Ailís Ní Ríain is an Irish contemporary classical composer and published writer for stage who aims to produce work that challenges, provokes and engages. A regular collaborator with artists in other art-forms, her artistic interests are diverse and combined with an unwavering desire to push and develop her artistic practice through each new project or commission.  In 2016 she was awarded the Paul Hamlyn Award for Composers.

Ailís Ní Ríain was born in Cork, in the Republic of Ireland. She studied classical piano at The Cork School of Music with Bridget Doolan and took an undergraduate music degree at University College Cork followed by studies at The University of York, Manchester University and The Royal Northern College of Music.

In 2016 she was awarded a Paul Hamlyn Composer’s Award – the largest individual artist award in the UK. In 2018 she was shortlisted to represent Ireland at ISCM World Music Days in 2017 and 2018 and for the 2018 Annelie de Man Prix in the Netherlands. She is represented by The Contemporary Music Centre of Ireland.

Ailís composes concert music, site­-specific music installations, opera, music­-theatre and often collaborates with artists working in other forms such as visual art, text, photography and illustration. There have been performances of her work at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London’s Southbank, The National Concert Hall of Ireland and Carnegie Hall, New York, throughout Europe and on BBC Radio and RTE Radio.

Ailís’ early studies focused on performance as a pianist. It was as a post-graduate that she began to focus on composition. Formative musical experiences included international workshops, courses and residencies with Louis Andriessen, Michael Finnissy, Salvatore Sciarrino, Luca Francesconi, Klaus Huber and Toshio Hosokawa.

Awards & Prizes

2019 PRS for Music Foundation Women Make Music Award
2019 Hinrichsen Foundation Award
2019 The Arts Council of Ireland Music Bursary Award
2019 Unlimited/Shape Arts/ArtsAdmin Commission
2018 Shortlisted ISCM World New Music Days Tallin
2018 Culture Ireland Grant
2018 Arts Council England Project Grant
2018 Finalist Annelie de Man Prix
2017 Shortlisted ISCM World New Music Days Beijing
2017 Travel & Training award Arts Council Ireland
2016 The Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Composers
2016 Spitalfields Music Festival Project Award
2016 Travel & Training Award from The Irish Arts Council
2016 Irish Arts Council Commissions Award
2015 Britten Pears Foundation Bursary
2015 Arts Council England Grants for the Arts Award
2015 PRS Foundation for Music Award
2014 Culture Ireland Travel Award
2014 Travel & Training Award, Irish Arts Council
2014 Sound & Music Composer­ Curator Award
2014 Unlimited R & D Bursary
2014 ACE/British Council International Artist Development Award
2014 PRS Foundation for New Music Award
2013 Finzi Trust Travel & Research Scholarship
2012 Arts Council England Grants for the Arts Award
2011 Abandon Normal Devices/DaDaFest Research Award
2010 Arts Council England Grants for the Arts Award
2009 Music Bursary from The Irish Arts Council
2009 RVW Trust Grant Award
2006 Vienna Modern Masters Nancy Van De Vate Prize for Opera
2006 First Prize ISCM World Music Days Short Cuts competition
2002 First prize SPNM/Brass in Association competition
2000 First prize, RTÉ Composer of the Future competition


2019 Yaddo Artist Colony, Saratoga Springs, USA
2019 Ragdale Foundation Residency, Illinois, USA
2018 MAKE Residency, Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Ireland
2018 Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Virginia, USA
2017 Music Fellowship at Omi International Arts Center, New York State, USA
2017 Residency at Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris, France
2016 Associate Artist Residency at Atlantic Center for the Arts, Florida, USA
2015 Residency at METALCulture, Southend on Sea, UK
2015 Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, Genoa, Italy
2011 Aldeburgh Residencies with DuoDort, Aldeburgh Productions, Suffolk, UK
2006 Interact Roskilde, Denmark with Luca Francesoni & Ake Parmerud
2004 THREAD Residency, Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Ireland

Formal Training

Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, UK – PCRNCM
Junior Fellow at The Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester
Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, UK – PGDipRNCM
The University of Manchester, UK – MPhil
The University of York, UK – MA
University College Cork, Ireland – BMus(Hons)
Cork School of Music, Ireland – Diploma in Performance (Piano)