Thirteen Years & Counting with IAYO | Written by Jenna Raggett

It is hard to believe that it has been thirteen years since I participated in my first IAYO course. From IAYO chamber music workshops to Irish Youth Baroque Orchestra, it has been quite the journey. In 2009 and 2010, I participated in IAYO’s National Chamber Music Workshops with my quartet Simply Strings. This quartet was formed by Regina O’Leary, who was director of the music programme at St. Canice’s National School in Kilkenny. Regina worked tirelessly to bring out the musical potential in every child and her enthusiasm and passion for music has influenced every decision I have made in my musical career so far. She always encouraged us to seek out new performance opportunities and so when we were eleven years old, we embarked on our first IAYO workshop. I will always remember playing Elephant Suite by Anita Hewitt-Jones. In the final sharing, we performed the second movement, Heffalump Hobble that was a syncopated and jazzy melody in D minor. Together we made the creative decision to add in ‘clicking’, which we thought had never been done before!

From 2012-2014 I participated in ConCorda Chamber Music Course for Strings. ConCorda will always have a very special place in my heart. Reflecting on those three years brings so many gorgeous memories of talent shows, rounders, singsongs, quizzes and chamber music play-throughs. It was the first time that I was introduced to the world of chamber music. I still remember the feeling of playing Brahms’ Sextet No. 1 in B-flat major, Op. 18, movement II, and thinking “this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”. During ConCorda we had musical theatre classes led by violinist Diane Daly and cellist Chris Allan. Using the teachings of Dalcroze, we explored music through composition, improvisation and body movement. I had never come across improvisation before and these sessions really challenged me as a young player. Nowadays, I work in settings as a music and movement teacher and support musician, where I am constantly using my imagination and creativity to facilitate music making for babies, young children and their carers. Mirroring the sounds of birds on my violin and composing my own melodies will always remind me of my golden days at ConCorda.

In June 2021, I completed my Bachelor in Violin Performance at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. During my conservatoire training, I had the privilege of learning Baroque violin with Claire Duff, leader of the Irish Baroque Orchestra. Through Claire, I learned about the Irish Youth Baroque Orchestra and when lockdown 2020 struck, I participated in my first online IYBO course. I remember feeling so incredibly supported in my endeavours as a Baroque musician from the moment the course began. The drive and dedication of the leaders was so inspiring that I had to do the course again in both 2021 and 2022. These courses always had a range of activities from Baroque dance to Feldenkrais combined with an excellent standard of music making. Participating in these courses provided multiple opportunities to explore the Baroque repertoire and gain experience performing on a period instrument. I am now an apprentice with the Irish Baroque Orchestra, which provides training, support and performance opportunities for musicians at the start of their career. This has been an invaluable experience so far and has included chamber music coaching, concert opportunities in Dublin, London and Croatia and performances across Ireland with the Irish Baroque Orchestra.

I was recently asked, “What does being a musician mean to you?” At first I felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the question and wondered how I could possibly give enough credit to the role music has played in my life. However the more I pondered, the simpler it became. For me, being a musician is about collaborating, connecting and creating with other people. These three components have always been at the core of IAYO’s courses. Over the last thirteen years, I have left every single course bursting with inspiration, love and new friendships. Like everything in life, there has been challenges along the way, but knowing that I have a support network full of so many wonderful musicians has made every step of my musical journey worth it. I am very grateful to IAYO for giving me the opportunity to access an exceptional level of music education. Looking back over the years has warmed my heart and unlocked so many magical memories. I have just completed my Masters in Performance Science at the Royal College of Music in London and I’m looking forward to a year of teaching, learning, performing and exploring.