Amy Gillen was the winner of the 2018 Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the Year, and she performed with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra at the NCH in June 2019 as part of her prize. We asked her the BIG questions . . .

She is currently working and performing in London and has made numerous solo recordings for RTÉ that have been aired on RTÉ Lyric FM.

This year's Final for the Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the Year Competition takes place on Saturday, October 8 at the Freemasons’ Hall on Dublin’s Molesworth Street at 7.00pm.

Amy Gillen with King (then Prince) Charles

Following a two-year absence due to the pandemic this prestigious competition is recognised internationally and is one of the most important dates in the calendars of young musicians who will be the future of classical music in Ireland and around the globe.

Tell us three things about yourself . . .

I am a flutist and I graduated from the Royal College of Music in London with a Distinction Masters of Music in Classical and Jazz Flute. I was also awarded the Tagore Gold Medal at the end of my studies, by HRH King Charles lll at the Royal College of Music.

Amy Gillen

I worked as a Music Teacher at an International School in Abu Dhabi during the Pandemic which also led to some exciting projects, for example recording with Bafoory, the UAE’s first Emirati Rock Band.

I have won multiple prizes both nationally and internationally some of which include the 2018 Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the Year, 2021 Blackwater Valley Opera Festival Bursary and I am a Nagahara Flutes Boston Young Artist.

How would you describe your music?

My interest in music lies in both classical and jazz/funk genres. My band mate, Andy Brookes, and I write, record and produce our own jazz/funk music with our band, The Pearls on Velvet. I play flute and sing and Andy plays guitar and bass.

Our debut single, Be Mine, was described by the French Canadian Arts and Culture website Boulimique de Musique as "an absolutely charming track".

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Our next single, Game of Love, will be released on all music platforms on 21 October 21. It has an 80s’ dance funk music style. Our style of music is a bit different as it encompasses a few different genres: jazz, funk, disco, pop and we also have our unique element which is the flute. Equally, I have a significant love of classical music.

Who are your musical inspirations?

Having a dual love of classical and jazz/funk music has given me many musical inspirations from both genres. It’s hard to pick just a couple!

From the classical music side, I have two big musical inspiration who come from the French flute school. They are Marcel Moyse and Jean Pierre Rampal. I religiously begin my flute practice with Marcel Moyse exercises and I love the French flute sound.

Amy Gillen (second left) with Prince Albert of Monaco (left)

From the jazz/funk/disco side my biggest inspirations include: Chick Corea, ABBA, Ella Fitzgerald for musicality, clarity of voice and expression. I am also hugely inspired by the legendary, late Irish jazz flutist Brian Dunning who had a versatile musical career.

What was the first gig you ever went to and the first record you ever bought/downloaded?

The first gig I ever went to was a Jools Holland gig in the Millennium Forum Theatre in Derry. It is a tradition in the Gillen household to watch Jools Holland's Hootenanny every New Year’s Eve. The first CD I bought was Now That’s What I Call Music! 39.

What’s your favourite song right now?

Right now, I love Dermot Kennedy’s song Something to Someone. I love songs that really tell a story and have some great instrumentals as well.

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Favourite lyric of all time?

Favourite lyric of all time is from ABBA’s song Little Things. "It’s amazing darling, That so little can achieve so much". This lyric particularly resonates with me as it shows that we don’t necessarily need to make big gestures. It’s the little things that matter, like ‘have a nice day, hope you’re keeping well, how is your mum/dad/aunty/uncle/niece/nephew/friend doing?’

I just saw the ABBA Voyage show at the ABBA Arena in London. It was an amazing experience and one I would love to go to again.

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If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?

That is a difficult question as I listen to so many different songs. I absolutely love 80s funk/disco music so I would have to say ABBA’s Voulez-Vous. I love listening to all of the timeless hits by Whitney Houston, Queen, The Cranberries, Celine Dion. The list is endless!

Where can people find your music/more information?

@amygillenflute and @thepearlsonvelvet on Instagram.

My website: www.amygillenflute.com.

Amy Gillen Flutist and The Pearls on Velvet Facebook.

@amygillenflute on Twitter.