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Limerick Lessons for New York Students

Mon, 05 Mar 2018

During a recent visit to New York members of the University of Limerick had the pleasure of meeting Paul Keating from the Irish Central media group. Paul attended a number of events organised by the Irish World Academy and the University of Limerick and wrote the following piece for the Irish Voice newspaper in New York. 


Limerick Lessons for New York Students

Paul Keating, Irish Voice, New York. 

ON a recent Wednesday night at the Woodlawn House of Music and Art in the Bronx there were two special master classes being offered by pre-eminent members of the faculty at the trail-blazing University of Limerick Irish World Academy of Music and Dance (IWA). Doctors Sandra Joyce and Niall Keegan, who happen to be married to one another, are the directors of the graduate and undergraduate programs in Irish traditional music and dance programs respectively.

They taught a singing class and instrumental class to some young and promising students who regularly attend classes offered in that wonderful Woodlawn house devoted to such instruction. They were invited by Erin
Loughran who runs the very successful Loughran School of Irish Music in Woodlawn and Pearl River.

Back in 2010, Loughran graduated from the Irish World Academy with a bachelor’s degree in traditional Irish music performance, the first American to do so in the developing undergraduate program at that time. It was built upon the success of the graduate programs that were initiated by Dr. Micheal O’Suilleabhain when he founded the school devoted to advance study of music, song and dance in 1995.

Loughran studied under course directors Joyce and Keegan and many other esteemed faculty members like Siobhan Peoples, and as part of her required field work taught music in some grammar schools around the area.

Like her mother, Margie Mulvihill, one of the dedicated teachers in the Pearl River School of Music, Loughran discovered that she loved teaching children and sharing the native music of Ireland, and was willing to work hard establishing her own credentials upon returning from the Emerald Isle, also garnering a TTCT teaching certificate from Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann for good measure.

For the University of Limerick educators who also witnessed some of the great work that Pamela Geraghty was doing in the singing classes (she is a bandmate of Erin’s sister Blaithin in the seminal Pearl River band Girsa), they got a first-hand look at the potential for garnering future students of the unique and ever-expanding university on the banks of the Shannon River on Limerick City’s outskirts. And the reason for their visit to New York and Boston along with their colleague Niamh Kavanagh, the university’s international recruitment coordinator, was to further their connections with the Irish Arts Center in New York as a foothold and possible showcase for their students and graduates.

In fact, they did organize such a night there to show off some of their talented graduates based in the New York area who buttressed the descriptions of what the Irish World Academy had on offer for undergraduate and graduate studies with actual performances from
their alumnae.

The talented and appreciative artists assembled on the night were happy to perform to give back some of what they achieved studying abroad in Ireland and developing their craft.

Ben Power, originally from Liverpool, England and California, studied music and dance and graduated with a masters in 2002 as one of the earliest MA candidates, and he is currently one of the cast musicians in the hit musical Come From Away.

Ashley Davis (a year ahead in 2001) who dauntingly arrived at 25 in Limerick not knowing any Irish at all, determined to learn sean nos singing as Gaelige and as beara before she would leave with her master’s degree in 2001. Building on that accomplishment and growing confidence, she had embarked on a song-writing career and has a new publishing deal in hand and a new CD coming out in a few months.

Dancers Alexander McDonald (2013) and Nicholas Yensen (2007) continue hoofing with McDonald, teaching tap and crossover sean nos steps touring around the country, and Yensen performs in musicals as a dancer after starting out on the competitive Irish step dance circuit before going on to Limerick to study contemporary modern dancing.

Carrie Irving (2013) studied singing at the IWA and currently teaches it at the Irish Arts Center. Loughran brought 17 of her New York students down as an ensemble to play for those who turned up on the night, and Annmarie Acosta Williams (2007), who operates another New York City music and dance school brought along four students including the three Rodican sisters.

When the new IWA building was completed on the Clare side of the Shannon River (with generous support from Loretta and Lew Glucksman and Chuck Feeney), a majestic bridge led people to and from the newly built state of the art center. Called the Bridge of Life, it symbolizes the great respect the Irish have for their native culture and heritage and how it is meant to attract people from all over the world to learn about it and nurture it.

The recent mission from the University of Limerick IWA by Joyce and Keegan did indeed build bridges that will be traversed back and forth over the Atlantic for decades to come. Now that is what I call an investment for the future.



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