Archive for the ‘The Nomad Project’ Category

RIME 2011

‘The aim of the conference is to gather together researchers, teachers and practitioners to share and discuss their research which is concerned with all aspects of teaching and learning in music: musical development, perception and understanding, creativity, learning theory, pedagogy, curriculum design, informal settings, music for special needs, technologies, instrumental teaching, teacher education, gender and culture. Music education is also  viewed in  the context of arts education, the whole curriculum and its socio cultural contexts.’ (RIME,2011)

My application to RIME 2011 was 2-fold; to hear and meet some excellent music education and community music researchers and practitioners as well as taking the opportunity to draw a line under 11-years of project work with the Nomad project at the University of Limerick. With my paper accepted and sharing the stage with people such as Lee Higgins, Dawn Bennet, Cecilia Bjork,Kathryn Marsh, Alexandra Kertz-Welzel and Mark Whale standards were set to be of the highest order with plenty of scope for honest and critical discourse.

‘The Nomad Project: returning to the field for further educational investigation’, marks the end point, research wise, of nearly 11 years of project-based community music, academic and course development work. A tall order to represent the depth of work that has been done by the project during this period. With the fear of misrepresenting the project, the paper was written from the view of the author – offering personal and group narratives and case studies. All of which being framed by the development of community and Traveller education development in Ireland since the ‘boom’ times experienced since the late 1990’s. Hoping to develop a new presentation style whilst retaining an appearance of confidence and an ability to ad-lib I decided to use a new presentation tool – ‘Prezi’.

This tool challenges the lateral style of powerpoint using a single canvas instead of the traditional slide format of other tools. Allowing for non-linear presentations, where users can zoom in and out of a visual map thoughts can jump from one section to another when planning. I found that it forces the user to think about the order and pathways making for a more organised presentation, certainly more work but once the basic skills are acquired, I found it to be a most liberating way of presenting.
My presentation was placed in-between Brit Ågot Brøske Danielsen (Norwegian Academy of Music, Norway) and Kathryn March from the University of Sydney. Both with strong community music and outreach leanings I was right at home. Brit reported on the reflections of students involved in a music programme at a Palestinian refugee camp in the Lebanon, having learned about this programme from the participant perspective in Beijing it was wonderful to hear how the music students had found the experience. Kathryn treated us to many clips from the playground featuring the role of music in the lives of refugee children in Sydney, very interesting work. I was happy to receive plenty of questions and comments during the session and afterward.

It was difficult to choose what papers to attend, organisers had requested when going to a session to stay at it for the remainder of the presentations and not to walk in and out of sessions. A point that I well appreciate as it can be disconcerting as a relatively inexperienced presenter to have people walking out of ‘your’ session.

Ailbhe Kenny from Mary Immaculate College, Limerick presented a case study on a music partnership that she and her students had engaged with a local primary school followed by Lee Higgins. Lee spoke about community music and the individual within the group. As a community musician recently returned to 20 hours of workshopping in relatively large group situations I relished this presentation, which was as ever thought provoking asking questions of the practitioner and the ethic responsibility we have to the individual as well as the group. Lee spoke about ‘a sense of an ethical relationship’ with the people we as community musicians and music educators work with on a daily basis. Although I aspire for an equal relationship with the groups and other facilitators I work with everyday, can that this ever be true? I ‘call’ and ‘welcome’ the group but can that call ever be fully met by the individuals? No is the answer. How could it be? The facilitator has the expertise, the experience, the facilitator plans and makes the decisions as to whether the group will divert from that plan on a given evening etc. A line that resonated with me that morning was ‘ the sense of being equal is imagined, not reality’, even as I type these words I am disappointed in myself, in my pedagogy that I claim to offer all-inclusive, student-centred learning whose door is always open. Is it though? Is it really? There has to be a planned session irrespective of whether that plan is followed, there are limits to what participants can say or do, surely! Lee compares this to having people to your home for dinner, they are most welcome but they cannot help themselves to his record collection or leave with his sofa! Thus the conditional, yet warm welcome is imagined.
Lee’s was the 2nd paper of the conference, perhaps a bit early to be peaking? There was more to come and I was not disappointed.

Music as a Natural Resource

November 29, 2010 2 comments

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.