Dr Evelyn Grant, Chair, Forum for Music in Ireland/Fóram don Cheol in Éirinn, writes:
Your editorial in the May-June issue outlines ‘two movements’ in music education in Ireland. You refer to the Forum for Music in Ireland and Music Network as being supporters of one of the movements – which is targeted at the Department of Education.
You designate Irish traditional music as the second of the ‘two movements’, with various sectors within traditional music working independently and drawing on funding from a variety of sources including the Arts Council and the Department of the Gaeltacht.
While the editorial raises the important issue of the need for a concerted effort by a critical mass to influence the development of a national strategy for music education in this country, it misunderstands both the ethos of the Forum for Music in Ireland and the model for music provision proposed in the Music Network Feasibility study on the provision of local music services.
The Forum for Music in Ireland, founded in 1999, is the first umbrella-body to bring together people from all types of music and to highlight the issues common to the different sectors. Since its inception, it has promoted a greater understanding and respect across the different genres of music. There is no doubt that, historically, there has been a big divide between different musical ‘camps’ – with supporters of each ‘camp’ closely guarding its own territory – be it classical, traditional, popular or jazz. This has changed dramatically in recent years, not just in Ireland but internationally. The way in which musicians are embracing different genres is reflected in changes in music education at all levels. Certainly, each musical form has its own particular identity and set of concerns for its preservation and development, but the Forum for Music in Ireland has moved forward on common concerns such as access; opportunity; standards; professional development and training, among others. But, perhaps the Forum’s greatest achievement has been the promotion of respect between musical genres.
In the absence of political will to improve provision of services in music education – of whatever genre – committed people find their own way through the political system to source funding. Increasingly, funding is sought through the social cohesion/access local government/tourism routes – through the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs; through local authorities, and so on. The ‘elephant in the corner’ is, of course, the Department of Education, which has consistently refused to address the most basic issue of equality of access to music education, by failing to provide a coherent national system.
Perhaps the purpose of your editorial was to throw down the gauntlet to the traditional music sector not to ‘undersell’ itself and to be more concerted in its efforts. You are certainly correct in suggesting that all who are interested in music education should ‘join forces’. However, that is precisely what the Forum for Music in Ireland is about – it is a Forum embracing all genres of music and tackling all issues affecting music in this country.
On behalf of the Forum, I reject the notion of there being ‘two movements’ and invite people to create the critical mass needed to effect change by becoming involved in the work of the Forum. Visit www.forumformusic.ie
Published on 1 July 2007
Evelyn Grant lectures in Community Music and Flute Performance at the Cork School of Music. She is involved in a wide-range of community music projects, including Cork Music Works which provides performance opportunity for people with learning disability. As musical director of the Cork Pops Orchestra, she performs to over 20,000 young people annually. She presents the ‘Lyric Pitch’ every Saturday on Lyric FM.