Children Performing as part of the opening of the Ballymun Music Room

The Ballymun Music Programme and Music Room, built as a community facility by Ballymun Regeneration Ltd. stood out for judges in the 2009 Allianz Business to Arts Awards and was honoured for the programme’s achievements since its inception in 1999.

The landscape of Ballymun has changed dramatically in the past decade. From an economic and social standpoint, the North Dublin area has received a huge investment.

In February 2009, the Music Room, the first dedicated practice and performance space for the Ballymun Music Programme, opened its doors.

The room is the culmination of much hard work by the programme, and is indicative of how music is fast becoming an intrinsic element of Ballymun’s educational and cultural fabric.

Ron Cooney, musical director and project manager, Ballymun Music Programme, says this new space to play music will make a huge difference.

“This space for music is in response to activity that has been going on for the past couple of years. That’s a real statement that music education has arrived in Ballymun and has been accepted by the people here,” says Cooney.

The physical building, which was developed by Ballymun Regeneration Ltd, was opened by President Mary McAleese and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in February 2009.

With a capacity to hold up to 150 people, including the band, the space also has an acoustic quality equal to that of a recording studio.

An acoustics consultant fine-tuned the room’s space, adding fabric panelling, which helps to absorb as much sound as possible. Therefore, the reverb time is close to theatre level.

The room also features a mildly sprung floor of solid oak, which makes the space suitable for activities such as dancing.

Ballymun Regeneration funded the building process for the Music Room, while The Archdiocese of Dublin provided the site.

Cian Harte, senior executive architect with Ballymun Regeneration, explains the Music Room project was part of Ballymun Regeneration’s community facilities programme.

“The building itself is not simply for music. It can be used for dance, martial arts, meetings and public speaking, etc,” he notes.

He says the Music Room’s location at a T-junction on Dane Road is also a landmark architecturally, and provides a strong visual focus within Ballymun.

Harte says Ballymun Regeneration took a holistic view of the area in general when coming up with the design.

“The Music Room isn‘t seen in isolation. We don’t see any one building in isolation. They are all part of a suite of facilities we’re trying to create.”

He points to how the Music Room will influence children’s perception of school as it becomes part of Ballymun’s social consciousness.

“That ties in with our holistic approach to use art as a tool to engage the local population, bringing people into the fold of art.

“The Music Room is part of the physical infrastructure of Ballymun now. All the schools are very positive about the programme and they all see the value of it.

Indeed, the two main objectives of the Ballymun Music Programme are to use music as a vehicle for the personal and academic development of the children of Ballymun and to give every child in the area the opportunity for personal development through the medium of music.

Since its inception, the programme has grown to involve children from seven primary and secondary schools in Ballymun, with about 700 children involved each year.

Five bands now practice music in four different schools in the Ballymun locality.

“We have two string orchestras, two wind bands and a brass band. These groups all play at 8am in the morning,” explains Cooney.

The children also get a group lesson during the week.

In addition, the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) Conservatory of Music acts as occasional advisers to the music programme, providing scholarships.

Explains Cooney: “We have 14 kids on scholarships in DIT in 2009, for example from both primary and secondary schools in Ballymun.

Two former participants of the programme are now in third-level with music being part of their studies.

Back in February, a choir of 250 students from the Ballymun Music Programme premiered a composition by the composer, Darragh O’Toole.

The students performed the composition, which is aptly called ‘A New Day’, at the Helix, along with RTÉ Cór na nÓg Choir plus some musicians from the RTÉ National Concert Orchestra.

In an exciting development since then, Cooney says a recording of ‘A New Day’ will now happen, and a CD will be released in the lead up to Christmas this year.

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