Pitch perfect

Sinead Hayes who plays piano and violin as well as conducting. PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.
Sinead Hayes who plays piano and violin as well as conducting. PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.

Lifestyles – Sinead Hayes is a woman of many parts. The musician and engineer went on to train as a conductor, relocating to Berlin to hone her skills. She conducts the Sym-phonic Waves Youth Orchestra, which is performing for Baboró. She talks to Judy Murphy

Corofin woman Sinead Hayes was living in London in the early 2000s when she decided to pick up a baton and take a course in conducting music. At once, she knew this was her calling.

“I’d found the elements that connect the things I love; solving problems and music,” she explains.

Reading her CV in advance of meeting her, Sinead seems like someone who could have had any number of callings.

A civil engineering graduate from NUIG who was awarded two scholarships to study for a Masters at Imperial College in London, she also has a first-class honours Music degree from London’s City University. And, having earned a Masters in Conducting at Manchester’s Royal Northern College, she moved to Berlin to hone her considerable skills in that area.

Just a few weeks ago, Sinead conducted the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra at Dublin’s National Concert Hall in a celebration of Mícheál Ó Suilleabháin’s music, having made her RTÉ NSO debut in 2013. She regularly conducts orchestras in Germany, the UK and Ireland.

So, no doubt that she’s a high achiever. But when we meet at the City’s Black Gate Café to discuss her upcoming Baboró concerts with Galway’s Sym-phonic Wave Youth Orchestra, Sinead isn’t a bit intimidating. She’s warm, funny and passionate about offering young people in the West of Ireland top-class classical music opportunities.

Sinead’s own musical adventure began in Infants class at primary school when she learned tin whistle. Next, she took up fiddle, then piano.

She and her siblings were reared in a traditional-music environment and that’s still part of her make-up. But when it came to learning classical music, Galway didn’t have what was required for someone so talented and ambitious.

After winning the Irish Local Centre Scholarship for distinction in Grade 8 violin at 13, Sinead was awarded a scholarship to study at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin.  From the ages of 14 to 16, she’d take the train to Dublin every Saturday morning, usually with her mother Mary.

Music is and has always been Sinead’s passion. But when she finished secondary school, she opted to study engineering at NUIG for practical reasons.

“I was teaching music every Saturday to pay my way through college, and couldn’t have afforded to go to college in Dublin.”

She didn’t feel hard done by, though.  “I liked engineering,” she adds.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.