RIAM launches the Open Youth Orchestra of Ireland

A new initiative has been launched by the Royal Irish Academy of Music with the Creative Ireland programme. RIAM has been allocated funds for Le Chéile: a project to develop ensembles for young disabled musicians. It will culminate in the founding of the Open Youth Orchestra of Ireland, the EU’s first national youth orchestra for disabled musicians.
It will be a cross-Border orchestra drawing members from four provinces separately, before coming together as a full orchestra in Athlone in September.

An open orchestra is one where ability is not a limiting factor. Those who will participate will include musicians with Down syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy. Unlike many other orchestras that recruit musicians based on their musical ability, Le Chéile uses something called “conductology” to help the children connect through music. Conductology is a technique developed by Dr Denise White of Ulster University and it involves all members of the ensemble agreeing on 18 gestures before they play together – building confidence and enhancing communication.

RIAM director Deborah Kelleher described it is a “fascinating time” in the development of music for people with disabilities.
“I can’t get over what a game-changer this is. For the academy, we have been teaching and examining over a million people since we were founded. The opportunity to extend new invitations to teach people with different abilities would have been barred to us before, but there is no stopping us now. I can’t wait to see what the next generation of musicians are going to look like. They are not going to look like they were in the past.”

The orchestra will create its own music and will use assistive and adaptive music technology, including iPads, MacBook and motion sensors, to allow people with physical and intellectual challenges to access music performance.

Adaptive music technology (AMT) uses tablets, iPads and mobile phones to create music. It is a technology well suited to children who otherwise would not be able to learn a conventional instrument.

The orchestra will be made up of musicians playing conventional instruments and those using new technology.

Funded by the Creative Ireland Programme, The Open Youth Orchestra of Ireland plans to draw members from each Irish province before commencing in September. Le Chéile is open to young people between the ages of 16 and 30. Find out more at riam.ie.riam.ie