Music Generation | Super-charging Irish music performance education

Music Generation Carlow Early Years musicians at The Magic Tree event
Aoife Lucey
| March 14, 2016

We were very impressed when Irish super group U2 recently announced a major $3.2M donation to music education in Ireland which we reported here. We decided to investigate, and invited the recipient, Ireland’s national music education program Music Generation, to share their remarkable story, below.MUSICGENERATIONLOGO

What is Music Generation?

Music Generation, Ireland’s National Music Education Programme, transforms the lives of children and young people through access to high quality, subsidised performance music education. Initiated by Music Network, the programme is co-funded by philanthropic partners U2 and The Ireland Funds, the Irish Government through the Department of Education and Skills, and Local Music Education Partnerships.

Music Generation’s mission is to empower and enrich the lives of children and young people by enabling them to develop their creativity

Music Generation’s ethos is built around remaining true to its core values – access, quality, partnerships, diversity, creativity and sustainability. The organisation believes passionately in the innate artistry that lies within every child, and that it is every child and young person’s right to have the choice to participate as a musical citizen. Through access, Music Generation’s mission is to empower and enrich the lives of children and young people by enabling them to develop their creativity, reach their full potential, achieve self-growth and contribute to their personal development, all within a vibrant local music community.

Who is it for?

Annually Music Generation reaches in excess of 26,000 children and young people ages 0 to 18, who would not otherwise have had the choice of access or the chance to participate. The programme is currently established in 12 different regions of Ireland, managed locally by Music Education Partnerships (MEPs), in Counties Louth, Mayo, Sligo, Cork City, Laois, Wicklow, Carlow, Limerick City, Offaly, Westmeath, Clare and South Dublin.

Music Generation focuses on performance music education – that is vocal and instrumental tuition, encompassing all music genres, all types of instruments and vocal styles, delivered by skilled professional musicians who interact in an inspirational way with children and young people.

Music-Generation Cork City Girls with Brass. Photo-Clare Keogh

Cork City Girls with Brass. Photo-Clare Keogh

The programmes offered through Music Generation are diverse and exciting, developed in response to local music expertise and community interest. They include everything from ukulele groups to rock bands, choirs, orchestras, composers’ clubs, rock schools, hip hop squads, traditional Irish music ensembles, rap groups, song-writing sessions – all genres of music, all instruments and vocal styles.

Phase 1: 2010 – 2015

In the five years since Music Generation formed in 2010, the programme has experienced extraordinary growth and exceptional achievements.

In addition to reaching tens of thousands of young musicians across Ireland, it has created 330 employment opportunities, mainly for musicians who deliver 80 different programmes encompassing all genres of vocal and instrumental music in 400 tuition centres nationally. Accessible tuition is offered in over 50 different types of instruments and Phase I has seen the launch of 12 Instrument Banks, 5 Music Libraries, 6 Recording Studios and a ‘pop up performance bus’.

In addition to reaching tens of thousands of young musicians across Ireland, it has created 330 employment opportunities, mainly for musicians

Together, participants, tutors and staff in national and local offices mount over 100 public performances each year, with 30,000 audience members gathering to see the work of their children, students, school mates and friends.

Musicians acting on behalf of the organisation as Music Generation ‘Young Ambassadors’ are frequently invited to perform at national and international events, from government forums and academic conferences, to gala receptions, outdoor concerts and commemorative occasions.

All the while, professional development for music educators and tutors continues to be of paramount importance to the programme’s future growth and success. Over the past five years, Music Generation has delivered more than 150 professional development courses for musicians, composers, conductors and administrative staff.

How it all started:  

In 2009, U2 and The Ireland Funds gifted a €7m philanthropic donation to achieve a clear vision:

“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, 2010

This donation was the largest ever single philanthropic gift to music education in the history of the state and seed funded the formation of Music Generation.

This remarkable success story was born out of U2 and The Ireland Funds’ motivation to come together to do something about a shared national cause

Rehearsals for the Big Bang Concert at The Hawk's Well Theatre

Rehearsals for the Big Bang Concert

This remarkable success story was born out of U2 and The Ireland Funds’ motivation to come together to do something about a shared national cause – to create access to music education for children and young people. As philanthropists, both donors shared the principle of achieving a long-term and lasting outcome as a result of their giving. And so, when setting out how they would go about supporting a music education initiative in Ireland, the option that drew their interest was a national strategy for music education – a feasibility study developed by Music Network Ltd. (a national music promotion organisation and Music Generation’s parent company).

What particularly appealed to U2 and The Ireland Funds was the fact that the national strategy was well thought out. The model had been successfully piloted in two regions of the country (Dublin and Donegal), its implementation had won Government support and it had been independently evaluated as ‘a workable and replicable framework for development… on a wider scale through Ireland.’

The impact of the economic crisis in Ireland from 2009 had prevented further roll out of the model. However, it was at this point that U2 and The Ireland Funds stepped in, gifting €5m and €2m respectively to develop the framework in 12 areas of the country between 2010 and 2015 – an ambitious target achieved 18 months ahead of schedule.

Public Private Partnership: a long-term, lasting initiative

A vital condition of the original philanthropic donation was that it would incentivise long-term and lasting investment by the Irish Government, so that the programme would live beyond the term of the €7m gift. As of 2016 this condition has been realised. Music Generation now operates a sustainable business model whereby long-term financial investment has been secured from Local Music Education Partnerships and from Government, through the Department of Education and Skills. By the end of this year, State investment is estimated to reach €2.5m annually, matched by €2.2m generated locally by MEPs. Assuming only a ten year horizon, the return on the original €7m donation will reach some €47m.

A vital condition of the original philanthropic donation was that it would incentivise long-term and lasting investment by the Irish Government

And it doesn’t stop there…

Music Generation’s dream is to establish the programme in all areas of the country: to become a national music education service of international excellence, where every child and young person in Ireland has local access to high-quality tuition. The next step in this process – Phase II – is to expand the programme into a further nine areas of the country between 2016 and 2020.

In 2015, U2 and The Ireland Funds pledged their continued support to help realise this dream. To enable the formation of new local partnerships as part of Phase II U2 donated €2m, raised through their iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Irish concerts, to Music Generation. This was followed in November by The Ireland Funds’ gift of a further €1m to benefit the organisation and their pledge that, together with U2, they would seek to raise additional philanthropic support. In January 2016, the Irish Government followed suit, committing to the ongoing, annual funding of Phase II of the programme from 2020 onwards, on a 50/50 matched basis with Local MEPs.

Combined, this level of investment will mean that, over the next five years, Music Generation will reach a total of 21 areas of the country.

The organisation is also a leader in research and best practice for performance music education in Ireland. Since its inception it has produced 10 national seminars, and presented at conferences in Ireland and overseas. Later this year, in partnership with St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra (Dublin), Music Generation will publish a ground-breaking research document that will inform and influence future policy and build towards a robust national infrastructure for performance music education in Ireland.

Making an impact:

Music Generation believes that music doesn’t just change lives – it transforms lives.

Illustrated in the column inches of local and national papers, in videos and photographs, through social media, and in the words, deeds, actions and artistry of children and young people who are learning, participating and helping each other to improve and progress, the stories generated daily by Music Generation paint a rich picture of the impact the programme is having on the lives of children and young people throughout Ireland.

A School Principal noted how ‘It has totally turned around the school in terms of the self-confidence of the children, when you introduce the element of music in a diverse school population the result is unbelievable.’

Music Generation believes in every child and young person’s musical potential and in their innate artistry

Having taken part in a Music Generation project for young composers, a participant explained how ‘Complete and utter happiness filled me as I heard my friends and amazing musicians play my piece. It’s not often you get that feeling of pure happiness. Music Generation created that feeling for me.’

Describing his experience on a site visit to Music Generation Cork City, Board Member and internationally-renowned composer and musician Bill Whelan shared how he ‘witnessed first-hand what a potent force Music Generation has become. I am not sure if even U2 could have envisaged the scope, range and depth of influence which this gift is bestowing.’

It’s not often you get that feeling of pure happiness. Music Generation created that feeling for me

2016 marks an important moment in the Music Generation journey, as existing programmes continue to be bedded down within local communities and new partnerships begin to blossom in preparation for the next phase of development. For this organisation that seeks to shine a light on the musical potential of every child and young person in Ireland, the musical future is bright.

Comments

  1. Graham Strahle

    What an inspiring story. It’s quite an achievement given how Music Generation only started six years ago. Thanks so much Aoife for sharing.

  2. fiona

    This is so wonderful! Thank you U2 from the bottom of my heart .
    This is my dream for school students in south west Victoria in Australia.

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