Music Generation Offaly/Westmeath is a county council-led regional music service which receives funding from Music Generation and the Offaly/Westmeath Music Education Partnership comprising of Offaly County Council (Lead Partner), Westmeath County Council, Laois-Offaly Education and Training Board, and Longford- Westmeath Education and Training Board.
Established in 2013 as part of Music Generation, Ireland’s national music education programme, MGOW has created a range of musician-led programmes that target children and young people aged from 3-18 years in Offaly and Westmeath across a range of social and cultural settings, including in schools, afterschool hubs, Youth Cafés and community ensembles.
Offaly County Council was the recipient of an award in November 2020 from Chambers Ireland Excellence in Local Government in recognition of their work in ‘Sustaining the Arts’ as MGOW’s lead partner.
Innovation through partnership
Music Generation Offaly/ Westmeath (MGOW) is the result of a pioneering partnership between two Local Authorities, Offaly and Westmeath County Councils. The counties joined forces in 2012 to establish the first two-county Music Education Partnership in Ireland, an innovation that has enabled a strong, strategic approach to the provision of music tuition for children and young people across the region.
MGOW’s ground-breaking partnership model extends to all areas of its management and programming – from national funding partnerships with philanthropy and the Department of Education and Skills, to programming partnerships with schools, community ensembles, higher education institutes, Youth Work organisations and agencies including the Arts Council and Creative Ireland, along with programme specific support from local development companies (LEADER) and Léargas (Erasmus+).
This innovative approach to partnership has led, for the first time in the region’s history, to MGOW successfully developing a long-term, sustainable infrastructure for the delivery of locally-based, high-quality performance music education for children and young people.
MGOW is also innovative in its focus on local development and delivery. Currently, the initiative creates local employment opportunities for skilled musician educators, and is entirely led by the context and needs of the communities in which it operates. This approach has created a strong sense of local ownership and ensures ongoing relevance for all participants and stakeholders.
Making music happen
Music Generation Offaly/Westmeath’s primary objective is to ‘make music happen’.
We do this by creating access to performance music-making opportunities for children and young people in their own locality that are guided by the values of equality of access, quality of experience, partnerships, creativity and sustainability. In this way MGOW aims to make music part of young people’s lives; to give children and young people life-enhancing skills through learning to create, play and perform; to generate opportunities for children and young people to experience making music with others; and to contribute to the development of their personal and social identity.
Connecting and engaging
Engagement with and awareness of MGOW has grown over the lifetime of the initiative. On an ongoing basis, the initiative runs targeted marketing campaigns for specific projects and programmes, to ensure it reaches as many young people across the region as possible. It also shares stories of MGOW’s impact with national and local funders; thereby documenting the programme’s outcomes and achievements captured through film and photography; and of course we host and support public performances by young musicians on local and national stages. This allows us to showcase the benefits of the programme first-hand. Actions also include major publicity drives to build brand capital – backed by Music Generation’s national philanthropic donors, U2 and The Ireland Funds – to ongoing local stakeholder engagement initiatives to build partnership and participation.
Building community involvement has always been a central tenet of MGOW. On making its initial ‘bid’ for participation in Music Generation in 2012, representatives from across local arts, education, youth and community sectors were invited to come together to discuss what kind of performance music education programme would have the greatest impact for children and young people in the region, and how a joined-up approach to delivery could ensure growth, quality and sustainability. The voices of children and young people themselves have played an equally important role in how the initiative has taken shape and evolved.
Today, MGOW is proud of how it has become embedded in the local community. By partnering with schools, youth groups, childcare services and other cultural organisations it has been able to reach children and young people ‘where they are’. In turn, through their involvement with MGOW young people are building their social capital as we see them giving back to their communities, staging performances, fundraising events and returning to mentor other, younger MGOW participants.
As a result of the initiative, the rate of young people’s participation in music tuition across the region has increased from >1% in 2013 to 10% in 2020. 7,500 young musicians now regularly engage in vocal and instrumental learning with skilled, professional musician educators, many of whom would not otherwise have had the opportunity.
Additionally, many of those children and young people are benefiting from access to the MGOW instrument bank, so that the cost of purchasing an instrument no longer poses a barrier to participation.
As MGOW develops into the future, its programmes will continue to be entirely unique in the context of music education in Ireland and tailored to the needs and strengths of its local communities.
All photos provided by Offaly County Council