In 2016, then Taoiseach Enda Kenny pledged to have music education accessible to every young person in Ireland within the next five years. That might have seemed over ambitious to some; or to others, simply another case of the government making more false promises.
However, this claim may be proven to have a strong foundation based on recent data.
Since 2010, the goal to achieve national access to music education for young people has been taken on by Music Generation, Ireland’s national music education programme. In 2010, Music Generation began a six year long project to give as many young people as possible across the country access to free performance music education.
The programme, which is co-funded by the Ireland Funds, U2, the Department of Education and local music partnerships has the ultimate goal of ensuring that every child and young person in Ireland has local access to high-quality music education in the form of learning an instrument. The last three years of this plan have proved particularly successful.
2014 saw 26,000 young people participating in Music Generation programmes, a 25% increase from 2013’s 19,500, with 2015’s 38,000 participants representing a near 32% increase on 2014’s figures.
The successes of 2015 saw 38,000 children and young people participating in 99 different tuition programmes in over 640 different centres across the country.
Perhaps what’s most impressive about Music Generation’s figures to date is that the initial projected target of spreading across twelve counties in the country within six years from 2010 was achieved in mid-2014, eighteen months ahead of schedule, representing a 25% improvement on the projected time that this would take.
Below is the initial projected expansion for the organisation over six years which aimed for a steady albeit slow consecutive growth and its actual geographical growth from 2011 to 2014 when the target was achieved, showing a much quicker expansion than what was initially forecast.
Commenting on the early achievement of these targets, Aoife Lucey, Communications Manager at Music Generation said: “Successful early-stage implementation of the programme at each phase enabled us to reach those targets ahead of schedule. Throughout the implementation stage each Local Music Education Partnership would have worked closely with partners and stakeholders at all levels, and with the Music Generation National Development Office, to ensure successful implementation.”
As well as providing young people with music education on a national scale, Music Generation has also been responsible for the creation of 350 jobs and employment opportunities for professional musicians and staff alike since its formation.
Increased expansion into more areas of the country means increased demand for musicians to teach the local young people in performance music education, be it vocals or instrument tuition.
“Job opportunities are allocated based on local need and context, but the bottom line is that setting up centres in hundreds of areas across the country means that thousands of young people who otherwise would not have access to music tuition can now receive it from the professional musicians hired to give them excellent quality teaching,” said Aoife.
Music Generation has since released their strategic plan for 2017 – 2021, propelled by their success so far. The plan is centered around ensuring the programme’s growth, sustainability and quality and aims to expand into more areas of the country through working with new Music Education partnerships and investing in strengthening the existing infrastructure so that continued performance music tuition can be achieved.
By Killian Dowling