Instrumental in music education

Music teacher Shauna McCullough is organising a three day jamboree for young brass and wind players, writes COLETTE SHERIDAN
Instrumental in music education
Shauna McCullough Picture: Miki Barlok

MUSICIAN and tutor, Shauna McCullough, knows all about the importance of giving something back in appreciation of the breaks she received in developing her career.

Dublin-born Shauna, who moved to Cork at the age of 16 with her family, is organising Brass Off! — a large scale three-day musical jamboree for young brass and wind players.

More than 90 young people from Cork, Carlow and Mayo will take part in the event at CIT Cork School of Music (CSM) from April 10-12. The event, initiated by Music Generation’s national partnership, will be “a huge learning event” where the musicians, aged ten to 18, will explore their music and technique, culminating in a performance finale on April 12 in the Curtis Auditorium at the CIT CSM at 3pm, free admission.

Shauna, 31, has been instrumental in organising large scale ensembles such as Bold As Brass two years ago.

“That was an inter-generational thing with a musician from Cork called Jason Yarde. Brass Off! is totally different and totally new.”

Over the course of the three days, the young musicians will be guided by leading musician-mentors, taking part in workshops and ensemble playing.

Shauna works for Music Generation, in partnership with the Barrack Street Youth Band which she set up in 2012. The band started with 15 members and now boasts a membership of 48 musicians. Shauna also works with the Cork Academy of Music and teaches brass in a number of schools around Cork.

Originally from the Walkinstown area of Dublin, Shauna sat her Leaving Certificate at Christ the King secondary school in Cork.

As a child, she was in a marching band in Dublin which saw her “make loads of trips and I also made a lot of friends through it.”

She added: “I never got music lessons as a kid. I was just hanging around the streets when myself and a few friends decided to join a marching band, called the Talagh Band.

“Then, at Christ the King, a teacher, Una Long, said I should get music lessons. She introduced me to Rory Dineen who became my first music teacher. He said I should go on and do music at third level. So I did my Bachelor of Music degree at CSM. I was a trumpet player and I did loads of subjects like conducting, orchestration, musicianship skills, music therapy, music history and performance. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of music and the kind of career I could have.

“I got a huge amount of playing experience at CSM. I was in the orchestra with Geoffrey Spratt and I was in the wind ensemble with John O’Connor and I was in the Jazz Big Band.”

After her degree, Shauna was lucky to be offered a lot of teaching work: “I started teaching music in St Colman’s Boys’ National School in Macroom.”

She then joined a branch of the army band called the Band One Brigade, playing the trumpet.

“I was based in Collins Barracks. We did a lot of ceremonial concerts. We played in the Albert Hall in London and in Belgium.

“I left that two years ago to go full-time teaching with Music Generation. I now teach in Greenmount National School, Gaelscoil Ballyphehane and Holycross National School in Mahon, through Music Generation.”

Always keen to further herself, Shauna also did a masters’ degree in education through the University of Limerick and Mary Immaculate College. She describes herself as “passionate about music education. I work with everyone from nine years old to my oldest student in their late sixties. But the main cohort of my students is between 12 and 18.”

Brass Off! will be facilitated by 30 professional musicians and tutors. Shauna said the value of the event is wide-ranging.

“For young people, it gives them a sense of achievement. Even if they don’t go on to have a musical career, they will have a skill. There’s a lot of commitment involved in learning an instrument. There’s the discipline of practising it every day.”

Shauna points out that a lot of the youngsters she works with would be from Deis schools who wouldn’t otherwise have access to music education.

“It gives children the opportunity to explore. A lot of them really take to music and some have gone on to be surprised at what they’re able to achieve. A lot of the children go on to study music at secondary school.”

For Brass Off!, the musicians will be playing music from the movies such as Mary Poppins and Batman as well as James Bond films, Star Wars and Jurassic Park.

“A lot of music can be challenging to read but the young musicians will enjoy playing music that they can relate to. It’s also good for just socialising, for the young musicians to meet other like-minded people.”

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