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Flat note as children's music project faces cash crisis

THE teacher behind the Ballymun Music Project has revealed that the inspiring programme in under threat from spending cuts.

Music teacher Ron Cooney has been working in Ballymun for 15 years and his commitment to engaging children from the regenerating area led him to start recorder classes which grew to an orchestra and choir.


Over 600 children from six schools and 12 teachers are now involved in the music programme, and the students recorded a CD and performed with the RTE Concert Orchestra, prompting the documentary Ballymun Lullaby which will air on RTE tomorrow.

"One of the difficult things is to keep children interested and to connect with them especially during their teenage years so we kept on growing and bringing a new element to the programme," Ron (53) told the Herald. "But like everything else, our funding has been affected by the recession and the next two years will be all about maintaining what we have -- keeping the ship afloat -- because we wouldn't want to lose everything."

The music programme is funded by The Arts Council Young Ensemble Scheme and receives support from the Department for Environment, Community & Local Government. Children are supplied classes and instruments for free while the bulk of the money goes towards tuition, facilities and transport.

Ron, who is originally from Palmerstown, noted that in difficult economic times, the arts were often the first to suffer funding cuts.

"This is something that has driven me mad all my life.

"If they can't see the difference that this makes on an individual basis and on a community basis, the best way of addressing that problem is to let the children play concerts so people can see first hand.

"Their performances are full of life, full of hope, this is where money should be invested -- it should be invested in education and arts education is a huge part of our psyche.

"Music engages children but apart from that, young children need applause, it's a real good confirmation of their own selves, they need to experience success.

"When they perform and people applaud them, that's success and they glow from it, they feel rewarded."


Ron is proud of all his students and one of the great success stories of the project is that of teenager Tara O'Brien who is featured in the documentary.

"Tara got a scholarship at the conservatory of music in DIT, she wants to get third level education in music and come back to teach in Ballymun," he said.

"That for me is bringing the circle around, it would be great to have teachers in Ballymun from that community, it's a real achievement. She is a great role model, kids want to know how she did it and all and what they can see is that hard work pays off."

Ballymun Lullaby is on RTE 1 tomorrow at 10.15pm