Archive for November, 2010

Arts and Culture: For Sale – vegetables and broccoli

November 30, 2010 2 comments

There was an onslaught of conferences last week, one being the ’25/25 ARTS&CULTURE IN LOCAL DEVELOPMENT’ gathering of the country’s council arts officers. Jon Hawkes was the main attraction, for me at least, Australian born artist and member of Community Music, Victoria. Jon has also written a very well respected book regarding the integration of the arts into development and planning. A suave affair with everyone looking well and greeting one another without introduction, I took my name tag and ‘fancy'(not unlike paper I once collected in a box, took out looked at sometimes, but never actually wrote on it) folder and struggled to find a familiar face. The seminar was taking place in the department where I have studied and worked for almost 10 years and I struggled to find a face that I knew. The keynote speaker snored outside the tower theatre, jet-lag he later confirmed, passing him I spotted my county arts officer who thankfully beckoned me to come and sit with her and her colleagues.

It is things like this,[Jon Hawkes said as he pointed at the titles of the conference, in a most irritated tone] things like this that really bother me. Arts and Culture, that is like putting a sign outside of a vegetable shop saying,’ For Sale- vegetables and broccoli’.

Very valid point many smiled, many didn’t. After all Hawkes was openly criticising the title of the gathering he was addressing, those who had organised the event were most certainly in the audience, but did he mean to offend or merely spark a discussion and set the tone for the net day and a half. I would be inclined to go with the idea that he wanted a good and honest debate, which he got, to a point.

The 2-day event was more of a show and tell in s sense rather then a plan on how to move on, in these pressing times. Although I do not like think about what is happening to the country, this should have been an opportunity to do so in a constructive, honest, practical and creative manner. Perhaps it too soon and maybe it was all they could do in order to keep going – reflect on some excellent arts work that is happening in the community and make sure that it, on some level, continues.

Music as a Natural Resource

November 29, 2010 2 comments

Singing accross the Atlantic

November 29, 2010 2 comments

Don' award

When Don DeVito makes a plan, brace yourself because it is going be big and it going to fun! Carnegie Hall springs to mind, if Don asks you must always say ‘yes’, just in case it gets big. So last month when Don asked me to join him and his kids online for his e-concert I knew I had to say ‘yes’.

The same invite was issued around the world to his other ‘community music friends’, including Arthur Gill in Pakistan, Steve Dillion in Australia and Emma Rodriguez Suarez in New Jersey. Each of us was asked to log in on Skype at our allocated time and wait to perform, share and learn….Steve Dillion was up at early in Australian time and was hoping for a chat before his slot, but Thomas Johnston and I were busy rehearsing ‘Beidh aonach amarach’, so all chats were put on hold. Thomas made tea and created a very soft light in his front room, just as well, once we switched on the camera it was clear we’d need all the ‘softening’ we could get. Our skype call came through and we played for and interacted with a very warm and musical audience.

Reporting from Florida Don described how much his students and families enjoyed the event and was blown away by the quality of the picture that came through (that would be the ‘softening’ of the mood by Mr. Johnston).

And guess what…Don has another project in the making already. Seems like he was a worthy winner of the ‘Collaborative Vision Award’ bestowed onto him by Mary Cohen in China!

Categories: Community Music

 and future direction, IWA, 24th November 2010

 and future direction,  was held at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance last week. The group consists of the Music Therapy faculty and Professor Jane Edward’s PhD students, this is how I found myself in the midst of the music therapy world. The ‘rivalry’ between community musicians and music therapists that I foolishly assumed was not as strong as ever and didn’t appear to have ever existed, a good start to a great gathering.

Organised by Alison Ledger who came to the Irish World Academy in 2005 to work as part of an HSE funded project using music therapy and art therapy to achieve the reduction of agitation for older people with dementia. She has made a significant contribution to the development of the music therapy programme in various teaching and research roles since, most recently as the HRB Research Fellow studying aspects of music therapists’ experiences of developing services in medical healthcare contexts.

Alison gave a very slick presentation on her used of Art-based research during her PhD. She gave the group examples of the poetry she had composed to reflect many of her findings from the field. This presentation helped me in these early stages of reading about this attractive form of research, I might be inspired to write some songs about my experiences and future findings.

Jane Edwards opened procedures just before Alison, she explained more about the group and music therapy as well as music and health. A very natural presenter, with plenty of experience.

Professor Jane Edwards Director, Music & Health Research Group -She is a qualified music therapist with expertise in a range of practice areas including parent-infant bonding, music therapy to promote health outcomes in mental health services, and music for stress management and relaxation.  She has edited a book for Oxford University Press, Music therapy in parent-infant bonding, to be launched in 2011. She is currently exploring the topic of music listening in everyday life through the Musli project.  Jane is the president of the International Association for Music & Medicine (  She regularly teaches and presents in other countries including in the past 12 months, Canada, the USA, Germany and Australia.  She leads the MA in Music Therapy in the Irish World Academy, and is the guest professor for music therapy at the University of the Arts in Berlin.

Our former colleague Dr. Simon Gilbertson was ‘skyped’ in from his new home in Bergen. How wonderful technology is, Simon was connected throughout and was able to see other presentations and present himself. Simon is the assistant director of the research group. In his presentation Simon spoke about what he is personally reading at the moment, casting his net afar relaying his current philosophical interests. The technology let this presentation down somewhat but an excellent first attempt nevertheless.

Dr. Simon Gilbertson is a music therapist and lecturer at the University of Bergen, Norway. Formally of the University of Limerick he has extensive experience in working with people affected by traumatic brain injury. Simon completed his doctoral research on music improvisation with people with traumatic brain injuries related to road traffic incidents in 2004 under the supervision of Professor David Aldridge.He has worked as a research assistant on a major literature review project led by Professor David Aldridge at the Chair of Qualitative Research in Medicine, University Witten Herdecke, Germany. Simon has worked as a music therapist at the new Nordoff-Robbins Centre, in Witten, Germany that was founded by Professor David Aldridge and Professor Lutz Neugebauer.Simon has presented his work internationally has been published in journals including the Australian Journal of Music Therapy, BMC Medical Research Methodology, Canadian Journal of Music Therapy, Musiktherapeutische Umschau (Journal of the German Association of Music Therapy), Journal of Music Therapy, and the Nordic Journal of Music Therapy.

Andrea Intveen made the long trip from Berlin, Germany to present her research last week. I had never met Andrea before this but had heard much about her and her interests and she did not disappoint. Her presentation was gripping, pointing out that

Anthroposophy is aiming to bridge the gap between the sciences, the arts and religion

Andrea explains as best she can in the short time allotted the complexities of Anthroposophical Music Therapy. Instruments associated with the area include the lyre and the Celtic crwth, all music in this area of therapy must be played live. Post seminar Andrea kindly explained further aspects such as what parts of the body are connected to elements of music. The head is connected to wind instruments, melody and thinking, the chest sensibly deals with feeling, harmony and stringed instruments and the limbs are said to be connected to rhythm and percussion. Complex, but very interesting   – complexity usually is, I find!

Andrea Intveen is a graduate of the MA in Music Therapy at the University of Limerick. After her graduation in 2002 she was the music skills tutor in the MA in Music Therapy in Limerick until 2006. At present she is a scientific assistant in the MA in Music Therapy programme at the Berlin University of the Arts. Her clinical experience includes work with children and adults with special needs, with clients in low awareness states and clients who are long-term unemployed. Her PhD research deals with the anthroposophical approach to music therapy.

Annemieke J.M van den Tol shares a research area with me, it is funny how you become more familiar with what those around you are researching rather then your own work. Her study is about ‘sad music’ and why and people listen to it. Very little research has been done in the area and Annemieke is now beginning to build momentum with results starting to ring through. I am looking forward to her genre based results to check myself out!

Annemieke J. M. van den Tol joined the Irish World Academy as a PhD student in 2009 to work with Prof. Jane Edwards. She had prior received education in both music and psychology, and has integrated these two approaches into a promising project investigating reasons why people listen to sad music and the subsequent psychological merits of this activity. Her research draws on self-regulatory findings and emphasizes the utilitarian benefits of music beyond music’s immediate hedonistic value.

Then it was my turn, I had bribed a fellow community musician and friend to come along for encouragement and to laugh at my nervous(bad and inappropriate) jokes and so he did, loyal as ever! I presented on Community Music in context rather then offering jaded definitions that perhaps would mis-represent the practice, the philosophy and pedagogies of community music. It is accepted that community music resists formal and traditional educational settings and usually can be found outside such parameters, this said the ‘welcome’ that Lee Higgins describes in his all-inspired ‘The Impossible Future’ can be extended to any setting whether it be formal or informal.

Julie Tiernan graduated from the Irish World Academy’s MA in Community Music in 2001, since then she has worked extensively as a community musician in Ireland and internationally. Most recently Julie was the course director of the Irish World Academy’s outreach and access based Certificate in Music and Dance funded and developed by the Nomad project. It was during this time that her interest in the world of Community Music and academia was re-ignited prompting her to pursue research in the field of Community Music in Ireland. Julie’s doctoral research at the IWAMD in the University of Limerick is under the supervision of Professor Jane Edwards.

Jason Noone treated us an excellent presentation on his work with a local group. Jason is a music therapist and specialises is group and individual music making in disability. Using technology Jason has enjoyed much success with his group, launching a community radio station run for and by the participants. This work is a classic example of music therapists working as community musicians, these crossovers are to be celebrated and discussed. Jason enjoys readings from community music therapists and I have urged him to come to Greece in 2012 and share his thoughts and findings with us.

Jason Noone is a graduate of the MA in Music Therapy at UL and has a background in psychology and special education. In his therapeutic work with children and adults with developmental disabilities he has explored the use of mainstream music technologies to facilitate clients’ access to music making and to offer meaningful music experiences. He is currently working to develop a new module for the MA Music Therapy programme on the use of technology for music therapy.

A hard slot – the final one, was handled very well by Tíona McCaffrey. A very good presenter, very engaged and interactive. Tríona presented findings of a project that she has been working on as a music therapist in Co.Mayo. I felt she didn’t have enough time, I would have liked to have heard more.

Tríona McCaffrey is a graduate of the MA in Music Therapy Programme at the Irish World Academy and has worked as a music therapy practitioner in mental health for four years having established a full-time position in Mayo Mental Health Services. She has worked in the areas of Recovery, community mental health and Psychiatry of Old Age and is particularly interested in service users’ experiences of mental health services in Ireland. Tríona currently lectures on the MA in Music Therapy programme at the Academy.

Afterward we met in an on-campus bar for a social drink and got to know one another beyond our individual presentations, a very important aspect of any research group. I look forward to working with and sharing/exchanging ideas with the rest of the group.

Alison asked a very thought provoking question about what the group can bring to me and my research, it was a good question and I have been thinking about it since. The expertise that Jane can offer me are second to none, this is my main reason for being in UL and by default becoming part of the group. Hearing others educates me, naturally, as mentioned earlier, for example, regarding arts-based practice. All this said I feel this a a great opportunity for me to invite the worlds of community music and music therapy to come together through discussion and research.

Allundé Performance 21st November 2010

Allundé are a women’s community singing group based in Co.Limerick, founded in 2006 the group has grown in number, musicality and confidence. My involvement in the group began in the summer of 2010 when I was invited to join the group and observe their dynamic. Their director, Tembre De Cararet was soon to leave on maternity and I was to step into her very ‘big’ shoes.

Every Tuesday at 7.30pm we will gather come rain,hail or snow – this is ‘their’ night out, 2 hours where all troubles are put to one side and we open our voices and sing. Sing for the sake of singing, songs from all over the world, the majority are joyful. The gatherings take place at the ‘Foynes Flying Boat Museum’ in west Limerick, it was there where the Irish coffee was born.  Met each week by the same face to ‘let us in’, the museum takes a while to warm up. After the group has snuck through the interactive rooms of the museum (backwards), caught up with one another  – announcements are made and we set to work surrounded by flying boats, Maureen O’ Hara and old radio transmitters.

The lady’s blushes throughout the effective and obligatory vocal warm-ups are enough to warm me from head to toe. Being asked to blow ‘rhubarbs’ to various scales and intervals all the while pinching your cheeks and pushing from the powerhouse  I understand has an embarrassing side. Nevertheless, this is a very fast and reliable way of warning the vocal chords, face and tummy in preparation for singing. My apologies are halfhearted and the group are reminded that smiling only goes to prolong the ‘misery’ and embarrassment that must be endured each week before sing. Still, each week we have a full-house of bodies swaying; eager to learn more.

On the 21st November 2010 we(Allundé) performed in Askeaton with Noirín Ní Riain, Cora Fenton and Eileen Sheehan.

described by organiser Joan Mckernan like so –

WinterSolas on 4 Sunday Afternoons In November

Limerick County Council Arts Office presents a magical series entitled WinterSolas which will weave its way throughout the county on the
four Sunday afternoons in November. And are FREE to the general public

These Sunday afternoon events feature musicians, singers, poets and actors, all who have forged a national and sometimes an international reputation.

We invite people to join us this Sunday the 21st of November, Songs, Yarns and Poems features Women’s Voices trio
Noirín Ní Riain, Cora Fenton and Eileen Sheehan.  Joining them on stage will be Allundé – Women’s Community Singing Group
in St. Mary’s Church of Ireland, Askeaton at 3pm.

Admission to the Winter Solas series are free and on a first come basis.  A retiring charity collection will be held at each venue.
The Winter Solas series commences each Sunday afternoon at 3pm in the various venues

We met in a local community centre beforehand to warm-up and go through our set list and grand entrance –  everyone wore purples and blues and looked absolutely beautiful. This, I cannot prove because I did not bring my camera with me.

Upon arrival we were each greeted with a warm hug and embrace from Limerick county Arts officer, Joan McKernan. Joan is very passionate about her work and this is relfected in her willingness to put together showcases such as this to highlight the wonderfully creative activities throughout the county. Joan’s vision is one of creativity and inclusiveness, the county is luck to have her.

From head to toe Noirín was filled with wonderment, with a glittering ballroom jacket and top and what appeared to be brand new Doc Martin’s laced with roses – on a crisp November afternoon Noirín was a welcome tonic. Her welcome was genuine as she glided up the aisle, singing and playing a hand held harmonium all the way, bring with her a beaming smile of hope. A stunning and most entertaining performance. Eileen recited a selection of her poetry, painting imagery of the country I love so well. In one poem she describes how her daughter starts to become aware of her surroundings and took joy in nearly everything she encountered; such as fallen leaves, dancing and playing in the crisp, golden wonders gifted to her. A breath of fresh air, prompting me to look around once more, at least for that day. Cora Fenton armed with wigs, pinnies and an array of hats treated the audience to laugh after laugh, her humour is reflective and emic (only understood by those who have experienced, in this case being Irish/living in Ireland is essential). Cora dissected the 12 days of Christmas, assisted by Noirín on vocals, in a most belly bending manner. She went through each gift as listed and placed them in a real life scenario – vet visits, mother’s nerves, house in a wreck etc etc A tonic.

Allundé performed with confidence and warmth, engaging with the healthy crowd who were invited to join in a few numbers. A pleasure to be involved in, I will miss this group come the new year. Maybe I’ll join?

Categories: Community Music

Sounding Board Article

A positive start

Certificate student Selina O’Leary on the Tom Dunne Show, Newstalk 106:

June 1st 2010 , Selina O’Leary, a nineteen year old member of the Traveller community from Co Carlow and a student of the Irish World Academy’s access-based Certificate in Music and Dance programme, was interviewed on the Tom Dunne Show on Newstalk 106, along with her course director Julie Tiernan , about their recent performance at Carnegie Hall New York. Selina’s live singing on yesterday’s show has elicited an extraordinary response on the programme and lively and ecstatic discussions on Twitter and on the Newstalk website about her remarkable voice. The discussion has continued on today’s Tom Dunne show after a second song, recorded by Selina and Julie in the Newstalk studios yesterday afternoon was played on this morning’s show. Tom Dunne said that Selina’s is ‘the best un-signed voice I’ve ever heard’, no small praise from a man who has a long history in the recording industry.

NewstalkTo hear Selina’s wonderful performance, accompanied by Julie Tiernan on guitar, on yesterday’s programme, go to:

Selina O'Leary and Tom Dunne in the Newstalk 106 studios.

Selina O’Leary and Tom Dunne in the Newstalk 106 studios.

The Jennifer Burke Award:

The Certificate in Music and Dance was nominated and then short listed for the 2010 Jennifer Burke Award for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. (

Julie Tiernan and Certificate student Ann-Marie Kilcline, travelled to Dublin and presented in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ type fashion to a panel of 6 judges. On the day the Certificate and in particular the blended use of delivery received much critical acclaim causing a 2-hour decision. In the end the Cert was pipped at the post but we hope to return and claim victory next with more experience under our belts.

Read more about the award and other initiatives in a piece written by Karlin Killington for The Irish Times. Click here to access the article:

Irish Learning Technology Association

Aontas Star AwardsAontas Award:

The Certificate’s sister centre Carlow Senior Traveller Training Centre was nominated and won a ‘Star Award’. The award was presented to two students on behalf of the collaboration with the University of Limerick. The link with the centre has developed a model of teamwork, participation and access where learners are supported within their own local community as they attend their university lectures, seminars and tutorials using a the blended learning modes of delivery. The project has provided the participants with the opportunity to overcome the educational disadvantages that they have experienced in a way that appeals to their love of music and creative expression.

Traveller Pride Awards

The 2009 theme for Traveller Focus week was ‘Traveller Pride’. The aim of the programme is to celebrate the contribution Travellers make, both within their own communities and to Irish society as a whole, through their culture, enterprise, sporting excellence, professional expertise across every area and unique history and tradition.

Speaking about the event, Irish President Mary McAleese said the event was a “valuable opportunity to celebrate the Traveller identity, highlight Travellers contribution to Irish society and raise awareness and understanding of the position of Travellers in Ireland”.

The objectives of Traveller Focus Week were  –

  • To develop Traveller pride in their Irish identity and cultural background
  • To develop awareness and promote an understanding of the position of Travellers in Irish society
  • To highlight Travellers’ contribution to Irish society
  • To promote Traveller participation in public life and policy development

Two Certificate in Music and Dance students, Liz Connors and Selina O’Leary, based at Nomad’s sister centre in Carlow were nominated for an arts award. Liz was also nominated for an education award and both ladies were short-listed for each category, competing against hundreds of other hopefuls. To her delight Selina won the arts award and travelled to Dublin’s Liberty Hall to receive her prize, where she performed ‘Thousands are sailing’, a song she learned from Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh during her time at Blas, Summer 2009. On hearing the news of her success Selina commented ‘I am very happy and honoured to take this award. I will take it with pride and hope that it will make me stronger and more confident’.

Special Invitation to Carnegie Hall:

Carnegie Hall, New York invite:
Course Director, Julie Tiernan presented a paper on the Nomad project at the University of Texas in October 2009, which included a clip of Selina singing Pecker Dunne’s ‘Wexford Town’. A conference attendee, Dr.Donald Da Vito the music director of the Sidney Lanier Center in Gainesville, Florida invited Selina to to take part in his school’s performance workshop entitled DIScovering ABILTIES which will take place in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York this May 21st.


‘Sounding Board’ (the journal of community music)
Higher education in the community – Julie Tiernan, Certificate in Music and Dance Course Director

International Journal of Community Music (criminal justice edition)
Céim ar Chéim, Step by Step – community music program in an Irish probation center: a personal reflection  – Julie Tiernan, Certificate in Music and Dance Course Director

Blended learning

November 23, 2010 2 comments

Blended Learning
‘Blended learning is the most logical and natural evolution of our learning agenda. It suggests an elegant solution to the challenges of tailoring learning and development tot he needs of individuals. It represents an opportunity to integrate the innovative and technological advances in the best of traditional learning. It can be supported and enhanced by using the wisdom and one-to-one contact of personal coaches.’
(Thorne, 2003,p.16)

Lengthy research and pilot projects were carried out in order to map the best delivery for non-traditional learners.  One such pilot project was delivered at Carlow Senior Traveller Centre and consisted of the following  –

The student involved in the pilot experienced:

  • Live interaction on-line between the learner and a traditional singer. Here the learner was taught one new song and techniques in protecting the voice etc. A video conferencing software programme utilised by the Equine Science department in UL for their blended learning course was tested. While it works well for conversation, it was found that delays were evident on both sides which was not ideal for teaching voice.
  • A cd-rom of keyboard designed by Nomad for the Certificate was used in conjunction with a local piano tutor to test how user-friendly the package was.
  • Sulis, the Univeristy of Limerick learning management system, was introduced – discussions, quizzes and some lessons were posted for the student to interact with.
  • Locally, an appropriate tutor was identified to deliver keyboard lessons to Selina and 7 others at the centre.
  • The reflective practice diary produced from the Nenagh CTC pilot was used throughout the 6 weeks.

Through this process not only did Nomad learn about the methodologies of delivery, the student benefited greatly in so far as they were given a taste of things to come.

NOMAD – Developing an access based and outreach course

Since its inception, Nomad has sought to enable the Traveller community to access the University environment through music, song and dance and the expertise of the Irish World Academy. Nomad has spent many years building up working relationships with the Traveller communities and individuals through workshops, tuition, performances and the development of documentary and educational materials.  Through this ongoing relationship, the need for a Traveller accessible university accredited access course became apparent. Over the proceeding years, Nomad engaged in active research, community engagement and pilot studies in the development of what became the Certificate in Music and Dance.

At the heart of any Nomad undertaking is a deep respect for the culture of the Traveller community. We have come to understand through practical experience that the ties of family and community commitments can affect the ability of individuals to engage with a traditional University course schedule. Therefore, any proposed access course must be formed in such as way as to facilitate Traveller students to honour these commitments within an innovative and flexible study system.

The Certificate in Music and Dance was developed in consultation with Nomad tutors and students; pilot projects and bridging courses were delivered in order to gauge how best to deliver the academic and musical components of the course.  The main aims in choosing delivery modes was that the course content would remain intact and not omit or glance over the ‘challenging elements’ of the Certificate while also remaining flexible in its delivery schedule.

It was decided that a ‘blended learning’ delivery in partnership with regional Traveller training centres would satisfy the needs identified throughout the eight years that Nomad had been working with the community. This development offers new challenges to those interested in taking a step into an academic arena and to those of us offering the course.

Innovative, student centred, open-minded educational and shared learning experiences are all key elements in community music practice and the results speak for themselves. Sustainability of ‘outreach’ and access projects is imperative if they are to succeed in making notable impact socially, musically or educationally.  Understanding the mechanisms and processes by which such projects succeed is crucial to ongoing effectiveness. The need for a middle ground between academia and community work has been an ongoing theme in Nomad’s work – we recognise the importance of marrying theory and reality in a coherent, constructive, innovative and accessible manner.

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Categories: Uncategorized