2008 - Fionnuala Ward

15-year-old pianist Fionnuala Ward won Northern Ireland’s Young Musician of the Year 2008. 

Fionnuala, who lives in Magherafelt and goes to St Mary’s Grammar School in the town, is a pupil of Derry pianist Ruth McGinley. She played Le chat et la souris (The cat and the mouse), a playful but challenging piece by the American composer Aaron Copland. 

In the words of adjudicator Melvin Rickarby “Fionnuala gave the most engrossing and technically perfect performance. Her energy and enthusiasm showed through from beginning to glorious end”. 

Fionnuala received an engraved Tyrone Crystal bowl and £250 in vouchers for Matchetts Music, supporters of the competition for many years. 
Runner-up was 16-year-old Peter Glasgow on alto saxophone. His interpretation of Gabriel Grovlez’s Sarabande et Allegro was, said Melvin, “beautifully shaped and fluent, showing his technical skill and enjoyment of the music”. Peter studies at Ballyclare High School.

In third place was 15-year-old Amy Mathews of Belfast, playing clarinet. Amy’s performance of Malcolm Arnold’s unaccompanied Fantasy “filled the room with fine music, enthralling the audience”, said Melvin.
The adjudicator’s choices in the Highly Commended category were Mathew Parish on piano, from Belfast; Ami Ogilby on flute from Carrickfergus; and Stephen Rankin from Ballymena, also on flute.

Adjudicator Melvin Rickarby congratulated all 12 finalists on getting to the final and creating a wonderful evening of music-making. He also thanked the Rotary Club of Comber for organising “this most important event in the musical calendar”.

Comber Rotary Club President Ken Brundle said: “This annual flagship event provides a platform for young musicians to gain essential competition experience. It is also an opportunity for us to show our commitment to local charities, particularly those supporting young people and their families.”  Since the competition began in 1993 it has raised £75,000 for local young people’s charities, in particular the NI Music Therapy Trust and the NI Cancer Fund for Children.


Magherafelt pianist Fionnuala Ward holds a First Class Honours degree from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, studying under Korean pianist, Sinae Lee. Born in Co. Derry, she began playing piano at the age of 4, under tuition from Irish concert pianist Ruth McGinley.
At 15 she was named Northern Ireland Young Musician of the Year, and was subsequently requested to play for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at a lunch and evening reception at Hillsborough Castle during Her Majesty's visit to Northern Ireland in 2008. Since then, she has performed on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio Ulster, and reached the Category Auditions at the Royal College of Music for the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2010. She was a finalist in the Catherine Judge Memorial Award in 2011, and has received masterclasses from Peter Donohoe, John O’Conor, Roy Howat, Pascal Roge, Barry Douglas, Richard Goode and Philip Kawin.
This year Fionnuala will be moving to London to pursue a Masters degree at the Royal College of Music, studying with Ashley Wass and Sofya Gulyak.