Interview to Rosa Flannery on 18 June 2020.
Rosa is the Music Development Officer at Music Generation Laois.
Music Generation is Ireland’s national music education programme, which provides access to high-quality, affordable performance music education to children and young people in their own local areas.
The idea is to get children and young people involved in music, across a range of genres, in schools and after schools programmes, access to bands, orchestras and ensembles and provide access to instruments.
I am the Music Development Officer – I manage the programme on a day to day basis. I also develop opportunities for expansion and progression routes for our young musicians.
Music Generation Laois delivers engaging music programmes in schools and centres across Co. Laois across 6 programme strands – Singing, Orchestral, Trad, Stampede (world) Drumming, The Music Box, – a music programme for children with special needs, and Rock and Pop. Since it was established in 2012, Music Generation Laois has invested in a large-scale instrument bank, and over 3500 children and young people currently participate in Music Generation Laois programmes. Young people have access to subsidised tuition and instruments, augmented by ensemble membership, master classes, workshops and concert attendance and performances.
Actually there are now 26 areas of Ireland in operation! One of the many great things about Music Generation programmes is that each area has its own identity. A plan is developed that responds to local needs. In Co. Laois we developed a strong uilleann pipes and harp programme, as there was no access to these instruments or harp/pipe tutors in the county when we were established in 2012. Now we have created a centre of excellence for both these instruments – the pipes and the harp – 8 years on! It is very interesting to see how each Music Generation area goes on to develop their own unique programmes and there are great opportunities for partnerships too, where Music Generation programmes have some similarities. Our young musicians and our music tutors love the opportunity to collaborate with other areas, for example we are currently collaborating with Music Generation Louth and Music Generation Mayo to perform at the World Harp Congress in Wales in 2021.
Music Generation was established to ensure every child in Ireland has access to performance music education in their own locality and at subsidised costs. Many people in Ireland live outside towns and cities, so we have a large rural population. This means that accessing music outside of school might be very difficult. A child might also come from a disadvantaged background, which precludes them from attending classes outside of school, as they might have no access to transport, funds or family support to attend. Therefore in Ireland, there are many barriers that may stand in the way of a child accessing performance music education, these include, financial, geographical location, cultural background, access to instruments. Provision of performance music education programmes in schools means that we can really offer an inclusive music programme, where everyone can take part.
Music Generation Laois aims to provide access to performance music education to every child and young person in County Laois. It is our experience that not every music educator has the skills to work with young people with intellectual or physical needs, and that specialist skills are required to ensure these young people have the same opportunity as their peers. The Music Box programme was set up to ensure Music Generation Laois provided access to performance music to children and young people in Laois with special needs. The programme is led by a specialist music educator, who delivers one-to-one and group lessons in two schools in Portlaoise town, one school includes children with mild to moderate special needs, and the second school includes children with severe to profound special needs. This music educator also provides evening classes in our own building, Laois Music Centre. We have also invested in a range of specialised musical instruments for The Music Box programme, as in many instances, traditional musical instruments are unsuitable.
It is so hard to choose!! There have been so many fantastic events, and concerts! 2016 was a really great year for Music Generation Laois, a year of the centenary in Ireland of the 1916 Rising. We commissioned 3 musical works, called the New Works Series. That was a really wonderful project, and concert!
Our music tutors, our young musicians, their families and the schools where we work have been really adaptable. We have continued our music programmes during the recent pandemic and lockdown. We have found that zoom works well as a platform for teaching music. It is a little bit trickier for ensemble work, but we are making the best of it. We also use lots of audio and video resources to enable our young musicians to continue to play music. We have also made lots of really epic virtual videos too, including with our friends from Japan!, which has been great fun – Siobhan Buckley, Director of the Music Generation Laois Harp Ensemble, has been key to our virtual music videos! This has been a time of creativity in music in Ireland I feel. That said, we are really looking forward to playing music in a live setting very soon.
We extended membership of our Music Generation Laois Trad Orchestra to young people from all over Ireland, and had a great response, with over 50 new members now working with the current orchestra of around 20 young musicians in an experimental capacity over zoom. The orchestra are collaborating with accordionist and composer Martin Tourish on creating a new suite of music. It has been very interesting to see how we can try to overcome the challenges of lockdown to create new music in a collaborative way with a group of young people, many of whom we have only every met online.
Our forthcoming tour of Japan is never far from our thoughts!!! We are very excited also about our forthcoming performance at the World Harp Congress in Wales in 2021. We are also planning a ‘New Works Series 2’ following on from the success of our 2016 composition series. Scottish-born, US based Harper Maeve Gilchrist has already composed music, ‘White Horses’ for harp orchestra, and our second musical commission by accordionist Martin Tourish is underway for our Trad Orchestra. Commissioning new music is a very important part of our work in Music Generation Laois, this encourages creativity among our young musicians and provides opportunities for us to collaborate with many notable musicians from around the world!
We, the Music Generation Laois Harp Ensemble, are honoured to travel to Japan, share our music with you, and we hope to hear lots of Japanese music when we travel to your beautiful country, and to have a true cultural exchange. This tour will be extra-special, given the recent turbulence in the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we appreciate now more than ever the freedom to travel, and experience new cutlures and share music.