Harmony in Stuttering: Emily Magner Hurley’s songs for Mental Wellbeing

“A lot of the album is from a style of singing called Sean-Nós, meaning ‘old way’, but I have given it my own particular twist”
18 October 2023

Amidst the rich tapestry of human experiences, stuttering frequently lingers as a silent refrain. Emily Magner Hurley, an Irish musician, advocate for stuttering awareness, and secondary school teacher, is committed to transforming this muted melody. Fueled by a profound dedication to mental health and wellbeing, Hurley’s narrative unfurls in the harmonies of resilience and advocacy.

In her roles as a classroom teacher and as the former education officer at the Association of Irish Choirs (now Sing Ireland), Hurley witnessed firsthand the transformative power of music on wellbeing. This revelation led her to co-found Stuttering Awareness Mental Wellbeing Ireland (SAMWI) in 2019. Hurley’s involvement with SAMWI, driven by genuine care and energy, mirrors her commitment to making a positive impact.

In a unique fusion of her compositional prowess and advocacy, Emily Magner Hurley has recently released Orainn (Us), an album blending original and traditional Irish folk songs. ​The album​ (out now) is a melodic testament to the potential of music as a source of hope and support. Drawing from acapella, jazz fusion, and classical styles, the album’s intentional focus on the spiritual, mindful, and meditative resonates with SAMWI’s core messages.

“A lot of the album is from a style of singing called Sean-Nós, meaning ‘old way’,” shares Magner Hurley, “but I have given it my own particular twist.”

Hurley’s creative process involved infusing each piece with layers of harmonies and motifs, drawing inspiration from the Sean-Nós singing style and incorporating compositional techniques from jazz and classical music. The result is a collection of fresh and imaginative arrangements that respect the essence of traditional Irish songs while revealing their true depth and intensity.

One track in particular, A Bhríd Óg Ní Mháille, is dedicated to Deputy White House Chief of Staff Jen O’Malley-Dillon, a staunch supporter of SAMWI. The campaign has garnered notable attention in the United States, finding resonance with President Joe Biden, who has thrived despite living with a stutter. Hurley’s music, infused with messages of hope, has made its way to the Oval Office, exemplifying the global impact of SAMWI’s advocacy.

Emily Magner Hurley, a coloratura soprano and proud graduate of University College Cork with a master’s in composition, channels her passion through a 1970s Petrof Baby Grand, a gift from her husband. Trained by the world-renowned soprano Majella Cullagh, Hurley’s sound is enriched by the echoes of this instrument, once played by renowned pianists John O’Conor and Charles Lynch.

Her 2020 debut album, Airs & Graces, received acclaim from local media outlets in Cork, including Lyric FM and 96fm’s The Arts House. More than just a musical debut, it served as a soothing balm during challenging times. With Orainn (Us), Hurley aims to continue her mission, offering a harmonious refuge for those seeking solace in the midst of turbulent times.

In the grand orchestration of Emily Magner Hurley‘s life, each note is a testament to the power of music to heal, uplift, and bring awareness to the often overlooked melody of stuttering.