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‘Many Irish children never get a ‘sniff’ of music education’

'Many Irish children never get a 'sniff' of music education'. This was among the many issues discussed at Music Generation's inaugural National Seminar held at St. Patrick's College Drumcondra on Tuesday September 14th, attended by over 150 delegates throughout the country. The Seminar launched the call for applications from local Music Education Partnerships to apply for funding to help children and young people access vocal and instrumental tuition in their local area. A total fund €1.8million is available in Round 2.

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the inspirational performances given by sixteen year-old Co. Louth harper Michael O’Reilly, The Rolling Wave – a twenty-member strong traditional Irish grupa ceol from Co. Mayo, and Quartet for Three – a jazz trio from Co. Sligo. These worthy musical ambassadors from counties Louth, Mayo and Sligo commanded rapturous applause and focused the issue at the heart of the seminar – the importance of music in the lives of children and young people.

In welcoming delegates to the Seminar, Dr. Pauric Travers President of St. Patrick’s College, spoke of the importance of access to music education. In his address, Dr. Tony Ó Dálaigh Chairman of Music Generation, thanked U2 and The Ireland Funds for their philanthropic donation of €7million which he acknowledged had ‘significantly mobilised and energised the music education movement in Ireland’. Speaking on behalf of the donors, Caitriona Fottrell, Vice President and Director Ireland of The Ireland Funds, praised Music Generation for its achievements, emphasised the importance of music education in the lives of children and young people and acknowledged the hugely positive national response to the initiative.

The Seminar included presentations by representatives from Louth (Gemma Murray, Co-ordinator, Music Generation Louth), Mayo (Anne McCarthy, Arts Officer, Mayo County Council) and Sligo (Jessica Fuller, Co-ordinator, Music Generation Sligo) – the first three counties selected for participation in the programme and Music Generation Director .Rosaleen Molloy, who, in posing the question ‘whose voice is most important – ours or theirs?’ highlighted the centrality of the voice of children and young people in music education. Each county provided a detailed account of the ambitions plans proposed to deliver a range of vocal and instrumental tuition to children and young people 0 – 18 years.

Gaye Tanham, Head of Young People, Children and Education at the Arts Council, highlighted the significance of the ‘largest-ever philanthropic contribution to arts education’ while Ann O’Mahony, Assistant Principal Officer, Department of Education and Skills, affirmed the Government’s commitment by Ruari Quinn, TD Minister for Education and Skills to continuing ‘to develop and sustain Music Education Partnerships with Exchequer funding in future years, when the Music Generation donations cease’. Breakout discussion groups scheduled throughout the day provided the opportunity for delegates to discuss a range of topics including social inclusion and music education and quality in teaching and learning.

Broadcaster and independent auditor for the day Doireann Ní Bhriain, provided a personal perspective at the end of the proceedings, drawing attention to the need to ‘rejoice in the generosity of U2 and The Ireland Funds’ in creating this opportunity for the country, the reality of our unjust society where ‘many children never get a sniff of music education’ and the need for us all ‘to continue to champion with passion.’

Listen back to podcast of a two-part series about Music Generation featured recently on RTÉ lyric fm -

All presentations can be downloaded from