Award-winning young musicians

Award-winning young musicians Antonia Huang. Photo: Twitter

Last time around I mentioned the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) and its Music Bursary as well as this year’s principal winner – Phoebe White whose cellist brother, Killian, received the award in 2018. But there are two smaller, yet significant, sections to the main bursary. One is the €5,000 Jago Award, the other being the Collins Memorial Performance Award valued at €1,500.

This year’s Jago went to young Dublin pianist Antonia Huang, who has been studying with the eminent Hugh Tinney at the RIAM since 2016. Prior to that she had been a pupil of the late Deirdre Doyle at the same establishment.

Antonia’s Feis Ceoil awards have included the Benson Cup for Bach playing in 2017 and both the Heneghan Cup, open to major prizewinners in the current or previous years, and the Hamilton Harty Concerto Cup in 2018. It seems odd that she entered the Harty competition again this year, playing Brahms’ notoriously taxing 2nd Piano Concerto, but it brought her the cup for a second time.

Antonia Huang will use her RDS cash towards funding her two-year ‘masters in performance’ course in London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She will begin in September under the watchful eye of distinguished professor Ronan O’Hora, who is head of advanced performance studies at the Guildhall. The internationally renowned pianist had previously taught at his alma mater, the Royal Northern College, as well as the respected Chetham’s School also in his native Manchester.

The winner of numerous prizes to date Antonia Huang was the youngest of the six chosen homegrown entrants in the 2018 Dublin International Piano Competition.

I looked up her planned programmes for that prestigious event to find it was impressively wide-ranging. Swinging from Bach to Deirdre Gribben, it followed a richly romantic path through Chopin, Liszt and Rakhmaninov before venturing further into the last century through Ravel and Prokofiev.

However, although a pianist, there are more strings to Antonia Huang’s bow as besides her music studies she has been completing her Bachelor of Engineering degree at Cambridge University. Obviously Antonia Huang is an exceptionally versatile young person.

Valued at €1,500, the 2021 RDS Collins Memorial Award went to another young Dubliner, soprano Ava Dodd. The benefice comes, by the way, in conjunction with the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival held annually in Lismore Castle, Co Waterford.

Ava Dodd was last year’s recipient of the main €15,000 RDS Bursary when the jury described her as ‘self-assured, confident, with a beautiful voice and instinctive musicality’.

A former pupil at the RIAM – Mary Brennan, voice and Dearbhla Collins, répétiteur – Ava went on to study at the Royal College of Music in London. She had also been part of Wexford Festival’s Opera Factory that assists young singers in the early stages of their careers with professional advice and financial support.

In 2019 Ava Dodd had been judged the ‘Most Promising Performer’ at the RIAM’s Irene Sandford Competition and the same year’s ‘Young Opera Voice’ at Northern Ireland’s Festival of Voice Competition.

I look forward to following these young artists’ future achievements.