Phantom of the Opera helps Shona win prestigious award

Award-winning MIC graduate Shona Cassidy

A Limerick graduate has won a prestigious music award for a thesis she completed on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, ‘Phantom of the Opera’ as part of her undergraduate study at Mary Immaculate College.

Shona Cassidy from Raheen, who graduated from MIC last October with a BA in Music and English, was awarded First Prize in the Council of Heads of Music in Higher Education (CNMHE) Undergraduate Musicology Competition for her thesis.

The competition sees Higher Education music departments from around the island of Ireland nominating an undergraduate dissertation for the annual prize.

This award is not the first Shona has received as a result of her study at MIC. At her graduation ceremony, she was awarded the Gold Medal in Liberal Arts in recognition of her outstanding academic performance.

Shona Cassidy receiving the Mary Immaculate College Gold Medal for achieving first place in the BA in Liberal Arts course from College President Professor Eugene Wall last October.

Shona’s winning thesis, ‘The Phantom of the Opera: High Art or High-Pop?’, investigated the much-debated categorisation of the 1986 musical within the musical theatre landscape. She argued that Lloyd Webber’s show offers a self-reflexive commentary on the cultural history of the operatic institution since the nineteenth-century.

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Recalling when she found out that she had won the award, Shona said: “I honestly couldn’t believe it. It’s such an amazing honour and I feel so privileged that the adjudicators awarded first prize to my dissertation. Having had a strong love and appreciation for education instilled in me by my parents from a very young age, I am delighted that my time in MIC allowed me to develop the skills necessary to produce a dissertation such as this.

“I’m very grateful to my supervisor, Dr Michael Murphy and his colleagues in the Music Department for their support and advice throughout both the process of writing this paper and my time at MIC.” she said.

Bachelor of Arts students at MIC choose their own subject to research during their fourth and final year of study.

Explaining why she chose her subject matter, Shona said: “I knew I wanted to include opera in some way. I was aware that opera is not always considered the most approachable or popular form of musical theatre. However, during a module taught by Dr Murphy, I realised that this had not always been the case.

“As such, I wanted to explore the gap between the perception of opera today and the role it played in nineteenth-century society,” she added.

Music is one of the 13 subjects available on MIC’s leading liberal arts programme. Further details at