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Alexandra College

Staff Spotlight - Niall Kinsella

Every Friday we feature a member of our staff in our Staff Spotlight! This week, we spoke to Music teacher Niall Kinsella about his teaching career.


What was your first instrument, and why did you choose it?

Piano was my first instrument officially I suppose, but I always loved singing as a child and still do, actually, but I started piano lessons very young and have played that ever since. I did also study the flute for 10 years, have studied the organ for a few years here and there, and actually studied singing as well for four years as an adult.


What’s one of your favourite performances you’ve done?

One really, really fun performance I did was a piano duet concert with a good friend of mine Rebecca Cohen, who lives in London. We did a concert called Four Hands, Four Voices in both London and Dublin and performed pieces for piano duet and quartet of singers. It was the most fun I’ve ever had because pianists never get to work together! We’re such good friends and it was really good fun working with her and the vocalists. It sort of feels unfair to just single one out, but that one was just so fun.


Why did you begin teaching music, and what makes teaching it exciting?

I’ve always taught music alongside whatever I was doing, right back to when I was in college. I’ve always found it very important because I think when you’re performing, it’s really important to be teaching because teaching helps you understand performing and playing, and vice versa because if you’re actively performing, you’re really able to teach others how to perform as well so it’s something I’ve always had in some context as part of my work. 


How have you adapted your teaching for Covid-19?  Is there anything that you think you’ll continue doing after the pandemic?

The one thing I found myself saying a lot more to students in terms of their own practice is to reframe the concept of practice. You know, don’t look at it as something that’s a real chore, like ‘Oh, I have to do this.” It shouldn’t be something that you have to do; it should be your escape. If you’re busy and doing a lot of study or work, practice is your way to escape for the next 15 minutes, or the next hour, into using a different part of the brain. It’s a very focused, concentrated activity, but yet it’s quite relaxing and so I find myself saying a lot more to think of it as a form of recreation. It’s been such a stressful two years, and this way it becomes more enjoyable and a great outlet for students. 


What has been the highlight of your teaching career so far?

There’s not been any single highlight, but for me teaching is all about the small wins. If a student cracks a problem that they’ve been working on, or something clicks with them; just seeing that gradual improvement from one end of term to the next, or even on a micro-level when a piece is just that bit better at the end of the lesson than it was at the beginning, that’s really the highlight for me. It’s about taking students from A to B and seeing the progression that they have as they fulfil their potential.