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Singer Song Writer Susan O Neill working with Transition Year students during the More Than Music song writing workshop at Ennistymon Vocational School. Photograph by John Kelly

SON helps TY students shine


ACCLAIMED singer-songwriter Susan O’Neill has been inspiring students of Ennistymon Vocational School to write and perform a song on the subject of mental health and wellbeing.
The talented Ennis woman who performs as SON, who was recently honoured at the RTÉ Radio 1 Folk Awards, has been guiding 24 transition year (TY) students as part of a project that will culminate in a live performance at Dolan’s in Limerick next month.
Traditional fiddler player Michelle Fahy-Rynne, who teaches Biology and Science at the school, has been one of the driving forces of the project.
“We were invited by Music Generation Clare to take part in the More than Music project which is funded through the Active Inclusion Support Service,” Michelle outlined.
“The aim is to collaborate with Susan to write and stage an original song. On January 14, the group will perform at Dolan’s as part of the ‘To the Moon’ charity concert organised by Karl Daly of the social enterprise Humanli.”
While song-writing collaborations are nothing new, having 24 students produce a single song is very much a novel idea.
“We are really still at the lyrics stage right now and will work on music later,” Michelle explained.
“All of the students have put some lyrics down in response to questions about mental health and wellbeing and Susan has put those together.
“We’ve been so impressed with her approach to the project. She’s very unassuming and has performed herself for the students. I think they’re a little starstruck by her.”
In terms of the process of preparing for the concert, students will take on roles according to their individual strengths and interests.
“Some people will look after the tech side of things, some will be roadies and others will organise the travel,” Michell said. “Everyone will play to their own strengths.”
Principal Orla Conway expressed her pride at the school’s involvement in the initiative.
“We’re delighted to collaborate with and have the expertise of Music Generation Clare,” she said. The collaboration is an example of an innovative approach and an exciting, long-standing tradition of nurturing talent. It’s particularly appreciated in these unprecedented times.
“Susan has made such a positive contribution and has created an inclusive, positive and respectful relationship with students and the entire school community.”
Another exciting project at Ennistymon Vocational School is a collaboration with established musician Gavin Coughlan.
“We’ve been able to secure funding from Creative Engagement Ireland to buy instruments for the school and more than 30 students, from first year to TY have taken up a new instrument since October,” Michelle outlined.
“We have bodhráns, fiddles, guitars and keyboards, so there’s a good bit of choice available and students are really enjoying it.”

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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