DkIT student 2018 recipient of Michael Van Dessel Choral Award

02 December 2018

Tara Raftery from Athleague, County Roscommon, a student on the BA (Hons) Applied Music programme at Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) has been announced as the 2018 recipient of the Michael Van Dessel Choral Award.



A student of the Convent of Mercy Secondary School in Roscommon Town, before moving to Dundalk, Tara says her music education began at home; her family had a great interest in music of a variety of genres.

In secondary school she was influenced by her music teacher, Ms Siofra Cox, and was a member of the school chamber choir. The choir participated in numerous competitions including the Interschools Music Festival held in Wesley College, Dublin. While in secondary school she also attended piano lessons with Mary Forde.

It was these experiences that prompted her to continue her studies in music at third level. At DkIT she received classical vocal tuition under Victoria Massey and leading Irish soprano Mairead Buicke.

Commenting on her choice to study at DkIT, Tara stated:

When I was auditioning for many colleges across Ireland during my final year in secondary school, I distinctively remember walking through the Carrolls building on campus. I was met with friendly faces upon arriving and I immediately felt welcome. I was very impressed by the range of facilities dedicated to music students and the range of musical instruments available in the college. The BA (Hons) Applied Music covers a vast range of musical modules including music theory, classical, traditional and contemporary studies, a course I felt offered much more possibilities than others in the country.  With smaller classes, I thought there could be a better connection between the lecturer and students and since enrolling in the course I have found this to be true. Taking all these factors into an account, I believed that DkIT was the right college for me”.

The Michael Van Dessel Choral Scholar is awarded each year to a leading student on the DkIT BA (Hons) Applied Music programme in recognition of their achievements. 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.

Upon receiving the award, Tara said:

It is a great honour and privilege to receive the Michael Van Dessel Choral Scholar award. Among myself and my peers, this award is seen as being a recognition of hard work, success and dedication in conducting and choral studies, and I am deeply appreciative that I have been considered worthy of it. The confirmation that I have progressed and grown significantly in my conducting skills really encourages me to strive and continue to work and build upon this solid foundation.  I would like to thank my lecturers, in particular David Connolly, who’s mentoring has been central to my development as a conductor.”

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, stated:

There is a very strong musical tradition in Dundalk and we are proud to continue this tradition in our Department, recognising our role in contributing to the social and cultural capital of the region”.

Tara plans to continue her studies and pursue a career as a music teacher, following in the footsteps of Van Dessel. She will perform with the DkIT Choir as part of the annual DkIT Christmas concert in St Oliver Plunkett Church, Blackrock on 13 December 2018. Tara will also conduct on the night.

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

For all enquiries, please contact:

  • Adele Commins
  • Department of Creative Arts, Media and Music
  • Head of Department of Creative Arts, Media and Music