Donegal concert pianist Nadene Fiorentini describes 2014 as an incredible year.
It saw her fulfil a dream - playing solo in the National Concert Hall, and also saw the release of her first solo album.
The seeds for such a great year were sowed in 2012 when she won the Rising Star title at the Dublin International Piano Competition in 2012 after finishing as the highest placed Irish competitor.
The solo performance and the album release were part of her prize.
Both events, the concert and the album release, have helped the 25-year-old Inishowen woman reach a wider audience with her music.
The album release in particular has earned her airtime on RTÉ Lyric FM and Radio Ulster.
Both achievements are the results of complete and utter dedication to music.
Playing solo in front of an audience in a venue like the National Concert Hall for 70 minutes from memory was a highlight of her career to date.
“It was a dream come true,” she says. “I tend not to get wound up in the whole idea of it. It was a few days after when it began to sink in. “That’s when it really sinks in that it was a massive achievement. It was nerve-racking but when you have the preparation done you just have to relax, trust yourself and let the music speak for itself. It was a proud moment.”
Coming from a musical family, music was never a chore for her and she says she did not come under pressure to go down that road.
It was just something that she was surrounded by.
She began playing the piano when she was six-years-old and was taught her her aunt Giovanna before attending the McGinley school in Derry.
She mastered piano, violin, clarinet and singing, achieving grade eight standard in all before she decided to concentrate on piano, her first love.
Loving what she does to the extent she does is critical to her success as her chosen path involves immense dedication.
Her daily routine consists of a minimum of six to eight hours of practise and this can increase when she is preparing for a concert or competition.
The year ahead already looks very promising.
Nadene has just returned from Germany where she was taking part in master classes and rehearsals for a three-date chamber music tour with Irish soprano Rachel Croash and violinist David Tobin.
The tour will see her perform in her native north west at the Great Hall in the Magee campus of the University of Ulster in Derry next month.
She will also play in Wicklow and then return to the National Concert Hall at the end of the month.
The Earlsfort Terrace venue is becoming like a second home for her. Nadene returns there on May 9th for a concert with the Dublin Orchestral Players to celebrate their 75th anniversary.
Preparation is already well under way for that performance. As well as the hours of practice and rehearsal that is involved in the preparation Nadene is fascinated in the mental aspects of preparing for such performances.
The mental preparation a musician must put into preparing for such high-pressure performances is similar to what an athlete goes through when facing competition, she says.
“It is similar to sports psychology. It is about the whole approach, preparing for the performance, dealing with nerves and being able to use them to your advantage. I have read about it but it has a lot to do with experience. The more you do the easier it gets.”
When she competed in the Dublin International Piano Competition she took part in a session with golfer Padraig Harrington.
“He talked about what to do when things go wrong. When one thing goes wrong it is easy to let the whole thing crumble.”
As well as performing music Nadene is teaching in the Royal Irish Academy of Music where she is completing a doctorate on injury prevention and management for musicians.
Nadene suffered from a herniated disc in her back which required medical treatment over a period of months. That ignited her interest in injury prevention.
At this stage in her musical career Nadene is concentrating on understanding and expressing the pieces she performs - the qualities that judges look for in international competitions.
“They want you to show your musicianship, understanding and expression. You have to have an innate sense of musicality. There is only so much that can be taught. It is about how you express what you feel and what you are bringing to the table that is original.”
Choosing the material she plays has become very important and she has a particular fondness for composers from the late classical period Beethoven, Chopin and Brahms.
“You have to be able to play in a wide range of styles but also focus on what you are good at. You have to be able tom play in a wide range of styles but also focus in what you are good at.”
The elitism that is associated with classical music is something she feels is changing and there is a wider interest in the music.
Nadene was 15 when she decided she wanted to make music the main focus in her life. It was not a difficult decision, one helped by her love of music and a drive to be the best she can.
She moved to Dublin to study at Royal Irish Academy of Music. She was just 17 when she arrived in the capital and found herself a small fish in a very big pool.
“I just had the interest and had the drive to pursue it. But it was a whole different ball game in Dublin and I had to work extremely hard to get it up to standard and build my way up. I do love it and I would not be doing it if I did not love it so much. You have to push yourself and aim to raise the bar even higher, that’s what you have to do.”