Young musicians and performers, violinist Phoebe White from Dublin and Fionn Ó hAlmhain, a German-born bass who grew up in Ireland, have been named as this year’s BVOF Bursary Award winners.  

Blackwater Valley Opera Festival established the bursary award in 2020 with the support of a private donor. The winners are selected by the festival’s Artistic Director and Co-Founder, Dieter Kaegi, who says “the programme is in keeping with our mission to discover and support exceptional talent, helping to define a new future for Irish artists that have the potential to develop successful solo careers.” 

White and Ó hAlmhain will each receive an award of €5,000 to help further their musical careers and performing ability. They will also act as ambassadors for the festival, and will perform at a special recital as part of Blackwater Valley Opera Festival in 2024.

Born in Dublin in 1997, Phoebe White has been playing violin since the age of three. In her teens, she studied with Fionnuala Hunt at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. She studied under the tutelage of Mauricio Fuks at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, earning her Bachelor of Music Performance in 2019. In 2020, she moved to Berlin, where she now studies at the Berlin University of Arts and is a member of the Kurt-Sanderling-Academy of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin.

In recent years Phoebe has established herself as one of Ireland’s rising stars in classical music. She has been awarded the RDS Music Bursary, the RDS Collins Memorial Award, and the Aileen Gore Cup at the Feis Ceoil. Previous awards include the National Concert Hall Young Musicians’ Award, the Dublin Philharmonic Award, the Maura Dowdall Award, and the Flax Trust Bursary.

As a soloist, Phoebe has performed with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Esker Festival Orchestra, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, National Youth Orchestra of Ireland, and the Midlands Youth Orchestra. and has appeared at such festivals as the West Cork Chamber Music Festival, Blackwater Valley Opera Festival, Westport Chamber Music Festival, Encuentro Santander in Spain, West Wicklow Chamber Music Festival, Clandeboye Festival, National Concert Hall Chamber Music Gathering, and Ortús Chamber Music Festival.

Phoebe has been concertmaster of the Symphony Orchestra of the Encuentro Santander, the Esker Festival Orchestra, and the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland. Her live recording of the Elgar Violin Concerto with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and Gavin Maloney will be broadcast on RTÉ Lyric FM in July 2023.

Commenting she said, “It is a great honour to be the recipient of this bursary and to be named an ambassador for the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival. This support is essential to me at this stage, as I enter the final years of my musical studies and focus on building my career.”

“I will use this funding to continue my studies at the Berlin University of Arts and the Kurt Sanderling Academy in Berlin. It will also enable me to seek out more opportunities, participate in festivals, masterclasses, and competitions, that I otherwise could not afford to do, and which will help me to develop as an artist and build connections. This will allow me more time to focus on my craft and develop my career.

“The opportunity to perform as an ambassador for the BVOF is very exciting. As a developing artist, I need every chance to perform that I can get, and I very much look forward to connecting with new audiences and people in the industry over the coming year.”

Fionn Ó hAlmhain is a German-born bass who grew up in Ireland and is now based in London. He completed a BMus at the TU Dublin Conservatoire and studied singing with Dr. Robert Alderson. Since then, he has performed across Ireland and the UK, including work with Irish National Opera, Opera Collective Ireland, the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival, the Salford Choral Society and Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra. Fionn is now undertaking an MA at the Royal Academy of Music and is a recipient of the Elton John Scholarship. He is an alumnus of the Glyndebourne Academy where he was nominated for the Gus Christie Award.

He said, “I am delighted and honoured to be awarded the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival bursary this year. I am going through a period of development at this time which is crucial to my career in many respects, and it would not be possible without this support.”

 “I have enrolled in a Masters degree at the Royal Academy of Music in London under Professor Mark Wildmann which provides me with some of the most excellent tuition available to me anywhere in the world.”

“The BVOF Bursary allows me to pay fees and to dedicate much more time to my studies. I have been able to get the coaching and practice resources at a time where they are having a huge impact on what I hope will be the beginning of a long and improving career.”

“As a young bass, one of the biggest challenges I face in my professional development is the time it takes for my voice to mature and come into its own. BVOF has been hugely supportive of me in my development both by offering me suitable professional opportunities since 2021 and by supporting me now with this bursary.” 

“This investment in my time and in my development has enabled me to do work which will make a huge difference when my voice comes to its full maturity. I will be a much better singer and artist than I would have been if these resources were not available to me at this stage.”

The Blackwater Valley Opera Festival is Ireland’s Summer Opera Festival, joyfully engaging audiences through a creative and imaginative programme of opera and classical music in the beautiful Blackwater Valley. The festival showcases emerging Irish talent alongside established international artists and delivers memorable and inspirational experiences which enrich the cultural life of the region.

Blackwater Valley Opera Festival takes place from 29th May to 5th June 2023 at stunning venues throughout the Blackwater Valley (Waterford and Cork), with Lismore Castle at its heart. The festival is supported by grants from the Arts Council, Waterford City & County Council, and Fáilte Ireland. The festival’s lead sponsors are Kildare Village, Marsh, AIB and the John Pollard Foundation. For more see