piano talent

JJ McNamara: 'There are virtually no financial supports for musicians like me'

JJ is the son of the former presenter of Where in the World, Theresa Lowe and RTÉ music director and Late Late Show pianist, Frank McNamara.

ONE OF SIX Irish hopefuls at this years 11th Dublin International Piano Competition, taking place in the RDS this week is 18-year-old JJ McNamara.

He may come from a musical stock but, speaking to, JJ says he had to turn to online campaigning to fund his studies in London.

Here’s JJ performing at his concert recital last August:

Frank McNamara / YouTube

The Dublin International Piano Competition (DIPC) takes place every three years and is now one of the most important piano competitions in the world.

In 2015 Nathalia Milstein became the first ever female winner of the competition.

Famous Family

For JJ, growing up with well-known parents has not fazed him, especially the pressure of having a famous pianist as a Dad.

”There is no more pressure on me than there is on the other 54 great pianists from all over the world taking part in the competition,” he said. “My parents have never put any pressure on me, just encouraged me to do my very best and work hard.”

There was always music in my house. While I was never pushed into it just seemed to be the most natural thing for me to do. I am lucky that Dad is always there to give me advice whenever needed.

In December last year, JJ launched his debut CD, a recording of Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninov, to fund his studies in London.

JJ says that because there is not much support out there for young musicians, studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama is a big expense.

”Unfortunately, there are virtually no supports for musicians like me at an undergraduate level. The Arts Council, for example, have some help for musicians who have reached post-grad level – I’m not sure how you’re supposed to get to that point with no help,” JJ said.

Three years ago at the last DIPC, JJ sat in the RDS for most of the rounds, so is excited to be taking part this year.

”At the moment my focus is on the first round. I am working very hard for that. I will, of course, be extremely nervous as I’m sure most of the pianists are. I hope that my nerves
won’t get the better of me. If I get through that we’ll see. One round at a time! I’m really enjoying this experience so much,” JJ said.

JJ spends on average four or five hours a day practicing, but at the moment with the competition, he is spending about seven hours a day.

I suppose to become good at anything takes a lot of hard work.

The other Irish pianists competing this week are Eoin Fleming, Antonia Huang, Cahal Masterson, Billy O’Brien, Peter Regan.

Tickets to the first and second rounds in the RDS are available on the door. Find out more here. 

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