National Music Symposium

Local Authorities & Music, Knowing The Score

A collaborative national music symposium took place todayin St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra – one of the partners in the research report under discussion. The report was researched and written by Ailbhe Kenny over two years in partnership with Sligo County Council, Wexford County Council and St Pat’s through the Arts Council Local Partnership Scheme and was concerned with compiling a national outline of Local Authorities work in relation to music.

Ailbhe Kenny presented the report, focussing on the research methods, the findings and her recommendations. After examining the range of programmes and initiatives in music by all the arts offices and following a series of conversations with stakeholders Kenny exposed a series of issues in the area. With regard to each of these issues (staff supports, public profile & awareness, music education partnerships, commissioning, musicians professional development and partnerships) she detailed her findings and provided a number of recommendations to address each issue. There is far too much information to provide details of all the recommendations here but as soon as the report is available online I’ll post a link.

Marc Jaffrey of the UK’s major music initiative support by public money Music Manifesto presented the keynote speech. Jaffrey examined the need to champion music and the arts as vital in the dramatically changing global climate. His talk touched on many of the same points which have been coming up at conferences over the past number of years, including the outdated model of education and how it is stifling creativity in youth and the importance of the creative arts to an economy.

“European creative industries now employ more people than the european car industry”

After a quick lunch in St Pat’s canteen (back-to-college experience for all!) we were treated to a performance of Ardee Dances, a work by Rachel Holstead commissioned by Louth County Council. The performance by the Irish Baroque Orchestra was wonderful and featured soloists Sarah Sexton and Gerry O’Connor. The work was a beautiful amalgamation of the traditional and classical styles, both very significant in Holstead’s music background.

I had to skip out early but caught Martin Drury’s response to the report recommendations. Drury is an excellent speaker and given his wealth of experience in arts education he is perfectly equipped to respond to the report. His speech is also full of wonderful sound bites: “We must talk about the arts, not as something separate to ourselves but as integral to our lives” – Mary Robinson, 1973.

Drury related the need for professional development of musicians to professional development in the visual arts in recent years. Traditionally following education the development of visual artists was based in solo studio spaces and gallery exhibitions. The visual arts have moved towards more collaborative approaches to working and audience engagement and Drury suggests that professional development for musicians should also be considered in terms of complementary and alternative methods. An example which was mentioned repeatedly during the day was the Vogler Quartet residency in Sligo.

Drury also mentioned the need for an examination of sustainability in initiatives. The “igniting spark” of an individual must be complemented by support of a system (John McLachlan also highlights this in relation to once-off initiatives in contemporary music in his JMI article – unfortunately I don’t have a link). “The Irish are good at allowing things to happen but not so good at providing for things to happen”.

There is heaps of information here but believe me, there was a lot more on the day. Keep an eye on the Arts Council website for the full published report.

PS – Drury also mentioned the new public arts website should be up and running in the next few months. I’m hopeful it will be a bit more navigable than the recently released events site.

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About aisling

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