Declan Plummer is a music teacher, a music lecturer and a musicologist, with research interests in music in nineteenth-century Britain and Ireland.
Born in Belfast, Declan’s enthusiasm for classical and Irish traditional music was strongly encouraged by his parents during the 1980s and 1990s while studying at school and attending the Ulster College of Music for piano and music theory lessons. In 1997 he began learning the uilleann pipes at the Belfast Traditional Music and Dance Society, where the renowned uilleann piper, Tom Clarke, taught him for four years. During this time, Declan attended various festivals and all-Ireland Fleadh competitions, and added several more instruments to his studies, including the Spanish requinta, Irish Bouzouki, Irish flute, Bodhrán and traditional guitar.
Declan went to University College Cork to do a Bachelor’s degree in music. Although his degree focused primarily on classical music, it also allowed for the study of Irish traditional music and other types of world music. As a result, Declan continued to receive lessons in tin whistle and uilleann pipes under the supervision of Mary Mitchell Ingoldsby, and for his major-study option he produced a dissertation entitled ‘The Structure of Irish Traditional Music for the Uilleann Pipes’. After successfully completing his undergraduate work at Cork, Declan continued his studies at Queen’s University Belfast, where he acquired a Master’s degree in music 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 2016.
During his postgraduate studies, Declan also began to teach 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: he delivered many series of lectures in music history, music theory and Irish music at the Down Arts Centre and the School of Education in Queen’s University Belfast as part of the university’s Open Learning Programme; he delivered workshops in bodhrán and uilleann pipes at various branches of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann throughout Ireland; and he taught as a volunteer tutor at the Andersonstown Traditional & Contemporary Music School in Belfast.
Since leaving university, Declan has continued his passion for teaching music theory, aural skills, music history and Irish traditional music and has significantly developed his research. Along with the late Roy Johnston, he is 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.
Today, Declan teaches music theory and aural skills (Grades 1 to 8 ABRSM syllabus) at the City of Belfast School of Music, and he continues to teach the uilleann pipes, flute, guitar, bodhrán and bouzouki at Ards branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. Furthermore, Declan also works as a teaching assistant at the School of Creative Arts 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 Bachelor of Music (BMus) and Bachelor of Arts (BA) degrees. 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 enthusiastically joined the Ulster College of Music in 2016 to help deliver classes for the A-Level and GCSE music courses and Advanced Aural. He also introduced several new classes, notably the Advanced Theory Class (Grades 6-8 ABRSM); a Music Appreciation class that covers all aspects of basic musical elements, music history and form; an Irish Trad Group; and individual tuition for tin whistle, Irish flute, traditional guitar, Irish bouzouki, Bodhrán and uilleann pipes.
Apart from music, Declan’s other hobbies include IT and reading. He particularly enjoys learning about new ways of using technology in his teaching, including the use of multimedia presentations, iPads, Apps and creating and developing his own website, so it’s not surprising that he volunteered to help administer the UCM, Ards CCÉ and Ulster Fleadh websites. He admits to being a bit of a geek! The primary purpose of this website is to combine all of his teaching expertise into one location for the benefit of his students and anyone else who may be interested in learning more about music.