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Access, Artistry & Advocacy - Music Generation National Conference
Tuesday 5th March, Dublin Castle

Music Generation National Conference1396

Music Generation is pleased to gather partners, educators, artists and advocates at Access, Artistry & Advocacy on Tuesday 5th March, Dublin.

Two decades have passed since the publication of the groundbreaking 2003 Music Network Feasibility Study, a pivotal moment that laid the foundation for Music Generation's journey.

Access, Artistry & Advocacy is a celebration of Music Generation's achievements and impact and the dedicated partnerships that fuel and sustain Music Generation's mission.

Our National Conference features discussions on national developments, explores the profound impact of access to music through voices of children and young people and discusses artistry in performance music education.

Welcome and Introduction

Norma Foley is an Irish politician. She is a member of the Fianna Fáil political party and has represented the Kerry constituency in Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish parliament, since the 2020 general election.

Norma Foley has a strong background in education. Before entering politics, she worked as a teacher. She then worked as a primary school headteacher in Tralee, County Kerry.

In 2020, Norma Foley was appointed Minister for Education in the Irish government led by Taoiseach Micheál Martin. As Minister of Education, she was responsible for overseeing education policies, managing the education system, and addressing education-related challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Norma Foley's political career and commitment to the education sector made her an important figure in the Irish government, and she continues to play a key role in the development of education in Ireland.

An honours Business Studies graduate of Trinity College Dublin, Leo Blennerhassett is a management consultant. A former Managing Director of Accenture Ireland, he led the the company’s Irish business from 1997–2005, a period in which the company’s employment increased from 300 to 1,500 and which saw a fivefold increase in profitability and a doubling of service lines. This was also a period of substantial change in the global organisation with the establishment of Accenture, transitioning from a partnership to an ultimately global IPO. Leo was a member of the Global Leadership Council and the leadership training faculty for new executives. He has also held a number of European leadership positions as a senior executive in the Financial Services Consulting Operating Group.

Leo is a former adjunt lecturer on the MBA programme at Trinity College Dublin and a former member of the Advisory Board of the Business School. He also provides strategic planning and operating model advice to a large Irish charity. He is the Chairman of RSA Insurance Ireland and was a member of Music Network’s Board of Directors until March 2017.

Session 1 - Culture, Counter-Culture, Culture...

Culture, Counter-Culture, Culture...

20 years since the publication of the landmark 2003 Music Network Feasibility Study, a perspective on the significance of Music Generation in Ireland’s music, arts, cultural, and educational landscape.

Martin Drury is an Arts Consultant. His diverse background includes periods as a freelance arts consultant, arts education officer, and artistic director.From 2023, he exclusively focused on writing "The State, the Arts and Young People: Cultural Policy, Provision and Practice, 1920-2020."Between 2016 and 2022, he worked as an independent advisor in the cultural field, contributing to strategic thinking and writing for clients such as the Department of Arts, the Arts Council, RTÉ, and others. His career has been marked by authoring, editing, and contributing to key reports and strategies.Prior to 2016, he held a senior management role at the Arts Council from 2007 to 2015, contributing significantly to the organisation's strategic development. From 1992 to 2001, he played a pivotal role in the design and direction of Europe's first custom-built arts centre for children, The Ark.Throughout his career, he has been involved in theatre production, serving as a director for productions at Druid Theatre, Opera Theatre Company, Second Age, and others. He has also served on various boards and has been recognized for his contributions in the arts and psychology.

Dr Méabh Ní Fhuartháin is Head of Irish Studies at the Centre for Irish Studies, University of Galway, specialising in Irish Music and Dance Studies and is Director of Undergraduate Programmes in Irish Studies.

Méabh has contributed articles and reviews to a variety of journals such as Ethnomusicology, Journal of Music in Ireland, Journal of the Society of Musicology in Ireland and New York Irish History Roundtable and was also Popular Music subject editor of the landmark Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland (UCD Press, 2012). Most recently, she co-edited a special issue of Éire-Ireland: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Irish Studies, titled 'Nótaí/Notes: Music and Ireland' (2019) and the special issue 'Women and traditional/folk music' Ethnomusicology Ireland (March, 2021).

Méabh is particularly interested in the institutionalisation of musical revival in Ireland during the twentieth century, and popular music studies. Recent published articles include work on the commemorative representations of Ireland through music; pop music and emigration; masculinities and Irish popular music; dance genealogies in Galway and institutionalisation of traditional music and dance in Ireland.

Méabh welcomes expressions of interest in these and related areas of research for doctoral and post-doctoral projects.


Celeste O’Callaghan is Principal Officer, Curriculum and Assessment Policy, at the Department of Education. Her remit includes oversight of the Department of Education’s role in supporting provision of non-mainstream music education, in particular through Music Generation. Celeste also leads the Department of Education’s implementation of the cross-Departmental Creative Youth Plan 2023-2027, launched in March 2023 which is one of the five pillars of the all-of-Government Creative Ireland programme. Celeste also has oversight and policy responsibility for curriculum and assessment matters at post-primary level including the Junior Cycle Framework and Wellbeing curriculum, the current senior cycle curriculum, and the State examinations.

Appointed Chief Executive at Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board in 2013, Joe Cunningham has over 25 years' experience in the public education sector. Having graduated from University College Cork with a Business degree and Master's in Information Systems, Joe worked as a Lecturer at the University for a number of years before taking up the role of Director of Adult Education with Co. Laois VEC in 2007.

In his current role, he has led the growth and development of programmes and services at Post-Primary level, as well as in Further Education and Training, Youth services, and Performance Music Education. A native of Galway, Joe comes from a strong traditional music family background and is a member of Local Music Education Partnerships at Music Generation Laois and Music Generation Offaly.

Appointed Chief Executive of Offaly County Council in February 2016, Anna Marie Delaney has more than 30 years’ service in Local Government. She commenced her career with Offaly County Council and subsequently worked with Galway County Council, Midland Regional Authority, Kildare County Council and Laois County Council in a variety of roles. Anna Marie served as Director of Services in Laois County Council from April 2006, covering areas including HR, ICT, Planning, Housing, Economic Development, Community, Libraries, Tourism and the Arts.

Siobhán Gallagher is a Director in The Ireland Funds, based in Dublin. The Ireland Funds is a global philanthropic network established to promote and support peace, culture, education and community development throughout the island of Ireland, and Irish-related causes around the world.

Siobhán studied law in UCD and is a qualified solicitor. Before moving to The Ireland Funds in 2015, Siobhán practised as a solicitor in a large Irish firm for over eight years. Recently, Siobhán completed a MSc in Management in UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.

Sharon is a senior organisational leader with over 20 years’ experience in both strategic and operational management roles within Ireland’s arts and cultural sector, north and south.

Sharon currently heads up Music Network, Ireland’s music touring and development organisation. Music Network is the leading resource organisation for the nurture and presentation of live music in Ireland and has both national and international reach. The organisation has an annual turnover of circa. €1.15 million and is the parent company of Music Generation, Ireland’s National Music Education Programme.

As CEO and Artistic Director, Sharon combines sound business acumen with creativity and innovation to consistently deliver high quality outcomes. Sharon is a motivational leader with a clear commitment to enhancing peoples’ quality of life, and society as a whole, through arts and culture.

Sharon is highly experienced in planning, communication and execution of organisational strategy, delivering measurable change in order to ensure the organisation continuously adapts and thrives in a highly competitive sector.

Sharon has a strong track record in financial management, consistently delivering a multi-faceted programme of activities on budget while ensuring value for money for all stakeholders. She is experienced in setting exemplary standards of governance within the highly regulated charities sector.

She has considerable experience in stakeholder management. This includes reporting to a board of directors, dealing with funders and acting as organisational representative in external fora. She is also primary media spokesperson for Music Network.

Sharon is committed to Continuous Professional Development. She is an alumna of Timoney Institute’s Advanced Leadership Programme, which gives her ongoing access to its teaching faculty drawn from leading business schools such as Harvard Business School, Boston and IESE Business School, Barcelona. This also provides opportunities for engagement with a diverse network of business leaders in Ireland and internationally.

Rosaleen Molloy is the National Director of Music Generation and has over 25 years’ experience working in the arts and cultural sector in Ireland across local government, non-profit and social entrepreneurship arenas. Rosaleen was appointed the first National Director to Music Generation in 2010. During that time, she has led the organisation from start-up and scaled it into a successful and sustainable multi-million-euro national programme that gives thousands of children and young people access to music education. She has extensive experience of brokering successful strategic partnerships across philanthropy (U2, The Ireland Funds, Bank of America, Stavros Niarchos Foundation), central government (Department of Education, The Arts Council, Creative Ireland) local statutory agencies (Education and Training Boards, Local Authorities) and local communities.

Previous strategic leadership roles include Wexford County Council Arts Officer, Director of County Wexford Education & Cultural Programmes and Director of Arts in the Classroom. An honours graduate of the Music and Education Departments of University College Cork, Rosaleen was the first Irish person to be awarded Artist Teacher and Master Teacher Certification from the Choral Music Experience Institute, USA. A lifelong learner, recent professional development initiatives include Harvard Business School Fellowship in Non-Profit Leadership and MSc Pathway from UCD Smurfit Business School. Rosaleen was recently appointed by the Minister for Culture to the Culture Ireland Expert Advisory Group.

Session 2 : We are Music Generation! Hear our stories

Rights based perspectives on access to music from children and young people, Music Generation alumni, artists and children’s rights advocates.

Shay Oye is the Director of Equality and Access. With a professional background working in the third sector as a human rights/social justice activist, and in the arts as a creative entrepreneur and arts practitioner, Shaz has contributed towards achieving progressive social change in Ireland. Informed by race, class, gender, and sexual identity, this has included addressing LGBTQ+ discrimination, sexual health awareness, and gender equality.

Previous roles include Executive Director of Dublin AIDS Alliance (now HIV Ireland). As a songwriter and performer she self–released a body of work to critical acclaim through her own label, ‘Radical Faeries’, and has performed extensively in Ireland and abroad. Most recently she

graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a Masters in Education. As a postgraduate student she successfully ran for election as President of Trinity Graduate Students’ Union (2019-20), and served on the Board of Trinity College Dublin.

Youth Panel Storytelling

Eva Garayalde is a seventeen-year-old musician and writer from Limerick, via Suffolk, based in Mayo. Eva has been playing fiddle for nine years and classical violin for the first five.
They now focus almost entirely on trad music, and also enjoy listening to music across many genres. They write both fiction and poetry, and are curious about the intersection between their music and writing. Eva was home-educated between the ages of nine and fifteen, and this has led to a self-driven instinct for learning and interacting with the world around them. They are currently in fifth year at Davitt College in Castlebar, where they study music as one of their subjects. As an autistic young person, they are passionate about inclusivity for other
neurodivergent young people.


Caoimhe Barry began playing and performing with Music Generation in Cork City when she was just starting secondary school.

Today she studies music at University College Cork and is one of the first Music Generation alumni in the country to take on the role of 'apprentice tutor'. Alongside her own mentors (including Music Generation Cork City partners at Barrack Street Band and Mahon Community Concert Band), Caoimhe is now guiding the next generation of young brass players.

She also leads the New Orleans-style youth brass ensemble, Rebel Brass, which was originally established with Music Generation Cork City mentors Shauna McCullough, Clodagh Kearney and Stephen Manning and is now a self-run group by its members with input from its members and advice from friends and family.

Aoife Frances is an Assistant Investigator in the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO). Her job is to examine complex complaints and undertake investigations, where it appears that an action or inaction of a public body may have adversely impacted on a child. Part of her role is also to undertake outreach to places where vulnerable children and young people are living, such as Oberstown Detention Campus, Special Care Units and Direct Provision. Before joining the OCO she worked in in the area of social policy & research, advocacy and directly with homeless children and families.

Tanya Ward is the Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance since 2012. Previously, she was the Deputy Director at the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) where she worked for eight years. She has also worked with the Irish Centre for Migration Studies, the Irish Refugee Council, the Curriculum Development Unit and the City of Dublin VEC.

A former lecturer in human rights on the MPhil in Ethnic and Racial Studies, TCD and the Masters in Equality Studies in the UCD School for Social Justice, she was a board member with Campaign for Children and played a major role in the children’s referendum of 2012.

Tanya has degrees from UCC and a LLM in Human Rights from Queens University Belfast as well as a Certificate in Managing Community and Voluntary Organisations from the National College of Ireland.

Tanya has served on the boards of the International Federation of Human Rights, Mental Health Reform, the Law Centre for Children and Young People and is currently Vice President of Eurochild.

Tanya was named as an Ashoka Changemaker of the Decade in 2017 and served as Chair of the National Advisory Council for Children and Young People from 2018-2022.

Boris has been the coordinator of the Limerick City Music Generation programme since its inception in 2013. In this role he has nurtured and championed creativity and self-expression for young people through a range of ground-breaking programmes. These encompass all ages but particularly focus on reaching and engaging with young people during the crucial teenage years.

Outside this role, Boris is a qualified psychotherapist, specialising in youth and adolescence. In 2019 he was named a Social Entrepreneur of the Year for his role in setting up a music and mental health schools programme. In 2023 he received a Doctorate from the University of Limerick for research into improvisation, creativity and connection.

Session 3 - Perspectives on Quality and Artistry in Performance Music Education - Keynote Speakers and Panellists

Discussions and insights into the distinctiveness of performance music education with a focus on the role of the artist as musician and as educator.

Dr Patricia Flynn is Associate Professor of Music and External Engagement Convenor in the School of Theology, Philosophy, and Music

A member of the Faculty of Humanities, Dr Flynn is a graduate of U.C.D and The University of Huddersfield where she gained her PhD. Her interest in the development of music in Ireland is reflected in her research and teaching.

She leads courses in European Music in the long 18th Century and Irish Art Music in the BA and BEd programmes. She also leads Music Human Engagement and Culture which draws on perspectives from philosophy, psychology and sociology at undergraduate level and Music Aesthetics and Criticism at postgraduate level.

She was Principal Investigator of the Irish Composers Project in partnership with DKIT, NUIM, the Contemporary Music Centre(CMC) and An Foras Feasa which sought to digitise the considerable archives of scores recordings and other media held by the Contemporary Music Centre and make these available in ways useful to music research.

She is now the domain expert with CMC, DRI and InsightNUIG on a project to create a digital discovery platform for contemporary music. She is the editor of Teaching the Unteachable Proceedings of the Symposium on Composing in Higher Education held by the Council of Heads of Music in Higher Education (CHMIE). Her research also engages with music development in wider society, in performance education and in areas of national cultural importance.

She was the lead investigator and Director of the project Knowing the Score: the Contribution of Local Authorities to Music Development in Ireland and is currently the principal investigator of a research partnership with Music Generation: Developing Diversities in Performance Music Education.

She is the author of Art Alongside: sustainable and authentic arts practise in Co Wexford and joint author of The Right Note, a music programme for first and second class.

She is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Contemporary Music Centre, is the founder of the Music Educators’ Orchestra (MEO) and chair and founding member of the Northside based arts programming organisation GlasDrum.

Margaret O’Sullivan is Head of Quality, Support and Development with Music Generation. Widely known as Mags, she is a graduate of UCC with a B.Mus., (1992), a diploma in International Development Studies (2010), and a Masters in Research supported by a research grant from Cork ETB (2015), and of University of Galway with a postgraduate diploma in Arts Management (1993).

She is completing a PhD in Curriculum Studies at the University of British Columbia (UBC), supported by UBC International Tuition and Faculty of Education funding, for which she was awarded the NUI Denis Phelan Travelling Studentship in 2016, and UBC’s Allen Clingman Memorial Prize for outstanding graduate work in music education. Her scholarly inquiry into quality in music education is inspired by her work with Cork City Music Education Partnership for over 10 years as Music Development Officer with Music Generation Cork City, working in partnership with community music education organisations to provide music making and learning opportunities for children and young people at risk of exclusion from participation. Her research is grounded in practice, focusing on the voice of musician educators, practitioners, and of children and young people, in combination with reflexive inquiry into her own experience as a lifelong music learner and learning from practice over a thirty-year career in cultural management and arts education in Ireland.

Margaret has held senior music and arts roles including Music Programme Manager for Cork 2005: European Capital of Culture (2004-5); CEO of the Association of Irish Choirs (now Sing Ireland) (2000-2004), Performing Arts Coordinator of the Irish World Academy of Music & Dance at the University of Limerick (1995-2000), and first Education Officer with Galway Arts Centre (1993-1995). She has taught in a variety of contexts including as a sessional lecturer in music education in UBC, has presented at music education conferences in Canada, Norway, Greece, the UK, Ireland and the USA, and has published research papers and book chapters in the field. She continues to pursue music making and learning in her own time, including piano, traditional flute and concertina.


Originally from Brazil, Fernando has been playing bass for over 20 years. He have played with Tony Allen (Nigeria/France), Allan Marshall (Scotland), SILVA (Brazil) to name a few and currently playing for Keywest, "a multi-award winning, multi-platinum selling independent artist from the UK and Ireland". Fernando has recorded bass on albums ranging from pop, metal, rock to samba, afrobeat, world music.

Since moving to Ireland, Fernando has played/performed many of the major venues in the country (3 Arena, Olympia Theater, Limelight Belfast, The Academy...) and also most of festivals (EP, Indiependence, Knockanstockan, Longitude...).

In Europe he has performed in many different festivals (Black Sheep - Germany, Cornbury -UK...) and also toured many different countries (UK, Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Spain....).

Fernando started working with Music Generation Carlow in 2022 and is currently teaching ukulele and guitar both in hubs and full class settings. Fernando also teaches an Early Childhood programme and now works with Music Generation Kildare and Wicklow.

Originally from Co. Fermanagh, now resident of Co. Cavan, Aishling is a holder of an incredible 13 All-Ireland titles has toured on 3 separate occasions with Comhaltas and has adjudicated many an All-Ireland fleadh. Not just recognized as a brilliant musician, Aishling is also an inspiring teacher holding posts at the annual Joe Mooney Summer School Drumshambo and guiding countless students to All-Ireland glory. Aishling was a founding member of Fermanagh's Ar gCeol and is a member of the 2014 All Ireland Senior Ceili Band winners the Knockmore Ceili Band. Aishling has been working for Music Generation Cavan/Monaghan as part of the Traditional Irish music team working in National Schools as well as the Early Years programme, providing musical education to children from 3-5 years old for 4 years.

Deirdre Ní Bhuachalla is an experienced harper and educator with a deep-rooted passion for traditional Irish music. Born into a family where traditional music was part of the daily routine, Deirdre's love for the harp and Irish music was nurtured from an early age by her parents and grandfather.

Under the tutelage of renowned harpists Nancy Calthorpe and Denise Kelly at DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama (now TU Dublin), Deirdre honed her skills in solo and ensemble playing. Her dedication to her roots in traditional Irish music led her to achieve the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCÉ) TTCT Diploma in the teaching of traditional Irish Music.

Deirdre joined the Music Generation Louth panel in 2011 and initiated the harp programme in 2012. She became a full-time resource worker in 2017 to further develop and lead the traditional music programme. As Director of the MGL Harp Ensemble programme and Co-Director and Project Manager of Nós Nua-Youth Folk Orchestra, a collaborative initiative with CCÉ @ Oriel Centre, Dundalk Gaol, Deirdre promotes the sharing of musical traditions through innovative projects and collaborations. In addition to her Louth based work in 2024, Deirdre is managing national and regional MG projects such as The MG Harp Collective and "Nasc," as part of the “We are Music Generation” initiative. Both projects are aimed at highlighting the voice of the young person while nurturing and connecting the youth of the respective musical communities, on a larger scale.

Deirdre serves as an advisory committee member with Harp Ireland and is actively involved with Cairde na Cruite, contributing to the promotion and preservation of Irish harp traditions. As an active member of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and in her work with Oriel Centre, Dundalk Gaol, she has been instrumental in fostering positive relations between MG and CCÉ regionally.

In summary Deirdre’s dedication to her craft, unwavering passion and commitment has earned her a reputation as a widely respected advocate, musician, and educator.

Margaret was always involved in music both inside and out of school. After graduating from the Royal Scottish Conservatoire with B.Ed (music) she continued her performance and enquiry into music education with John Paynter at the University of York. Before relocating to Ireland, she was head of a busy secondary school music department and returned to education to complete a qualification in advanced education skills at the University of Dundee.

She taught piano and voice in NUI Maynooth before joining Music Generation Offaly/ Westmeath in 2013 as Music Development Officer. Following a restructuring of that regional project, she is now Music Development Officer of Music Generation Westmeath.

Seóna Ní Bhriain is Head of Young People, Children and Education at the Arts Council. She previously worked as an independent adviser to the Arts Council in the area of arts in education and youth arts. Seóna has a Masters in International Education from the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. Prior to her work for the Arts Council, she delivered arts and cultural programmes in New York City public schools, first as an actor-teacher with the Creative Arts Team, and later as Director of Global Classroom with One to World.

Live Performances

Ukrainian ‘Sunflowers’ is a group of six girls and their tutor, Tetiana Kovalova, all based at the Beach Hotel in Downings. Tetiana is a noted guitar tutor in her native Ukraine and began working with the girls only in May.

The six girls and their schools are – Viktoria Havrylenko and Sofiia Sambiaeva (Scoil Naomh Brid, Downings); Yeva Avraimova (Mulroy College); Anastasia Novikova (Loreto, Letterkenny); Sofiia Shcheholevata and Olesia Kovalova (Creeslough NS).

Hiccup is a collaboration with Music Generation Waterford, The Kabin Studio, Music Generation Cork City and Music Generation Wexford Yellow Bellows

We are Music Generation

Access, Artistry and Advocacy is part of We are Music Generation - a year dedicated to celebrating the transformative impact of performance music education on children and young people. Across 2024 local performances will take place in communities across Ireland. This includes activities and performances including local youth-led festivals, trad orchestras, songwriting-residentials and lots more! Find out more at here.

Thank You

Music Generation is grateful for the dedication and commitment of all its partners, for all they have done and continue to do to support and realise our shared mission and vision.

About Music Generation

"What we want to do is really simple. We just want to make sure that everyone, whatever their background, gets access to music tuition. That’s the idea." Bono U2, 2010

We are Music Generation at The Convention Centre on 2nd March 2024
Photo Credit - Dave Keegan

Music Generation National Conference on 5th March 2024 - Photos by Brian Farrell