As if the Leaving Cert wasn’t stressful enough in not knowing what format it would take, one Listowel student had the challenge of her final-grade exam in music on top of it all.
resentation Secondary student Roisin Walsh had been to sit the exam – under the Royal Irish Academy of Music – after fifth year in 2020, until COVID threw everything into doubt.
Instead, the talented young singer and pianist found herself faced with having to record a video singing a number of classical and musical showstoppers for the RIAM judges.
The final, grade-eight, exam of her musical tuition, it was a huge moment for someone who has been studying and performing since childhood.
And it came on top of the weekly stress of meeting continual assessment assignments as the nation’s senior students, teachers and parents held their breath for weeks on the Leaving Cert decision.
That Roisín sailed through both the uncertain waters of the last few months in school while juggling the big music exam stress speaks volumes of her determination and collectedness.
“The original plan was to sit the face-to-face exam after fifth year, but then it was obviously cancelled. I had that on top of the Leaving Cert so it was a bit of a challenge trying to study on top of it and not knowing what was going to happen,” Roisin said.
“One of the positive aspects of having to do it by video was that you could redo it if you made a mistake rather than going into a room to have to sing perfectly the first time.
“It was a major check off the whole list of pressures to get it done, and I was delighted to get the result this month,” Roisin added.
Roisin was inspired to song and performance from a young age: “My parents took me over to London and got me into musicals, so I got a lot of influence from being so close to singers as they performed live on stage… Wicked and The Lion King were the big ones I remember. They really shocked me on what performers were able to do.”
She refined her art under the tutelage of Kerry School of Music maestros Anna Connell and Caitríona Fitzmaurice, ‘my main influence in getting me to the place I needed to be’.
Traditional singing is also a huge part of Roisin’s world: “I sang under Karen Trench, my old sixth-class teacher, and she really helped my confidence too.”
She also recalled one of her biggest moments, right here at home: “I remember one concert singing ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ from Les Miserables on stage in St John’s and that was a huge turning point in my confidence too.”
Meanwhile, she said the decision on a calculated grade option for the Leaving Cert has come as great relief for all.
Preparing for a written Leaving at the same time as one based on continuous assessment was tough on all.
“That was a major relief as we were left with months of uncertainty with class tests each week that felt like big summer exams as you had to perform, thinking ‘I have to get a H2 to get into my college’ and so on. It wasn’t the teachers’ fault as they had to make sure they had the assessment there…they have to have the proof for the result.”