Benefits of playing music can last a lifetime
Music Generation offers tuition to children regardless of their background
Schoolkids learning musical instruments with tutor Michael Mullins at Scoil na Croise Naofa, Avenue de Rennes, Mahon, Cork city. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
If your children aren’t getting the chance to learn how to play music, they’re really missing out – “aspects of their holistic development are just not being tapped into”.
That’s the blunt message of Rosaleen Molloy, national director of Music Generation. The researched benefits of making music range from a boosting of brain power, fine motor skills, self-confidence, concentration and resilience, to increased well-being thanks to emotional and social spin-offs.
Who wouldn’t want all that for every child? It is what the Music Generation organisation is trying to deliver, with, in the words of one of its benefactors, Bono, the ambition of ensuring “everyone, regardless of their background, gets access to music tuition”.
In the ideal world, that “access” would be tailored to suit individual children, in terms of choice of instrument, genre and learning style. What prevents children from getting their hands on a suitable musical instrument doesn’t always come down to cost. There are also geographical and cultural barriers to high-quality performance music education, explains Molloy.
For example, a child might live in rural Co Leitrim, want to play the drums and have parents who can afford to pay for lessons, yet nobody lives locally with the expertise to teach him. Parents biased towards classical tuition may not recognise different genres that would appeal to their child, while others may just not value music as something important for their children.
Parents who are convinced of the merits of learning to play music, but lack experience themselves, may wonder where to start. Do it right and you can be handing your child an invaluable gift for a lifetime.
“They need to love it; they need to get a thrill from doing it, which is why getting the style right and the instrument right makes a huge difference,” says Dr Patricia Rooney, director of the Academy of Popular Music in Cork.
Singing and music is much more than enjoyment of a piece or a song, says Dr Ite O’Donovan of the Dublin Choral Foundation, which provides subsidised music education to children from the age of five. “Music gives to the intellect what nothing else in the world can.”
She can’t think of any activity by a six-year-old that requires more multi-tasking than making music within a choir. “They are looking at the notes and intellectually understanding what is happening; they are hearing the children around them sing and then they actually have to make the sound themselves.”
Every child and young person has the ability to make and create music, says Molloy. “It’s a myth that you have to be talented at it – as long as you are alive you have the ability to make music.”
Established in 2010 with a €7 million donation from U2 and The Ireland Funds, the Music Generation programme it Music Generation operates through music partnerships in 12 areas of the country and is in the process of expanding into nine more.
Recently, the Government promised to continue to fund its rollout, through the Department of Education and Skills, to be fully national by 2022.