The Esker Festival Orchestra was set up in 2014 to provide a high quality, beneficial and meaningful musical opportunity for young emerging musicians from all across Ireland and for the first time to have an orchestra of this quality and scope based in Galway. The orchestra was set up to fill the musical and social void that currently exists in Ireland by allowing young musicians from across the country to perform together, socialise together and to build relationships that will be essential during their personal and professional lives, to promote and develop orchestral music in Ireland by nurturing the talents of its emerging musicians and crucially to provide all of this with as little financial burden as possible on the musicians themselves. Finally it is unique in that it is entirely led and run by its members for its members, allowing those taking part to gather invaluable first-hand experience in the world of orchestral music. The Esker Festival Orchestra now also welcomes international members each year, allowing musicians from across the world to come to Ireland, perform together and to meet and learn from their international colleagues and peers, further developing the impact and reputation of orchestral music in Ireland and abroad.

The Esker Festival Orchestral is gratefully supported by the Irish Association of Youth Orchestras, the Arts Council of Ireland, RTÉ Supporting the Arts, the Galway Music Residency, NUI Galway and the CIT Cork School of Music.


Paul McCusker - Conductor 2019

Paul began studying music at the age of seven when he took up the violin and piano. Growing up in Belfast Paul was a member of the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra and the Ulster Youth Orchestra. Upon leaving school Paul opted to study Zoology at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) but whilst there he became heavily involved in the musical life of the university, conducting the Music Society Choir in 2008/09 and then the QUB Symphony Orchestra from 2009-11, during which time he took the orchestra on its inaugural tour to Glasgow and Edinburgh.

In 2012 Paul conducted an Ulster Youth Orchestra outdoor film music concert and later that year founded Laganside Sinfonia, a Belfast based charity fundraising orchestra that performs annually in Belfast. He returned to the QUB Symphony Orchestra in 2013/14 and in recent years has worked with the Esker Festival Orchestra and conducted an Ulster Youth Orchestra Chamber Orchestra at the Hillsborough Oyster Festival.

Having completed his PhD in molecular biology in 2014 Paul worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the biology department of QUB, where he had research and lecturing roles, before leaving in September 2017 to study conducting at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with Garry Walker and Alasdair Mitchell. Whilst there he won the Hugh S Roberton prize for orchestral conducting, participated in a workshop with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and conducted the Red Note Ensemble in concert. In March 2018 he won the panel and orchestra prizes at the Feis Ceoil Conducting Competition with the RTE Concert Orchestra which led to a lunchtime concert performance with the RTE Concert Orchestra in August 2018. In December 2018 he was invited to conduct an Ulster Youth Orchestra 25th Anniversary Alumni concert in the Ulster Hall, Belfast.


Hannah Miller - Soloist 2019

Hannah Miller is currently a Master’s student of Julie Landsman at the Juilliard School of Music with a full scholarship from the support of the Jerome L. Greene Fellowship. She graduated from her Bachelor degree at the Sibelius Academy of Helsinki, where she studied with Erja Joukamo-Ampuja, while simultaneously working in the Kuopio Symphony Orchestra in Finland where she was appointed Co-Principal French Horn in 2015.

Alongside her former position with the Kuopio Symphony Orchestra, Hannah is a very accomplished orchestral musician and was recently engaged in trials with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and was contracted by Tapiola Sinfonietta in Finland for their 2017-2018 seasons. This summer she will also be participating the Verbier Festival Orchestra which is recognised as one of the world’s best training orchestras. Also very avid contemporary musician, Hannah is a member of Kirkos Ensemble who in the last years have featured Hannah in its KirkosKammer series as part of wind quintet, horn trio and solo recitalist programmes, has performed with Crash Ensemble, and been a member of the Ulysses Ensemble in 2018.

Born in Wexford, Hannah still maintains strong ties within the Irish music community, and is part of Trio Solas comprising of pianist Eadaoin Copeland and tenor Philip Keegan who have performed in several concert series throughout Ireland and their first international debut in Amsterdam in March 2019. Hannah has also performed as a soloist with the Wexford Sinfonia in the National Opera House of Ireland, playing Schumann’s Konzertstuck for four horns and orchestra with three of her Finnish colleagues in 2017. In the same year she performed Vivaldi’s Concerto for two Horns with Richard Watkins and the Dublin Consort as part of Dublin Brass Week Festival.

Donagh Marnane - Composer 2019


Donagh Marnane was born in Cork and grew up in Wicklow. He started to play tunes on the piano at a young age, and soon took up the clarinet. Throughout his pre-teen and adolescent life he dabbled in guitars and drums, playing in various short-lived bands. At the age of fourteen he decided to take up the bassoon, realising that it might hold more promising career prospects than the clarinet or piano. He then moved to Scotland at the age of 19 to study bassoon and composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. His composition tutors included Rory Boyle and David Fennessy. JUX, for mixed sextet, was premiered at PLUG 2015 by Red Note, receiving favourable reviews. Donagh is also a professional photographer and has a keen interest in languages, technology and cooking.

Peter Joyce - Festival Director

Peter Joyce is an Irish musician, conductor and composer. He gained his first important musical experiences at age eleven playing the saxophone with the Black Magic Big Band. From the age of 15 Peter began traveling to Dublin from his home in Esker to study clarinet and saxophone with Ciaran Wilde, and later clarinet with Fintan Sutton at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. He is a music graduate of Trinity College Dublin where he began composing, arranging and conducting, later studying conducting with Dr. Geoffrey Spratt at the CIT Cork School of Music. Now based in Vienna, Peter currently studies conducting with Mark Stringer, composition with Wolfgang Suppan and clarinet with Heinz-Peter Linshalm at the renowned University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna.

Since his early years in Dublin Peter has been active as a freelance clarinetist, saxophonist and flautist throughout Europe, gaining vast performing experience with groups and artists such as the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra, the Dublin City Jazz Orchestra, The National Youth Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Divertimento Viennese, the Webern Kammerphilharmonie, Placido Domingo, Andrea Bocelli, Buddy Greco, Imelda May, Liam Ó Maonlaí, Sinead O'Connor, Hozier, Nathan Carter and Booka Brass Band among many others, as well as on tour with the West End Production of 'The Rat Pack Live from Las Vegas'.

Equally at home in the theatre as in the orchestra, Peter has vast experience conducting and performing in musical theatre and opera. These include performing in Wide Open Opera's 2014 production of Nixon in China, working as pianist and chorus master on the 2015 national tour of The Unlucky Cabin Boy, as assistant and rehearsal conductor for productions of Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea and Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte at the Music Academy International 2016 Summer Festival in Trentino Italy and as conductor and producer for a recent Irish production of 'The Soldier's Tale' by Igor Stravinsky. Most recently Peter has been as a musical assistant for live broadcasts from the Vienna State Opera. A champion of new music, Peter has performed and conducted premiers of many new works by Irish and international composers.