Music, sweet music, with MGLC | Newcastle West feature

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Tony Monahan playing guitar with Protobaby. Photo: Cian Reinhardt

MUSIC Generation Limerick City works across the County, bringing musicians into classrooms and youth groups to lead in learning music, songwriting and jamming. Protobaby’s Tony Monahan is one such tutor with MGLC for Newcastle West, external to his work as producer/ DJ/ songwriting musician. Interestingly, Desmond College in Newcastle West makes MG attendance compulsory for Transition Year students. Tony opens out the scene for us, chatting over a cuppa at Dan Cronin’s lively bar.

“I’ve been working with Music Generation for six years now and I work mostly with teens and with teen projects,” explains the Peter Dee Academy teacher.  “MGLC involves travelling to schools and we have Saturday sessions as well where we mentor teenage artists, bands, producers and stuff.

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“We go from Abbeyfeale in one direction to Kilmallock in another and stretch out across the whole county. I work between all those places. We have about 2,000 kids in the county, another 2,500 in the city.

“We go into primary schools as well, right down to young ages, but with the projects I work on, the catchment would be teenage, First Year up to Sixth Year.  In some schools it is optional but Desmond College sends them to us.

“TYs are sent to us and they get to sample music production and songwriting and stuff. [The group] is not just made of musical students either, it’s a mix.

“If it is our TY project, which is a four week programme, class starts with an introduction and who we the tutors are as musicians. All of us are musicians and all are different. For example, God Knows, his speciality is rap. My speciality is work on guitar-based writing and production.

“So I bring in stuff that I do live, bring in some bits and show the class what I do as an artist. And then we spend the next few weeks exploring what they can do. We use technology, we use garage bands, we introduce them to songwriting elements, generally try to get everybody involved.

“It’s not exclusive and you don’t have to be able to play,” Tony makes clear.  “That is very much to mission, to get everybody involved and we play with people who can play as well, of course. We try get everyone involved, to show that music is not an elite thing – it’s not a thing that you can’t get into.

“I think by the end of the sessions they kind of get that,” he says and quotes the goal,  “‘that we  [the students]  can take ownership over something and create our own piece’. That is the important part. As long as we get that, we are happy.” Limerick Post wondered how the traditional Irish music scene influenced content. There’s a rich strain of Sliabh Luachra in trad DNA locally.

“Mmmm. In class, it’s usually music that is popular. So we always get Ed Sheerin, Jay Z, Stormzy.

“And while Stormzy is not my particular musical genre, I relate to it and understand it. I try to show them what I understand he is, lyrically and musically and what he does.

“What we always do over the four weeks is bring in a guest. So if I am doing guitar related music, one of our hip-hop specialists will come in for a session and deal with that. We work together and I guest on some of the other musicians’ sessions.

“We are all different, we all explore different avenues in music. That’s the thing.

“In a Desmond College group you will have 14 or 15 students, something like that. Conversation is all about music, what music do you like, what music do you listen to.

“They usual end up with recordings, there is a huge amount to get on with and it’s only four weeks. We do four week cycles and six week cycles, depending on the school, whatever they want and request. We tailor it to them.”