'Phenomenal' response to U2's musical education initiative


A €7 million initiative part-funded by U2 to promote musical education in Ireland has attracted a “phenomenal” response, its organisers said.

Music Generation, the national music education programme for young people, received expressions of interest from all 34 local authorities.

Of those, 23 followed up with costed proposals to receive funding in the first round which will be announced next month. Many applied for the full amount of €200,000.

Music Generation director Rosaleen Molloy said the national response had surpassed all expectations and U2, who have put €5 million into the project, with the rest coming from the Ireland Fund, were “overwhelmed” by the response.

“They just see the value of their investment paying dividend. They are thrilled with it,” she said.

Ms Molloy did not rule out approaching U2 or the Ireland Fund for more money given the level of interest involved.

U2 became involved when they realised only 1 per cent of Irish secondary school students had access to the type of music education they had when they attended Mount Temple comprehensive school.

Music Generation had anticipated only 20 per cent of local authorities going to the trouble of formally applying for funding. The actual response was 73 per cent.

Ms Molloy said it was not only the interest that was extraordinary but the fact that so many local partnerships were prepared to put €200,000 in cash or in kind to match the Music Generation offer.

“The majority have had to come up with hard cash, which is fascinating in the difficult times that we are in,” she said. “Somehow these music education partnerships, because of the will at local level and the interest, have found the means to come up with the matched income.”

The scheme was set up when a successful Music Network pilot, which funded an expanded musical education programme in Donegal and Dublin, could not be rolled out nationally because of a lack of funding.

Under the scheme, it is hoped 10,000 children will get musical tuition up to 2015. The organisers hope the Department of Education and Skills will then have the resources to take it over.

Ms Molloy said the €7 million amounted to “seed money” for music education in Ireland. “The country is talking about music education at the moment. You can’t put a monetary value on it.”

Among those who have put forward an application is Sligo County Council, which is prepared to put up €200,000 in matched funding from local sources with a view to getting funding from Music Generation. The council established a small musical partnership that has been involved in teaching music in schools.

If selected, arts officer Rhona McGrath said they would be able to expand it by working with the Vocational Education Committee and local music schools to bring music lessons to the widest possible audiences. “It has huge potential, but unfortunately it is competitive,” she said.