Declan is a music teacher, lecturer and researcher, who specialises in teaching theory, aural skills, analysis, composition and secondary school music subjects (GCSE, Leaving Cert., and AS & A2 music).
Born in Belfast, Declan’s enthusiasm for classical and Irish traditional music was strongly encouraged by his parents while studying at school and attending the Ulster College of Music for piano lessons.
After successfully completing his Bachelor's degree in music at University College Cork in 2005, Declan continued his studies at Queen’s University Belfast, where he acquired a Master’s degree in music in 2006 and was awarded a PhD in musicology in 2011 producing a dissertation, under the supervision of Professor Jan Smaczny, that focused on the conducting career of Sir Hamilton Harty.
Declan has published articles on Harty in several academic journals, including The Musicology Review and the Journal of the Society of Musicology in Ireland. He also contributed to a chapter on Harty for the book, Irish Music History, 1790-1920: Documents, Sources, Perspectives, published by Four Courts Press in 2019. Along with the late Roy Johnston, he is also co-author of The Musical Life of Nineteenth-Century Belfast (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2015), the first ever publication to give a detailed examination of the city’s musical history.
Since leaving university, Declan has spent years teaching music professionally and acquired significant experience working with a variety of people of different ages, abilities and backgrounds (including school children, university students and adult learners), in large classes and small tutorial groups, across a range of working environments.
Declan has been a tutor at the Ulster College of Music for many years: he teaches all units and components of the A-Level and GCSE music courses; offers tuition in aural skills and music theory (Grades 1-8 ABRSM, Trinity & RIAM boards); and has introduced new classes: notably the Advanced Music Theory class, the Music Appreciation class, and individual tuition for tin whistle, Irish flute, traditional guitar, Irish bouzouki, bodhrán and uilleann pipes. At the City of Belfast School of Music he teaches advanced theory and aural skills, and he also works as a teaching assistant at the School of Arts, English & Languages in Queen’s University Belfast, where he delivers lectures and tutorials for undergraduate students who take modules in music theory and music history as part of their BMus and BA degree programmes. At Queen's, he teaches aspects of fundamental harmony using a variety of styles from the 18th and 19th centuries, including Bach chorales, German Lied, piano music and string quartets. His lectures aim to enhance the ability of students to evaluate and describe the harmonic structure of music by employing complex music analysis using Roman numerals with figured bass labelling. These lectures also strengthen students’ creative skills so they can compose music in various styles using guidelines for harmonization, chord progressions and voice leading. In addition, Declan teaches students how to understand a variety of key repertoires within their historical and cultural contexts by giving students a clear chronological account of the developments in music across the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modernist periods.
Declan's teaching philosophy is simple: to instill his own passion and enthusiasm for music into his students so that they want to know more and become self-motivated, independent learners. In all of his teaching Declan is constantly expanding his own knowledge and skills to adopt new ways of engaging with students and learning new technologies and teaching strategies to give his students the best possible learning environment; one that is inclusive of everyone and where music is taught without borders.
To this end, he has adopted a highly technologically-enhanced approach to music education, creating his own website, Facebook groups, and Google Classroom courses; making hundreds of digitised PDF handouts, exam papers, and class/homework assignments in music theory and music history (all uniquely embedded with audio and video examples); designing dozens of MuseScore composition templates; and providing fully-analysed music scores for set-work analysis. His extensive experience with Zoom has been particularly positive for his students, with midi-keyboards, mirrored apps, screen/audio sharing, and dozens of other interactive programmes designed to captivate and inspire his students.
Declan continues using these incredible educational tools to energise his students and infuse in them the same passion for learning that has been with him his whole life.