Learn to Play and Teach Viola – A Course for Violinists

IAYO is offering three part scholarships, valued at €250 each, to teachers nominated by member orchestras on application to IAYO. (The full fee for the course is €475 so participants / orchestras will pay €225.) Member orchestras that wish to develop viola-playing in their ensemble can apply to IAYO, giving brief details of the violin teacher and plans to develop viola playing. A single page of A4 is sufficient to cover both. Please send applications to Allin Gray at allin@iayo.ie. In the case that there are more than three applications, the IAYO Director and two board members will come to a decision on who to allocate the scholarships to. Please send in your applications by Thursday 11th January.

Are you a confident violin player or teacher? Have you ever wished to branch out into playing or teaching viola? Then this course is for you! Join RIAM faculty member and noted violist Lisa Dowdall, as she guides you through an intensive but fun blended online and live course over ten weeks.

This course includes 2 full day group sessions at the Royal Irish Academy of Music plus regular individual contact with each participant.

Course Outline

Participants will:

  • Learn to read the alto clef with ease
  • Adapt their skills as a violinist to the viola
  • Learn pieces from the 2018 RIAM Viola syllabus
  • Concentrate on left hand technique, the bow arm and hold to make a true viola sound
  • Gain an overview of the core viola repertoire

Prior to week one, participants will have access to introductory videos explaining what to expect during the course and how they can prepare

The first day will take place at the RIAM where participants will spend a day in a workshop setting with Lisa, where repertoire will be assigned for the duration of the course.

Videos of the repertoire being learnt will be distributed for further help supported by an online class forum to answer all questions and share ideas and performances.

Each participant will receive weekly online/in person lessons to follow up on progress and give individual instruction.

On the final day participants return to the RIAM to go through all the repertoire and technique we have learned.

Course dates

Live group session 1: Sunday 28th January from 11am to 6pm

Live group session 2: Sunday 1st April from 11am to 6pm

8 individual weekly/ of 4 longer fortnightly lessons occur in the intervening 8 weeks. They shall be flexible to your needs, either in person or online.


You must have a minimum standard of grade 5 on violin to take part, access to a device and internet or be willing to travel to the RIAM on a regular basis.

All participants are required to have a viola.

A viola can be rented for 3 months at €60 from wwwstringersmusic.com with the option of buying at the end of the 3-month period minus the rental fee. Please contact Stringers Music directly to avail of this offer, quoting the code Irish Academy Viola Project.

Course fee

€475 to include tutor books and materials and places are limited to 10 participants.

Places are limited and offered on a first come, first served basis.


This course is designed to get all players up to the standard to undertake the RIAM viola grades (level to be determined with Lisa) or DipRIAM certificate in viola teaching. Students must apply for such courses separately. All students receive a certificate of participation from the RIAM.

Course tutor, Lisa Dowdall

Born in Dublin, Lisa Dowdall is one of Ireland’s most innovative and versatile musicians. Alongside teaching at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Lisa enjoys a career of diverse music making in chamber ensembles.

As a member of Crash Ensemble, she has collaborated with artists such as Dawn Upshaw, Iarla O’Lionard, Sam Amidon and Gavin Friday, and has premiered works written for the Crash Ensemble by Terry Riley, David Lang, Michael Gordon, Nico Muhly and Donnacha Dennehy.

Lisa has performed internationally at many festivals including The Edinburgh Festival, Canberra International Music Festival, Ban on a Can Marathon, residencies at the 2012 Huddersfield International Contemporary Music Festival and Princeton University and performances in Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Centre and the Royal Opera House – Covent Garden.

As a baroque violist Lisa is a member of the Spackling band and has worked and performed with the Irish Baroque Orchestra, Sestina, Resurgam, Cork baroque Orchestra, and leading baroque musicians Elizabeth Walfisch, Pablo Beznosiuk, Christian Curnyn, Mark Padmore and Christophe Rousset. Lisa’s teachers have included Roger Bigley at the Royal Northern College of Music, Marjolein Dispa at the Amsterdam Conservatorium, Bruno Giuranna at the University of Limerick and the Conservatorio Svizzerra Italiana with masterclasses from Yuri Bashmet, Nobuko Imai, Thomas Reibl, Isabel Charisius and Milan Skampa.

She was a string resident at the Britten Pears Programme where she was generously supported by ‘Aldeburgh Residencies’. Lisa plays a 1820 John Furber Viola which she was able to buy after receiving bursaries from Musician’s Benevolent Fund, the Kathleen Trust and the Lynn Foundation. Lisa also plays with two bows by modern Irish makers, Noel Burke and Robert Pierce.

To book a place on the course directly, visit Eventbrite. If you are applying for a scholarship, please contact allin@iayo.ie.