News Analysis

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Our schools of rock – and ruck

Published 24/12/2012 | 05:00

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'HOW to be a rock star" may not have appeared on the curriculum, but for a country so rich with musical talent, surely it was embedded along with our ABCs?

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When it comes to being schooled in rock, it appears Irish musicians' educational upbringings were as eclectic as the sounds themselves that have emanated from the Emerald Isle.

There are schools that appear to have fostered burgeoning musical talent, and others that have produced entire bands.

What's clear though is there is no right type of school to send your child to should you wish them to be successful in the music industry.

Our musical stars come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds, schooled in private, non-fee-paying, boarding and Gaelscoileanna.

U2 famously met at Ireland's first non-denominational community school, Mount Temple in Dublin (the same place that educated neo-trad singer Damien Dempsey), while both of the famous Mullingar Nialls, popstars Horan and Breslin, attended non-fee-paying CBS Colaiste Mhuire in their shared Co Westmeath hometown.

The Coronas were formed within the halls of Dublin's fee-paying Terenure College, while Bell X1 and Damien Rice all hooked up musically at Salesian College in Celbridge, Co Kildare. And all three Sligo-born members of Westlife attended the same school, non-fee-paying Summerhill College.

Some schools have educated groups of musicians that couldn't be more different, like Wesley College in Ballinteer, Dublin, which boasts singer David Kitt, DJ Annie Mac and Celtic Tenors Niall Morris and James Nelson among its past pupils.

Christian Brother Schools countrywide educated some of our biggest stars, from Phil Lynott and Ronnie Drew to Ronan Keating and Brian McFadden, while fee-paying Gaelscoil Colaiste Eoin in Booterstown, Dublin, has spawned a whole host of indie rockers, from the Hothouse Flowers to Kila, some of The Frames and My Bloody Valentine.

Dublin private schools have also resulted in some recently popular band members: Conor Deasy of The Thrills was educated at Gonzaga, and The Script's Glen Power at Oatland College.

What's interesting to note is the success rate in music of those who didn't complete their secondary education. Glen Hansard, whose musical 'Once' has been the toast of Broadway, left school to busk at 14.

Similarly Paddy Casey abandoned education at 13 to play on the streets alongside Hansard and the late Mic Christopher.

Bob Geldof attended fee-paying Blackrock College in Dublin, but rallied against its Catholic teachings and eventually left without any qualifications.

Van Morrison also dropped out of the same Orangefield High in Belfast he later penned a song about, while Shane MacGowan was expelled from a renowned English school in Westminster, London.

A far as Ireland's female musicians go, there are few trends. Dana and Nadine Coyle were educated at Derry's Thornhill College Grammar School, while Una Healy of The Saturdays took her exams at Presentation Thurles in Co Tipperary.

Sinead O'Connor attended the Quaker boarding Newtown School in Waterford, where her musical ability flourished.

Lisa Hannigan was educated at King's Hospital boarding school in Dublin, which also hosted Jedward.

Ireland doesn't have an educational stage school tradition; singing, dancing and acting are reserved as extra-curricular activities, unlike in the UK where Adele, Amy Winehouse and Leona Lewis were groomed for stardom while sitting exams.

Still, it's worth noting that organisations like Billie Barry have bred many a pop star, including Samantha Mumba, Mikey Graham and McFadden.

So it seems, unlike rugby and captains of industry, there are no clear-cut success stories from one particular kind of school. It seems for the Irish, musical creativity is in the soul and not learned from a text book.

Irish Independent

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