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2016: A memorable musical year at Music Generation

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2016 has been another extraordinary year for Music Generation marked by celebrations, new developments and wonderful music-making by young musicians and our musician team throughout the country.

Early in January the future of performance music education in Ireland received a real boost as the Department of Education and Skills made a commitment fund the next phase of Music Generation on a long-term basis. Young Ambassadors from Music Generation South Dublin joined An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the Minister for Education and Skills and U2’s Adam Clayton to celebrate this significant milestone.

February was a creative month at Donegal Music Education Partnership as young musicians took part in the second edition of ‘Soundwaves: developing the skills of the 21st century musician,’ funded under the Music Generation/Arts Council Partnership and facilitated by Wall2Wall Music.

In March, 300 young singers from 13 Music Generation choirs joined together with hundreds of adult voices and the full forces of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra for a major outdoor choral concert on Easter Sunday at Collins Barracks, Dublin. Under the direction of Conductor David Brophy, ‘A Nation’s Voice’ was a spectacular flagship event of the Centenary Programme and a truly memorable occasion.

April saw a choir of seven Young Ambassadors from Cork City, Carlow and Mayo travel to Rome’s Vatican City to perform alongside U2’s The Edge in the spectacular surrounds of The Sistine Chapel. While at home, Music Generation Wicklow worked with students at Coláiste Bhríde and Coláiste Chill Mhantáin to premiere two original compositions written in collaboration with composers Brian Irvine and Neil Martin as part of a six-month project, funded under the Music Generation/Arts Council Partnership.

May brought the fantastic news of a further $1m donation to Music Generation by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, announced at The Ireland Funds Annual New York Gala Dinner. Guest of Honour on the evening, U2’s Adam Clayton welcomed the news and introduced three Young Ambassadors from Music Generation Laois who performed a rousing set of traditional Irish music with their mentor, Zoë Conway.

A combined traditional Irish music orchestra of 25 Young Ambassadors from Music Generation Laois and Carlow brought the house down at The Worldwide Ireland Funds Conference in June when they performed together with renowned flautist Sir James Galway for an international audience that included An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, US Vice President Joe Biden and former Irish President Mary Robinson.

And July brought another international outing for Music Generation as Young Ambassadors from Sligo and Donegal premiered their own compositions before a global audience at the International Society for Music Education Conference in Glasgow. There was more original music-making at Music Generation Louth as composer Elaine Agnew led young strings players on a wonderful journey through chamber music arrangement and performance as part of Corda Connections.

In August, Music Generation Clare played host to 100 young traditional Irish musicians from six Music Generation partnerships at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, Ennis, where they took part in workshops with top trad musicians, Beoga, and performed their sets live on an outdoor stage before an audience of hundreds.

September marked another important moment for Music Generation as we published our new five-year Strategic Plan, which sets out the overall priority goals for our next phase and the plan of action by which they will be achieved.

Just as days were getting darker in Ireland, 20 young traditional Irish musicians packed their instruments and made a break for the sunshine to take part in workshops, make new cross-cultural connections and perform at the 2016 Creative Connexions Festival in Sitges, Barcelona.

In November Music Generation officially published ‘Possible Selves in Music’, a pioneering research document arising from a two-year research partnership with St Patrick’s College (DCU). The publication was launched at the Society for Music Education in Ireland annual conference where Music Generation Limerick City young musicians treated delegates to a selection of their own original raps and songs.

As the year drew to a close, Music Generation Offaly/Westmeath rang in the festive season with a wonderful choral performance at The Ireland Funds Young Leaders Annual Reception, which was hosted at the US Ambassador’s Residence in Dublin.

And that is just a snapshot of the remarkable work that has been ongoing around the country involving thousands of children and young people, teams of inspiring musicians, and the staff and partners who come together to make Music Generation happen.

We are already looking forward to our next chapters in 2017 and beyond. Meanwhile, we would like to wish all our friends and supporters a very merry, musical Christmas and all the best for the New Year.