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DkIT Music Student Announced as 2019 Michael Van Dessel Choral Conducting Scholar

12 November 2019

Dundalk Institute of Technology Music student, Lee Harding from Balrath, Navan, Co. Meath has been announced as the 2019 recipient of the Michael Van Dessel Choral Conducting Scholar Award. Conducting is a core skill on the BA (Hons) Music programme at DkIT and it is fitting that the Conducting Scholar Award at DkIT is named in honour of Michael Van Dessel.

Michael Van Dessel (1899-1974) was organist and musical director at St Patrick's Church and St. Joseph's Redemptorist Church. He was noted by many as Dundalk's 'most distinguished musician' on account of his work as teacher, musical director, composer, conductor and organist. The Michael Van Dessel Choral Conducting Scholar is awarded each year to a leading student on the BA (Hons) Music programme in recognition of their achievements.

 A student at Beaufort College in Navan where he studied under Marie McAndrew, Lee also took vocal lessons with Faustina O’Sullivan and developed an interest in both classical singing and musical theatre. Speaking about his decision to study music at DkIT Lee noted that the music programme at DkIT offered him "an opportunity to explore and delve into many different genres and specialisms of music which meant that I would come out of my degree knowing exactly where I could go next. This is something that I have not seen any other music degree offer."

During his studies Lee has had the opportunity to perform as part of the Musical Theatre ensemble taking part in productions such as 'Finian’s Rainbow' and 'A Night Off Broadway'. Lee is also a very active member of the DkIT Choir and choral conducting has become a passion for him. Lee intends to continue his interest into choral studies, moving into opera and solo singing. 

Upon receiving the award, Lee said:

It is a great honour and privilege to receive the Michael Van Dessel Choral Conducting Scholar award. It feels as if the hard work I have put in over the last three years has been recognised and I feel validated in how far I have come in my musical training from secondary school."

Also open to engaging in Irish song traditions, Lee was the 2018 recipient of the Inishowen International Folk Song and Ballad Seminar bursary for students, providing him the opportunity to be immersed in the song traditions and be inspired by both the community and the surroundings of Co. Donegal. DkIT is proud of its contribution to the cultural life of the region and the musicians from the Department of Creative Arts, Media and Music regularly perform for and collaborate with the community.

In presenting the award, Dr Adèle Commins, Head of Department noted the importance of remembering the fine musicians associated with our region and that the Department is proud of the role it has to play in continuing the legacy of strong musical training in Dundalk. After his studies at DkIT Lee hopes to undertake the Professional Master of Education for Primary Teaching as he believes that the skills he has learned during his music degree would be of great benefit to him and the children in the classroom. He will perform with the DkIT Choir as part of the annual DkIT Christmas concert in St Oliver Plunkett Church, Blackrock on 19 December 2019 where he will also conduct on the night.

For further information about the concert and music programmes at Dundalk Institute of Technology, contact

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