The James Joyce of the piano!
- Eugen Indijic, International Concert Pianist, USA
Prodding three black keys on a battered upright piano—bought at the start of the last century in Dublin with the remaining family savings—there was little indication of the musical journey that was yet to come. It was not yet clear nor relevant that this was to become one of Rory's earliest memories. Playing tunes from old books (and whatever else he could pick up by ear), Rory soon began lessons at the arts centre in his hometown.
Born in Belfast to a teacher and amateur pianist, Rory soon developed a diverse musical understanding. Despite failing a musical aptitude test to learn the violin, and being told by a teacher that he 'couldn't sing to save his life', he learned the piano, picked up the cello, became section leader of each youth orchestra he attended, and learned to sing and conduct.
Rory's talent was recognised by one of the leading Irish pianists, John O'Conor. A meeting between John O'Conor and Rory was set up at the Royal Irish Academy of Music by Rory's school teacher. Neither John nor Rory knew exactly why the meeting had been scheduled, though, as luck would have it, this meeting was to become a life-changing opportunity.
John O'Conor awarded Rory a scholarship to study at the Academy, and he began receiving lessons with Peter Tuite in September 2007, shortly before his eighteenth birthday. Rory went on to win the Dina Copeman Cup (2008), the Joan Gavin Cup (2009), and both lesson and travel scholarships in each year of study. The most valuable lesson that Rory learned at this time was the art of creating 'poetry' at the piano: that expression and communication is at the heart of music-making. Much of his performing and teaching style is derived from the pictorial and metaphorical descriptions he received from Peter Tuite.
His experiences in Dublin prompted a newfound interest in education, and he left school with near-straight 'A' grades. He began a Bachelor of Music degree at Queen's University, Belfast. Embracing the newfound freedoms of studying music at university, he was involved in almost all of the student activities in the department, and was awarded a First-Class Honours degree (2011), the highest mark in his year, and 'Highly Commended in the Recognition of Academic Excellence' by The Undergraduate Awards of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Rory has taught the piano to numerous students since he began teaching in 2006. He was entrusted with teaching his own music teacher's children, and later taught piano in his school music department at The Sir Richard Wallace High School. Many of his students have since achieved distinction level in examinations and won competitions, and others have gone on to study at music college and university. Rory also mentors a number of professional piano teachers. He has received NSPCC and First-Aid training, as well as regularly attending Continued Professional Development courses with the European Piano Teachers Association.
Upon completing his degree, Rory was accepted to study at the Royal Northern College of Music under Murray McLachlan, where he refined his technique. Rory received masterclasses from renowned pianists including Peter Donohoe, Leon Fleisher, Peter Hill, Stephen Hough, Leslie Howard, Noriko Ogawa, and Fanny Waterman. In addition to his lessons and practise, Rory undertook courses in piano accompaniment and piano teaching. He received first-class marks in his assessments and developed lesson plans alongside performing in venues such as Leeds College of Music.
He became involved in the International Manchester Beethoven Research Symposia, led by the renowned Beethoven scholar Professor Barry Cooper, and published the first paper he gave at the symposium—'Beethoven's WoO 47 Piano Sonatas: Worthless or Invaluable?'—in the journal Piano Professional. Rory was subsequently awarded a prestigious scholarship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and graduated with a Master of Music degree from the Royal Northern College of Music (2013).
Rory began teaching at the University of Manchester, where he taught courses on aural skills, musicianship (figured bass, improvisation, score-reading, and transposition), and tonal harmony. Rory was responsible for the education of over one hundred students at this time. He delivered papers at various conferences and fora, including the Royal Musical Association Student Conference and the Manchester University Research Forum. Rory also performed the late Beethoven piano sonatas (Opp. 109, 110, and 111), and accompanied students at the University. Rory was subsequently accepted as a piano accompanist at the University of Manchester.
He presented a paper on Beethoven's Waldstein Variations at the Society of Musicology for Ireland's Annual Plenary Conference, and was invited to become a regular contributor for Piano Professional in 2019 and Piano Journal in 2020. Rory is currently exploring the field of Anglo-Irish music through his research and upcoming performances sponsored by the Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council. In his free time, Rory enjoys spending time with his wife and son, as well as cooking and reading.
Rory Dowse is a Master of Music graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music, and a First-Class Bachelor of Music graduate of Queen’s University Belfast, where he achieved the highest mark in his year. Rory studied piano under Dr. Murray McLachlan at the Royal Northern College of Music, and under Dr. Peter Tuite at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. He is a piano accompanist at the University of Manchester, and a regular contributor for Piano Professional and Piano Journal.
He has performed throughout the UK and Ireland as both a soloist and accompanist, and won a number of competitions, including the Joan Gavin Cup and Dina Copeman Cup at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. He has also received masterclasses from pianists including Peter Donohoe, Leon Fleisher, Peter Hill, Stephen Hough, Leslie Howard, and Fanny Waterman.
After the publication of his article, ‘Beethoven’s WoO 47 Piano Sonatas: Worthless or Invaluable?’ in Piano Professional journal, Rory was awarded a scholarship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council by the Royal Northern College of Music. He has also been awarded ‘Highly Commended in the Recognition of Academic Excellence’ by The Undergraduate Awards of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Having gained over a dozen years of teaching experience, Rory has taught piano and theory to pupils of various ages and abilities: from beginners to professionals, aged approximately three to seventy. Many of his students have achieved Distinction in examinations and won competitions. Rory has also taught courses on analysis, aural, and musicianship skills at the University of Manchester.