Sephira are musicians Ruth O’Leary and Joyce O’Leary, two brilliant, wonderful and talented women who spent a few years on tour with the group Celtic Thunder, and who are now out on their own making giant waves in the musical world. I adore them both and am delighted to share a Q&A with them! Watch their Facebook page (link below) for news on upcoming appearances around the country!
A: Ruth: My playschool teacher started teaching violin and I was her first student!
Q: How long have you been playing, and what formal or informal training have you had?
A: Ruth: I’ve been playing violin since I was 6 years old and piano since I was 10. I had started taking violin quite seriously when I was about 15, so it was a natural progression for me to continue music into college level. Although, my career path has veered off the classical route, I do have a first class honors degree in Music Performance, which I’ve never once been asked for!!
A: Joyce: I started playing violin when I was 2 and a half years old. I started singing when I was fifteen and followed in Ruth’s footsteps and studied music performance at third level in the Royal Irish Academy of Music. In 2005, we started Sephira and haven’t looked back!
Q: Favorite memories in your career?
A: Without a doubt, getting a call asking us to perform at a private event for Larry Hagman and his wife was definitely one of our favorite moments so far. It was amazing to find out that an icon like Larry Hagman was a fan of our music!
Q: How would you describe your music?
A: Celtic Classical Crossover
Q: As you’re Irish, do people expect you to play Celtic music?
A: Yes, all the time! But the interesting thing is, that no matter what we play, people still feel that it has a Celtic sound. We’ve done a lot of work with Tourism Ireland and they have been using us as ambassadors for Ireland at many different functions across the US.
A: I think it addresses the more new age Celtic sound which opens up a lot more avenues for artists like ourselves. At the end of the day, I think what’s really important is that music is played from the heart. If you can get this right, then I think you’re on the right track.
Q: Tell us more about the Beyond Celtic show? What’s it about, who is in it, when can we see it?
A: Beyond Celtic is Michael Londra’s new PBS special which we’re appearing as special guests on. Also featured on the show is Frankie Gavin and Dé Dannan. The filming took place on 18th March in The California Theater, San Bernardino in LA. It is said that Beyond Celtic will be airing on PBS nationwide from July/August. We are so excited about this project and it has been amazing to get to work with Michael Londra who is one of the nicest people you will ever meet.
Q: Where do you find the inspiration for your music?
A: Everywhere. Anything in life that sparks emotion is where we find our inspiration.
Q: What is your process in creating a new piece?
A: Melody always comes first for us, then lyrics and then chords. We started doing some co-writing with a well-known song writer at home, Shay Healy. It was great to see how other people create music and it made us experiment with other ways of writing.
Q: You offer confidence building music workshops for youth. What made you want to offer these classes?
A: The reason behind the classes is that we feel that children spend so much of their time practicing for exams or concerts and then when it comes to the performance time, often nerves take over and they can’t show their true colors. The idea behind our workshops is to boost children’s confidence and make it fun to show off what they’ve learned. Of course, there will always be nerves, but in a controlled way that will just add fire to their performance.
Q: What do kids learn in the workshops?
A: As well as building confidence and teaching performance skills, we also teach the rudiments of music.
Q: It seems youth could apply these skills to other areas of life, too?
A: This is very true. Just having the confidence to get up in front of a group of people and talk about yourself is nerve-wracking for most people. We encourage the children to get up and introduce themselves before each performance so they can connect with the audience more comfortably. This sort of experience is invaluable for life experience and will hopefully stay with each child forever.
Q: What advice would you give to kids hoping to become musicians?
A: Practice, practice, practice … and don’t give up!
Q: You have traveled around the country several times in a bus. What is it like to live on a bus?
A: It’s great fun, especially having a sister on the road to share it all with! The buses are very luxurious and they become like home. There are rules for life on the road and as long as everyone sticks to the rules, it makes bus life very comfortable! Now of course, we all love our hotel rooms when we get them!
Q: You recently moved from Ireland to New York to forward your career. What are some of the challenges of being a musician in Ireland?
A: We have a very specialized niche that works here in the US. There are more opportunities created in one day in New York than one year in Ireland. Ireland, although it’s a beautiful country, it’s a very small country with a very small audience!
Q: What do you think of New York so far?
A: We LOOOVE New York!!
Q: Can we hope for a new CD anytime soon?
A: Yes, the end of 2011/beginning 2012.
Q: What are your goals, plans, hopes and dreams for Sephira over the next few years?
A: Other than world domination!!! We want to expand Sephira in as many ways as possible. We want to put a complete Sephira show on the road with dramatic production and a full band behind us. We hope to have our music used in a big feature film in the near future. We want people to know the full scope of Sephira’s capabilities.
Q: What makes you happy?
A: Ruth: Being true to myself makes me happy. Knowing that my actions match exactly what I feel deep down creates harmony in my life. When I’m in that place, I radiate happiness which is infectious for other people (I hope)! But it’s definitely something that I keep working on because life always throws new challenges at us!
Joyce: The simple things in life make me happy! For example, a smile from a stranger makes my day, someone making me a cup of tea, an unexpected hug from a loved one. Apart from all this though, happiness, I know, must come from within. Keeping myself in check, keeping myself grounded and constantly working on myself to make me a better person also makes me very happy.
Elements of happiness: positivity, encouragement, honesty, generosity, thoughtfulness and above all LOVE!
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Shameless self promotion: Don’t forget to check out my book, Letters from Wishing Rock (a novel with recipes) too!
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