Carmel Garrett, Galway Youth Orchestras, Receives the Agnes O’Kane Award

The Agnes O’Kane Award is presented annually to recognise a volunteer who has contributed to the growth of youth orchestras. At this year’s Festival of Youth Orchestras, the award was presented to Carmel Garrett of the Galway Youth Orchestras.

Carmel, a founding member of the IAYO, has been synonymous with Galway Youth Orchestras for over 30 years. Carmel took a hands-on approach from the outset, initially volunteering when her own children started playing with the orchestra where her leadership and organisational qualities led her quickly to the role as chair. Selflessly, long after her children had left the orchestra, she continues on in this role at the helm overseeing the continuing rise and growth influencing the lives of 100’s of young people from the west of Ireland year on year.

Carmel was co-opted by Maura O’Riordan onto the fundraising committee in 1989 as a parent helper where she successfully held a coffee morning to boost funds for the orchestra. Maura, having spotted Carmel’s talent for organising, proposed her for the position of vice chair within the same year. At the time you could only serve on the committee if you had a child in the orchestra, so Maura stepped down in 1990 having chaired the committee for 7 years, since the orchestra’s formation in 1983. Carmel was then elected chair in 1990. At some point, the ruling was changed and thankfully Carmel’s children were allowed to leave orchestra!

An avid member of the Irish Country Women’s Association, Carmel was the founding member of the Knocknagarra ICA Guild and was three time President of the Galway Federation.

Over the years Carmel has become the matriarch figure of GYO, loved by students and parents alike. She remembers everybody’s name, not just the current membership but all the extended GYO family. When on tour to many parts of the globe, parents can rest assured that their children are always safe and well in Carmel’s care as she patrols the corridors ensuring everyone’s wellbeing. Carmel houses the entire, vast orchestral library in her home and she has an infectious enthusiasm that whisks people along in support of plans of all sizes. Never afraid of a challenge, tirelessly seeking out the very best new opportunities for her orchestra for all young musicians. Carmel always thinks big. Being a small orchestra from the west of Ireland was no excuse not to hit the road and tour the cultural capitals of Europe.