Development of a School Orchestra and a ‘Violin For All’ Programme

St Peter’s College Orchestra (SPCO) was founded just over two years ago and has developed quick-ly. Dunboyne in East Meath is a fast-growing community in the heart of the Dublin commuter belt. The village has grown rapidly over the past five years, yet still maintains a distinct identity and a vibrant traditional music scene. Reflecting this growth in the wider community, St Peter’s College itself has seen its student population rise to over 1,000. The school orchestra was initially started up to play an on-stage ‘cameo’ role in a school musical, with just six string players taking part. The decision was then made to start the orchestra with weekly sessions and membership has now grown to thirty-one. The orchestra has continued to per-form at a diverse range of school events and has been fortunate to have had visits from some very eminent guests, including President Mary McAleese, economist T.K. Whittaker and Minister Mary Hanafin. St Peter’s College also has a pro-active policy of community engagement and so the ensemble has performed at Dunboyne library, local hospitals and retirement homes, as well as at the local shopping centre and church. In 2005 SPCO launched a ‘violin for all’ initiative. With the endorsement of the Principal and Board of management, the school invested in a violin for each First Year music student and provided class-based violin tuition within the school timetable. The initiative is both evidence of the school’s community ethos as well as an ideal ‘feeder programme’ for orchestra members. A novel element of the violin programme is the addition of five teachers who are also learning to play the instru-ment! The orchestra joined IAYO in 2005 and in April that year participated in an IAYO North-East Schools Outreach workshop directed by Dorothy Conaghan. The workshop gave the SPCO players a great sense of playing in a large orchestra, in addition to enabling director Cathy Desmond to pick up some great tips and advice on repertoire. The orchestra has also been delighted to secure a double bass on loan from IAYO’s instrument bank. This has added great weight to the ensemble and has also extended the age range of the ensemble. The progress of St Peter’s College Orchestra over such a relatively short period has been tremendous and we firmly believe the support we have received from the IAYO was essential to our fledg-ling ensemble. Cathy Desmond, Director SPCO

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