35 jurisdictions worldwide, including nine in the US. Its Irish offices (Dublin and Belfast) serve as an important European hub for the firm’s international client base, employ over 300 talented professionals and have a strong tradition and culture of investing in world-class people and nurturing young talent. The firm provides a full range of legal services, including corporate and M&A, dispute resolution and litigation, energy and infrastructure, data protection, insurance and financial service, employment and pensions, intellectual property, real estate and construction, and tax.

Eversheds Sutherland holds the internationally recognised ISO 27001 certification for its exemplary data protection and information security in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland for its Dublin and Belfast offices. This ensures the firm follows best practices in protecting its data, improving its cybersecurity posture and business efficiency, while also ensuring that it meets legal and regulatory data protection obligations.

About Finghin Collins

One of Ireland's most successful musicians, Finghin Collins was born in Dublin in 1977 and, following initial lessons with his sister Mary, studied piano at the Royal Irish Academy of Music with John O'Conor and at the Geneva Conservatoire with Dominique Merlet. His international career was launched by winning first prize at the Clara Haskil International Piano Competition in Switzerland in 1999. He has performed in recital and with major orchestras throughout Europe and the United States, as well in the Far East and Australia. In October 2017, the National University of Ireland conferred on him an honorary Degree of Doctor of Music.

In 2017 he celebrated his 40th birthday with a solo recital at the National Concert Hall in Dublin as part of the Hall’s International Concert Season; other highlights included his debuts at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Zermatt Festival and return engagements with the RPO and in China. In 2018 Collins made two appearances at the Wigmore Hall in London, participated in the Jury of the Dublin International Piano Competition, and performed in Ireland, the UK, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Cuba and Greece. In 2019 Finghin performs in the UK, Denmark, the USA, Italy, Switzerland, Russia, Turkey and undertakes an extensive Irish recital tour marking 20 years since his Clara Haskil Prize. 2020 will see many Beethoven performances to mark the composer’s 250th anniversary, and also the inaugural edition of Music for Galway’s new festival Cellissimo as part of Galway 2020.

Over the past decade, Collins has developed a close relationship with Claves Records in Switzerland, recording many award-winning CDs of music by Schumann and Stanford. A Chopin recital CD was released in September 2017, a co-production between RTÉ lyric FM and Claves Records. A new recording of Mozart’s piano quartets will be released by Claves Records in late 2019.

Finghin Collins has been Artistic Director of Music for Galway since 2013 and is also the founding Artistic Director of the New Ross Piano Festival. He is also co-Artistic Director and founder of the International Master Course at the National Concert Hall in Dublin.

Young musicians

Flute player, Lera O’Connor (16)

Lera is 16 years old and has been playing the flute for ten years, having just completed Level 10 with her teacher, William Dowdall, in the Royal Irish Academy of Music (RIAM). She is a multiple first prize winner at the Feis Ceoil and was also awarded the Junior Woodwind Rose Bowl in 2019. Within the RIAM, she has won multiple scholarships and is a participant in the Young Artist’s Programme and the RIAM Symphony Orchestra. Lera has also twice been a finalist in the RIAM Junior Solo Competition.

Pianist, Lucy Byrne (16)

Lucy Byrne is a 17-year-old pianist from Wexford. She has been studying piano since the age of 5 and has been under Professor Therese Fahy at the Royal Irish Academy of Music for 3 years. She is a successful participant of the William Finlay Programme 2020. She has competed in many competitions in which she has received multiple prizes.

Pianist, Joe O’Grady (15)

15-year-old piano prodigy Joe O’Grady has been playing the piano for 12 years. Born in Dublin from Chinese/Irish parents he has been studying with John O’Conor since the age of 6 and now studies with Hugh Tinney at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. He has had remarkable success at piano competitions winning 1 st Prize at almost all the competitions at the Feis Ceoil in Dublin, Ireland’s national music competition. He has also performed widely at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, at the Royal Dublin Society Rising Stars series and many other special events including the launch of the Chinese New Year Festival at the Hugh Lane Gallery organised by Dublin City Council, the China meets Ireland event at Birr Castle, the Russian Music Festival in Dublin, the launch of the Music for Galway season at the Swiss Embassy in Dublin, the launch of the New Ross festival, fundraising concerts for the Dublin International Piano Competition at the Westbury Hotel, and in Dublin Castle as part of the Great Music in Irish Houses Festival.

His concerto appearances include playing with the RIAM Chamber Orchestra in Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin’s Astra Hall with the RIAM Symphony Orchestra. At the age of 9, he made his American debut in New York performing with the New York Concerto Sinfonietta at Carnegie Hall. Already this year he has won both the junior sonata and concerto cups at the Feis Ceoil in Dublin, the Ursula Ni Chuinneagain Bursary for Young Pianists, the Lucien and Maura Teissier Scholarship and has been chosen as a member of the William Finlay programme for Gifted Young Pianists by the Dublin International Piano Competition.

In addition to the music, he has made a few great achievements academically. He was project leader and led a team to win the second prize of BT Young Scientist in Junior Technology Category and ComReg Best Mobile Technology Award and he also won first prize in the Irish Young Philosopher Junior Category.  

Pianist, Defne Gultoprak (17)

Defne was born 2004 in Dublin and started playing piano at the age of five. Defne is studying piano at the RIAM, with scholarship, under the tutelage of Professor Therese Fahy, a prominent Irish pianist. Defne has been awarded prizes in festivals and competitions across Ireland, Italy and Turkey. Most recent awards include Feis Ceoil: Patricia Read Cup (First Prize 2021), Dorothy Stokes Sonata Cup (First Prize (2019) and Junior Pianoforte Solo (First Prizes 2021, 2018 and 2017); RIAM PianoFest: Dorothy Stokes Rosebowl First Prize (2021); Concorso Pianistico Europeo Premio Speciale, (First Prize 2021); EPTA Cup (2021); Winner of the inaugural 2018 RIAM Ursula Ui Chuinneagain Bursary for Young Pianists and Istanbul Pera International Piano Competition (First Prize 2017).

Defne made her first TV appearance at the age of 11 where she performed live on the Late Late Toy Show. In May 2016, she gave her first international recital in North Cyprus where she was invited to be part of 20th International Bellapais Music Festival. In 2016, from hundreds of worldwide applicants, Defne was selected to be one of 10 pianists to participate in Lang Lang’s Allianz Junior Music Camp Program in Warsaw. She has also worked in masterclass with pianists John O’Conor, Finghin Collins, Noriko Ogawa, Hilary Coates and Christopher Elton.

This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full terms and conditions on our website.

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