Friday, 14 September 2012


Bob Seward and Noreen Keane
The transformational nature of the Community Employment Scheme ran by the Cork Academy of Music only becomes clear when you meet and talk to course participants.
Muireann ni Chonnaláin,Glen Kelly, Gerard O'Regan, and Bairbre Flood
Glenn Kelly had previously worked in construction and was three years out of work, living back at home, and receiving just €10 a week from social welfare. “I was long term unemployed, and depressed. I’d lost everything.” In just one year Glen has qualified to Grade 5 of Music Theory with the Royal Academy of Music in London. He intends to achieve grade 7 in the coming months and then move on to UCC to complete a degree in Music.

Muireann ni Chonnaláin is another who has radically altered her life through the scheme. “I was a single parent struggling to find a way back into work. I grabbed this opportunity to study and work full time with music and it’s been a brilliant experience” In just nine months she has become an accomplished musician (piano)who has already achieved Grade 5 qualification in Music Theory . She is busy composing her own songs and looking forward to further education and a career in teaching and performing.

Gerard O’Regan is a fifty one year old former laboratory worker who had been five years out of work before joining the Academy. “CE has enabled me to reinvent myself through the training and education on offer. My long term goal is to study for a degree in Music Therapy.  I used to drop my wife to work and then go home for the day. Now I have a path forward into work and a career through music.”

Bairbre Flood joined the course last November and is studying music theory, guitar, drums and singing. Her progress can be measured by the fact that her first album is now available on (and is well worth a listen!)

The Academy was established by Bob Seward as a voluntary initiative in 1994 in recognition of the need for a musical institute on the North side of city. It was set up to give marginalised adults and young people the opportunity to learn music using this as a way to encourage them to access further education and to improve their skills for employment opportunities.

Staff member Noreen Keane explains the philosophy of the Academy as “using music to engage participants in to the process of learning. “An important aspect of this holistic approach is a focus on training in personal and social skills which contribute to entry requirements for third level education.

Over 700 people have now graduated from this innovative CE scheme and most have gone to enjoy paid employment and a career in the music industry. Dozens of students have gone on to complete Degrees, Masters and even Ph. D’s thanks to the work of the dedicated tutors and staff of the Academy. Reflecting on the achievements of the last 18 years Bob Seward is in no doubt about the value of the training provided through CE; “I believe the progress and progression pathways of our students demonstrate the benefits of CE for adults in the community towards further education as well as entry into the labour market.”

At a time when funding for Community Employment schemes is under unprecedented pressure from government cutbacks the Academy participants are determined to play their part through SIPTU in promoting the importance of continued funding and support for Community Employment.

To this end, in conjunction with SIPTU, they are organising a free public concert in the Triskel Arts Theatre on 4th October in Cork City Centre to showcase the talent and value that this ground breaking CE scheme has delivered.

SIPTU Organiser Trevor Quinn confirmed “Workers from the academy will be joined on the night by participants from the Togher CE music project and the Cantabile Vocal Ensemble Choir, and will be supported by CE workers from the Triskel Arts Centre in a unique collaboration to promote the value of high quality Community Employment Training Projects in Cork City. All local councillors and TD’s from the city and county will be invited and urged to ensure their continued support for CE schemes in the city.” For more information on the concert contact Trevor Quinn on 0872906803.

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