Catch Up with Making Music With Sonamus: the Wicklow Teaching Residency

Catch Up with Making Music With Sonamus: the Wicklow Teaching Residency
Making Music With Sonamus: the Wicklow Teaching Residency kicked off in January 2021 with 16 eager and enthusiastic county Wicklow residents aged 55 and over taking on the challenge of returning to music.

Benefitting from the combined musical backgrounds of Sonamus members Eamon Sweeney (guitar), Rachel Factor (harpsichord), Annette Cleary (cello) and Tim Doyle (whistles), the tuition programme offers project participants an opportunity to experience and learn an array of musical styles and techniques.

Let's hear from the participants on how they are getting on so far:

Making music with Sonamus: the Wicklow Teaching Residency – catch up

"What I enjoyed most about the activity was the regular practice that I needed to do. Even though I had a hip operation in early February and missed a couple of lessons I was determined to get back to practice asap which I did within a couple of weeks into recovery.

The idea of playing cello was in my mind for many years, but as time marched on I felt the chance was slipping away so the opportunity given to me even though I was getting old was great, along with the support and encouragement given by the group and Annette.

The online lessons are a new experience for me, another new skill to learn!

Covid has made things difficult especially with the group lessons. Cello practice and lessons helped with taking my mind off things."

Ruth Barker – cello

"I have so enjoyed the experience and new challenge of learning a new instrument which for me is the cello. I very much looked forward to each lesson and I feel I have developed a great rapport with my teacher despite only meeting her online. I recently retired so this new challenge was doubly important to me. I felt I had a goal that I could work towards despite the restrictions of Covid 19. This project also reinforced my belief that new learning is always achievable and age is generally not a deterrent to this. In my previous career one of my areas of interest was in stressing the importance of new challenges as a person gets older." Joyce Jones – cello

"I played a small amount of music too many decades ago for me to remember now where to find those same notes on a fretboard. I played some mandolin and I took lessons in fiddle for a period. I have gathered numerous instruments over the years and I always vowed to interact in some music making when I retired. I always had good intentions to play music again but always it evaded me for lots of reasons.

Last year my wife brought this music programme to my attention as she was aware of my feeling to play again. After applying and expecting to come in at the latter end of entrants, I did not hold out too much hope of being accepted.

I was over the moon when Music Network informed me that I had been accepted into the programme. I knew then that I wanted to commit to the programme, but felt very rusty.

I have had numerous lessons now and it has gotten easier with the friendly instruction from my tutor Eamon Sweeney. My lessons have brought back some of my ear skills so it is easier to remember my notes. I am happy to be able to play a few songs and feel that it is just the start now. I will not allow myself to go without playing in the future.

The programme for me is invaluable as I was so far removed from music that, to be honest, I might never have started again. I am looking forward to playing music in a group setting with the other participants in the near future and to continuing to improve with practice.

Thank you very much for this experience."

Joe Nealon – guitar

"I found the details of this programme by accident and it has been the saving of my life. I play concertina and had learned piano as a child but that was 61 years ago. I am thoroughly enjoying the challenge of learning piano again and am surprising myself at how much I remember. I can't wait each day to practice and can forget everything as soon as my fingers touch the keys. Might I say I've a brilliant teacher." Deirdre Malone – keyboard

"What drew me to the project was the knowledge that I'd be learning from experts in the musical world. The idea of having one-to-one tuition really appealed to me.

At the start, I had mixed feelings. I was concerned that I might not be up to the standard needed to realistically take part. I was looking forward to the day when I'd meet my tutor (even if only through Zoom) but I was also feeling apprehensive as I printed out the first sheets of music.

My experience so far is that I need not have been apprehensive and fearful as to whether I would fit in with the group. We are exploring music that is both interesting and manageable. The level of pieces can be tailored to suit the individual musical standard of each person. At no time have I felt overwhelmed or out of my depth with the pieces.

The impact of being part of this group is that I have refocussed my attention onto music and what it means to me. I know I can do it if I put in the effort. I will have no regrets as time goes by that I never achieved my dream of becoming a musician.

I'm not saying it's easy, but what I am saying is that it is one of the most worthwhile projects I've been involved in and I feel privileged to be part of the Making Music with Sonamus programme. To date it has been absolutely worthwhile and I'm delighted with the progress I know I am making."

Elaine Byrne – keyboard

Making Music with Sonamus: the Wicklow Teaching Residency is presented by Music Network and Wicklow County Council Arts Office. Music Network is funded by the Arts Council of Ireland. This initiative is also funded by Creative Ireland and the Government's Resilience and Recovery Plan 2020–2021, and supported by Mermaid Arts Centre.