Queen’s student graduates with PhD in Music and honours late friend

It will be poignant day for a Queen’s student and his classmates, as he graduates today but also remembers a fellow student and friend who passed away during their studies.

Stephen Coyle will today (Thursday 12 December) celebrate graduating with a PhD from the School of Music at Queen’s University Belfast.

Speaking about his experience Stephen, aged 28 from Letterkenny in Co. Donegal, said: “The most enjoyable part of studying at Queen's has been the friendships and connections I've made during my time here; so many of the friends I have to this day were made during my degree and Master’s”

During his time at Queen’s Stephen became good friends with classmate Daniel Barkley, a talented musician and composer from Carrickfergus, who sadly passed away in January 2018. Daniel’s posthumous PhD will also be awarded today.

“Danny and I met during our Masters' at Queen's in 2012; he invited me to play piano duets with him after our first lecture and we quickly became good friends. Music was of course a major part of our friendship, and I was always in awe of his knowledge and ability as a composer. We would talk a lot about our own thoughts on music and composition, which for a while we turned into a podcast called Comparing Notes.”

Along with Professor Piers Hellawell and Daniel’s friend, Dr Ciaran Kennedy, Stephen helped put together the final submission for Daniel’s PhD. “Danny's PhD is in composition, like my own, so in addition to the written part there's a portfolio of music. The scores in this need to be individually bound, with title pages and prefaces containing any special instructions for performers. So I helped Professor Hellawell and Dr Kennedy with this part.

“Danny was a truly caring and supportive friend that I spoke to probably every day, even if just on WhatsApp, and someone who I miss very much.”

Speaking about their son Daniel and his university experience, David and Joyce Barkley said: “We are delighted with the efforts and support that Queen’s has made to facilitate the completion of his work. Due to the efforts and dedication of Professor Piers Hellawell, Ciaran Kennedy and Stephen Coyle we now have a tangible remembrance of Daniel, and this is a source of great comfort for us; we can't thank them enough.

“We appreciate the friendship and guidance offered by Professor Hellawell to Daniel during his years at Queen’s. Daniel considered him to be a close friend, an inspiration and a source of encouragement during his studies. His diligent work of collating and filling in the missing blanks has allowed Daniel’s work to be submitted and for that we are eternally grateful. It has given us a lasting legacy to remember Daniel by.

“We are delighted that Daniel’s close friend and fellow PhD student Stephen Coyle has also just graduated. His efforts in preparing the scores for Daniel’s PhD are greatly appreciated.

“We are grateful for the considerable effort made by Ciaran Kennedy to edit the text for submission. It has turned a pile of manuscripts and notes into something tangible to remember Daniel with.”

This will be Stephen’s third graduation from Queen’s, having previously completed his undergrad and Master’s degrees at the University.

“My supervisor, Professor Piers Hellawell, has been an incredible support throughout my time at the University. I've always found Queen's to be a very welcoming and creative environment, and the music department in particular has always been very supportive in terms of providing facilities and opportunities to perform, and to hear my music performed,” Stephen added.

After graduation Stephen plans to work on his business, N56 Software, which he set-up with his brother. They plan on launching two new apps, called ‘Fete’, which shows all festivals and venues around you in one place making it easy to find the ones you're interested in and see what's on, and ‘Source’, which allows students to access information and updates from their school and book one-to-one or group revision sessions.

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