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Vibrant school of music marks 25 years of nurturing young students

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Date Published: {J}

BY BERNIE NÍ FHLATHARTA

Thousands of children and young adults from Galway City and County have learned their music at the School of Music which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year at its home in the Galway Technical Institute in Galway City.

The children who come from near and far, are aged from six upwards and many of them have since gone on to pursue music at third level while most of the current students make up the bulk of the Galway Youth Orchestra, which practices every Saturday in the common room at the GTI on Fr Griffin Road.

In fact any Saturday or any evening after 5pm from Monday to Thursday, you will hear the sound of music emanating from the classrooms on the school’s three levels. There’s the violin, the viola, classical and modern guitar, a few woodwind instruments, keyboards and the trumpet and that doesn’t cover all the instruments that are being taught there. A walk through the corridors of the school during these classes leaves you in no doubt that the teaching of music is very much alive in the City of the Tribes.

As well as all the practical aspect of learning musical instruments, students are taught the theory of music and a there is also a range of Post Leaving Cert courses at the GTI on many aspects of music technology and broadcasting. Tuition for these courses involves the school’s own radio station, which is streamed internally, as well as a state of the art recording studio, which is sometimes used by professional musicians.

But mostly the Art Deco building, erected in 1938 on what was then wasteland, is home to the School of Music, a scheme set up in the mid1980s by the Galway City Vocational Education Board, partly in response to a growing demand for some sort of formal music education in a city that was just gaining a reputation for its arts and culture.

It seemed the whole town at the time – the ’80s – was baying for a school or a college of music. A few premises were mentioned as being suitable venues, one being the former Redemptorist home, Cluain Mhuire in Wellpark. Its high-ceilinged rooms were considered ideal acoustically. But of course this didn’t happen and the GMIT took it over for their film and television department.

For a time, it was thought that University College Galway (since renamed NUI Galway) would set up a third level course and eventually a Chair of Music was formed in the college but was never filled because of the absence of a feeder school in the catchment area.

To this day, every once in a while there is the sporadic call for a ‘school of music’ for Galway. Meanwhile many people are completely unaware of the level of music that is actually being taught in the city and county week in, week out, not only in the GTI but in private homes, mostly in voice coaching and piano lessons.

In fact, the call for the school of music is like waving a red rag to a bull for Jimmy Brick, Principal of the GTI.

A Kerry native and a former city councillor, Jimmy has lived in Galway City for over 30 years and is proud of his school’s achievements, especially the School of Music.

“A school of music is not about a big, white marble building with concert halls and music rooms. It’s about the teaching of music and that is certainly going on here and has been going on here for nearly 25 years.

“It annoys me when I hear these calls for a school of music and people saying that Galway’s cultural hub isn’t complete without such a school, but if we were to wait for a formal, physical, dedicated building before we could teach a note, we would be waiting forever,” he says passionately.

Jimmy proudly oversees thousands of students every year at GTI between full-time pupils, those in adult education and those learning music in the evenings and Saturdays.

What used to be a technical school, known as ‘the Tech’ has certainly evolved over the years. One of the framed newspaper articles hanging up in the ground-floor corridor boasts that the newly-built school in 1938 was going to teach women to be domestic goddesses. In fact one of the bigger classrooms upstairs, which is now where hairdressing is taught, used to be the domestic science room. The huge fireplace surround is still visible but the big range is replaced by cupboards full of hairdressing supplies and clean towels.

The GTI is one of those institutions that has responded to the demands from the community over the years and moved away from the traditional trades when the demand for Post Leaving Cert courses increased.

Nowadays, the GTI is a hive of activity for all ages because it has opened its doors to schemes like the School of Music, which attracts children as young as five and six to adult evening classes.

It was this flexibility in the mid 1980s that led to the then VEC committee responding to the demand for the formal teaching of music to include a wide array of instruments outside piano and instruments traditionally associated with Irish music, such as the tin whistle and button accordion.

Jimmy says that the scheme was always going to be self-financing – in other words paid by parents – but with the assistance of 1,000 teaching hours from the GTI, an arrangement that exists to this day.

For more, read page 27 of this week’s City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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