Irish conductor Sinead Hayes is equally at home working with choir, orchestra and in opera. She is emerging as one of Ireland's leading interpreters of contemporary music and opera, with a particular interest in the work of emerging and established Irish composers. She is a Britten Pears Young Artist for 2023/24. The 2023/24 season is her tenth as conductor of the Hard Rain Soloist Ensemble (HRSE) in Belfast, and her third season as conductor of the Royal Irish Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra. In February 2022 she was appointed principal guest conductor of Galway's professional orchestra The Luminosa String Orchestra.
She has worked with the Ulster Orchestra on a number of projects since first working with the orchestra conducting 7 educational concerts around Northern Ireland in 2019. Most recently she returned in January 2023 to conduct the orchestra for an album of orchestral works by Belfast composer Greg Caffrey, due to be released later in 2023.
Last season Sinead made her debut with the Cork Opera House Concert Orchestra, returning in July 2022 to conduct an opera gala with the Cara O'Sullivan young artists. She also conducted recordings of contemporary operas/works by Brian Irvine, Tom Lane, Fiona Linnane and Elaine Agnew's opera Paper Boat, which was broadcast on RTE Lyric FM in December 2022.This season, she works for the first time with Wexford Sinfonia, conducting a programme of Sibelius, Stravinsky and Ina Boyle in Wexford, and with Limerick Philharmonic conducting Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony.
Highlights of previous seasons include making her debut with the Irish Chamber Orchestra (Der Schauspieldirektor for Irish National Opera), return visits to Northern Ireland Opera to conduct productions of Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd and Greg Caffrey’s children’s opera The Chronic Identity Crisis of Pamplemousse, as well as working with Irish National Opera as assistant conductor and chorus master on Bartok: Bluebeard’s Castle, Dennehy: The Second Violinist, Verdi: Aida, Puccini: Madama Butterfly & Mozart die Zauberfloete. She also worked with Opera Collective Ireland and Crash Ensemble to conduct the world premiere performances of Raymond Deane's Opera Vagabones.
Sinead is also a professional level Irish traditional fiddle player, and in 2017 performed alongside members of the Berliner Philharmoniker in two of the orchestra's family concerts in the Philharmonie, Berlin.
She completed her MMus in conducting at the Royal Northern College of Music and her BMus in violin and composition at City University, London. Sinead also participated in masterclasses with Johannes Schlaefli, Sylvain Cambreling & Sir Roger Norrington among others. In 2014 she was one of three finalists in the Interaktion Conducting Workshop, chosen by the players of the Critical Orchestra Berlin (leader: Lothar Strauss), whose players are drawn from the Berlin Staatskapelle and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras. She has worked as assistant conductor to James Lowe (Halle Harmony Orchestra), Alex Ingram (British Youth Opera), André de Ridder (Irish National Opera) and others.
The lockdown gave Sinead the opportunity to complete a PG Certificate in Creative & Cultural Entrepreneurship at Trinity College, Dublin. She also partnered with local music schools in Athenry and Gort Co. Galway to devise and deliver two music education projects: Carolan's Rambles and the Baroque Session. Both music schools were jointly awarded the Irish Association of Youth Orchestra's 2021 Ovation Award in recognition of their innovative work during the pandemic.
Sinead is committed to providing opportunities for emerging conductors in Ireland and has included assistant conductors in the majority of her recent projects. Her education work has been funded by the Irish Arts Council (Agility Award & Artist Bursary) and the Galway County Arts Office. She created the 'Discover Conducting' pack, deliverable by classroom music teachers to 1st and 2nd year secondary school students and she is also the creator and workshop leader of the Sandbox Conducting Sessions aiming to find, train and give opportunities to the next generation of conductors based on ability, regardless of gender, age or socio-economic background. In the development of her skills as a conducting teacher Sinead is very grateful for the mentorship of conductor Alice Farnham.
A Slightly Circuitous Path....
At age 5, Sinead Hayes was handed a tin whistle by her Junior Infants teacher Mrs. Conway, and over the course of a year, learned to play and read music, along with all of her classmates.
At 7, her father bought her a 3/4 size violin, which she brought to her lesson with Cepta Byrne - the visiting traditional music teacher at her local school. Sinead's grandmother Brigid Hayes had played violin professionally in Limerick, and so the adventure to follow in her footsteps began!
At age 13, after achieving distinction in her Grade 8, with the help of the ever positive St. Damian Conroy, Sinead won the local centre scholarship in violin to attend the junior department of the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin. After two years of travelling up to Dublin by train every Saturday, and loving every minute of her musical journey, she decided that she couldn't see a viable future for herself as a professional musician in the west of Ireland, and she gave up her place at the Academy.
She focussed her efforts on piano, accompanying the school choirs and was awarded a special accompanist's prize at the Schools Choral Competition in the National Concert Hall. After completing her Leaving Certificate, Sinead realised that if she was to succeed as a professional musician, she would need financial help - a rich benefactor to fund the time it would take to develop her skills.
So, she did what any independent minded young woman would do....she pursued a degree in Civil Engineering!! That would guarantee a well paid job, which would take the place of the rich benefactor and allow her to pursue her musical development.
Fast forward four years, through a lot of learning about concrete, steel and project management (and playing violin again!)...Sinead won the NUI Bursary in Civil Engineering, allowing her to take up a place on the masters course in Structural Steel Design at Imperial College London. A second bursary from the Steel Construction Institute in the UK paid her fees, and helped with living expenses.... and student price concert tickets!
There were four or five orchestras in Imperial at that stage, and Sinead's first project was in the first violin section of the Symphony Orchestra playing Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra - a piece very close to her heart as a conductor!
Over the next few years, as a student, and then graduate engineer, Sinead continued to play in orchestras of all levels in London. A chance reading of Nicholas Kenyon's book on Simon Rattle opened the world of conducting to her, and she found herself standing in front of an orchestra, having enrolled in the Morley College Conducting Course with Paul Sarcich.
That day, the switch flipped, and a new adventure started! Sinead went back to college to do her degree in violin and composition at City University, with the aim of undertaking postgrad conducting studies at conservatoire. She worked part time as a structural engineer to fund her upkeep and studies.
Her violin lessons took place at the Guildhall in London with Gerhard Schmidt, who had played in the Vienna Philharmonic. For three years Sinead had weekly lessons, but those lessons would frequently veer into discussions on the conductors Gerhard had played for (Bernstein and Karl Bohm among others) as well as the Viennese style of playing the music of Strauss and others.
She won a place on the postgraduate conducting programme at the Royal Northern College of Music, studying with Mark Heron and Clark Rundell, as well as learning from Sir Mark Elder and Mark Shanahan.
In the summer of 2008 Sinead did her last professional engineering work. She was employed as a fulltime freelance engineer - maternity cover at her first engineering firm Alan Conisbee and Associates. That summer she saved enough money to fund her time at the RNCM. The rich benefactor that was structural engineering had served its purpose!!
Since then, through a combination of paid teaching and conducting positions with orchestras, choirs, youth orchestras and opera companies, Sinead has built her skills and managed to fund her participation in masterclasses all over Europe. She moved to Berlin in 2014, returning to Ireland in 2018 to spend time with her father following the passing of her mother in 2017, but not before fulfilling a lifelong dream... In September 2017 Sinead performed onstage in Berlin's Philharmonie alongside members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in two of the orchestra's family concerts. She played Irish trad fiddle music, and brought two young dancers from Galway to perform with her - Irish traditional music is dance music after all!!
It has been a circuitous route to here, and the journey continues!!