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University of Limerick
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University of Limerick
Irish World Academy of Music and Dance

MA Ethnomusicology


Type of Program and Degrees Offered

The MA in Ethnomusicology is a one-year taught Master’s degree program within the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. Students taking the MA in Ethnomusicology engage in interdisciplinary encounters with other MA degree programs offered in the Academy, including the MA in Irish Traditional Music Performance, MA in Ethnochoreology, MA Irish Music Studies, and the MA in Festive Arts. Ethnomusicology is core to the Ethnos Research Cluster within the Academy that includes all faculty members with an interest in ethnographic methodologies, particularly in relation to performing arts and cultural expression. PhD degrees in Ethnomusicology are offered ‘by research’ and through a ‘structured’ program in Arts Practice Research. Engagement with the wider UL academic community includes a close relationship with the Popular Music and Popular Culture Research Cluster in the Department of Sociology.

The full list of degree courses:

BA Performing Arts (Irish Traditional Music; Irish Traditional Dance; Contemporary Dance; Voice; World Music)

MA Classical String Performance

MA Community Music

MA Songwriting

MA Contemporary Dance Performance

MA Ethnochoreology

MA Ethnomusicology

MA Festive Arts

MA Irish Dance Studies

MA Irish Music Studies

MA Irish Traditional Dance Performance

MA Irish Traditional Music Performance

MA Music Therapy

MA Ritual Chant and Song

MEd and Professional MEd [Music Education]

MA (Research)

PhD Arts Practice Research (Structured)

PhD (Research)

Program Statement 

The MA Ethnomusicology at the University of Limerick brings together Ireland’s largest team of specialist faculty, offering an inquiry-led MA culminating in an individualized thesis submission. Musical practice is an important part of the program and is a central modality through which students engage in research. Course work emphasizes fieldwork and ethnographic methodology coupled with a strong theoretical grounding. The programme engages Ireland’s rich musical traditions locally and around the world, as well as exploring the diversity of world musics and their study today.

The Irish World Academy’s commitment to ethnomusicology and ethnochoreology as core offerings is evidenced in the large number of faculty employed in these areas, a library collection that is second to none in Ireland, the recent inauguration of a World Music pathway in the BA Performing Arts and the growth of its world music instrument collection. The Academy regularly hosts major international conferences: The ICTM Study Group in Ethnochoreology; the first Joint Forum of the SEM and ICTM, the Ballad Kommission; and the World Conference of the ICTM.

Special Resources

In addition to its full-time faculty, the Irish World Academy hosts an outstanding group of permanent instrumental and vocal tutors, regularly visiting tutors from among leading international performers, and an artist in residence program. We are home to the Central Javanese court gamelan (slendro/pelog) Sekar Arum (Fragrant Flower) an ongoing ensemble throughout the year. Shorter term study ensembles in Mandinka and Ewe drumming and music of the Middle East are regularly featured as well. The Academy Building facility includes two theatres, one of which opens onto the stunning Foyer for public events, a dedicated PhD research-desk area, a recording studio, media lab, 19 practice and tutorial rooms of various sizes, and dedicated dance studios, unique in Ireland.

Visiting artists and scholars are presented weekly in 3 event series, as well as in specific modules:

  • Lunchtime Concert Series with visiting Irish Traditional Music tutors (weekly)
  • Tower Seminar Series, public lecture series with invited guests (weekly)
  • Logos Seminar Series, post-graduate seminar with invited guests (weekly)

Blas Summer School, 6 ECTS credits (requires 2-week attendance): Blas has a well-developed ethos where access to the best of tuition from some of the most famous musicians, singers and dancers is combined with classes and lectures given by experts in the academic study of our traditions. This follows the overriding ethos of all Irish World Academy of Music and Dance endeavours, in which performance and reflection are seen as equal of stature and mutually beneficial.

Blas in affiliation with Willy Clancy Summer School ‘The Scope of Irish Traditional Music’ course: 6 ECTS credits (requires 2nd week of Blas). The Scope of Irish Traditional Music is a six-day course to introduce students to the essential elements of Irish Traditional Music Dance and Song. The primary focus is on the listening experience and on creating an awareness of the social and historical context in which the largest part of this musical tradition was created. Emphasis is placed on relaxed interaction between student, tutors and players and singers. Some of Ireland’s leading musicians and singers have contributed to it over the years.

Full-Time Faculty in Ethnomusicology

Aileen Dillane: PhD University of Chicago; Lecturer; Irish World Academy; Primary research interests in Folk, Traditional, Celticm and Popular Musics of Ireland, UK, North America, and Australia. Urban Soundscapes and Critical Citizenship; Music, Well Being, and Cultures of Care.

Mel Mercier. PhD University of Limerick, MFA World Music CalArts; Professor, Chair of Performing Arts. Primary research interests include: creative practice as research, ethnography, performance studies, Irish traditional music, and composition.

Colin Quigley: PhD UCLA Folklore and Mythology (ethnomusicology/dance ethnology); Senior Lecturer and Course Director Ethnomusicology, Irish World Academy. Primary research interests in Nation, State, and Ethnicity in Traditional Musics and Dance of Europe and North America; the Intersections of Ethnomusicology, Folkloristics, and Ethnochoreology (Dance Ethnology); New Organologies of Violins, Fiddles, and their Global Hybrids; Individual and Collective Dynamics in Tradition; History of Traditional Music Study in Europe and America; regional specializations in Hungary, Romania, North America, North Atlantic Rim.

Affiliated Faculty

Niall Keegan. PhD (by research in Ethnomusicology) University of Limerick; Associate Director Irish World Academy, Director Undergraduate Programs, past Director of MA Irish Traditional Music Performance, Lecturer. Primary research interests in Irish traditional instrumental music and the cognitive structures traditional musicians use to organize their oral music in a literate world. He an internationally renowned Irish traditional flute player.

Sandra Joyce. PhD (by research in Ethnomusicology) University of Limerick; Lecturer, Director of the Irish World Academy, Course Director MA in Irish Traditional Music Performance. Primary research interests in Irish song tradition, Irish harp tradition, and historical sources of Irish traditional music.

Catherine E. Foley. PhD Laban Centre for Movement and Dance. Senior Lecturer, Course Director Ethnochoreology, Director National Dance Archive of Ireland. Primary research interests in theoretical and methodological issues relating to ethnochoreology and dance anthropology: ethnography, embodiment, identity, gender, performance, political ideologies, movement analysis, dance history, the body; Irish music and dance studies.

Mats Melin. PhD (by research in Ethnochoreology), University of Limerick. Course Director Irish Dance Studies, Lecturer. Primary research interests in ethnochoreology, traditional dance, Cape Breton, Scotland, Sweden.

Helen Phelan. PhD. University of Limerick (by research in Ritual Studies); Associate Professor, Director Arts Practice Research. Primary research interests in ritual studies/ritual song; music and migration; arts practice research applications/embodied cognition.

Orfhlaith Ni Bhriain. PhD (by research in Ethnochoreology), University of Limerick. Course Director Irish Traditional Dance Performance, Lecturer. Primary research interests include Irish dance among the diaspora, creative processes in Irish traditional dance.

Financial Support

Currently the Stepping Stones Fellowship offers full and partial support for non-EU fees to students from underrepresented countries. 5 full fellowships per year across all MA courses.

Further Information

For graduate course information:

Dr. Colin Quigley
Irish World Academy of Music and Dance IWA2-023
University of Limerick
Limerick, Ireland
V94 DK18
Tel: +353 61 202966

For undergraduate course information :

Dr. Niall Keegan

Director of Undergraduate Studies,

Room No: IW1.17,

Irish World Academy of Music and Dance,

University of Limerick,

Limerick, Ireland.

Tel: +353-61-202465



Program Website



The content for University of Limerick was last updated September 29, 2017.

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