Savannah Kelly and Rachel Donoghue appear on Music Jam Originals

Music Jam Originals puts focus on fresh faces and new music

Music Jam Originals is an album written and produced by the young people of Mullingar EYE and YoYo Café, which is part of Youthwork Ireland Midlands.

Funded by the Arts Council, the album consists of eight original songs recorded at Mullingar Music Box Studios in Columb Barracks.

Heading up the project were Music Jam mentors Frank Byrne and Justin Ryan, along with guest musician Graham Dowling, and now the album is available to stream across all major music distributors, including Spotify, while an accompanying documentary on the making of the album, filmed by the young people themselves, is available on YouTube.

“Music Jam Originals Album was born out of a songwriting session Youthwork Ireland Midlands run in the YoYo Youth Café to encourage young people to enter the Irish Youth Music Awards (IMMAs),” said mentor and musician Frank Byrne.

“From that session several new songs were developed – some by first-time writers and others by young people who are part of our Music Jam programme, which is operated in conjunction with Music Generation Offaly Westmeath in YoYo Youth Café every Wednesday.”

Lily and Conor Walsh, and James Ryan.

In all, 20 young people, aged between 10 and 18, were involved in the project which started in March of last year.

“Music Jam has been operating since 2014 in Mullingar out of the studio Columb Barracks. Justin Ryan and I are tutors here with Music Generation and guest writer Graham Dowling came on board for the project,” said Frank.

“The three of us mentored them and helped them with their songs, and then because of the lockdown, the IMMAs couldn’t go ahead, so we sought some funding to put the album together instead.

“It turned into a rewarding project for all involved. For some, it was the first experience of songwriting and so they were shy at the beginning, but we broke it down step by step for them.

“And then for others, who have been with the Music Jam programme for five years, it was a culmination of their time here and they’ve now moved on to music college in BIMM, Dublin.

“Having the album as a finished product at the end was a great achievement for all of them.”

The positives of the experience far outweighed any difficulties of recording an album under Level 3 restrictions. “We started recording the album in August and it has given them the confidence to go further in music if they wish to do that – to progress and educate themselves about the industry, develop their ideas or even to form their own bands.

“The aim was to give each of them a solid skills base and it turned out to be a worthwhile exercise, and beneficial to all.”

Pio Pabrazinskas and Alex O'Dowd

Songwriting talent

Singer songwriter Graham Dowling was invited in as a guest to work on the project and says he was pleasantly surprised at the level of songwriting talent on display.

“This was my first time involved in a project like this and I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish,” he said.

“I think it’s a great thing for young people to get involved in. It took me right back to the first time I got involved in music, just seeing how inspired they all were, and how interesting it is starting fresh, that whole experience of recording your first song.

“I was glad to be able share the experience I’ve gained over the years, hints and tips on songwriting, to share that knowledge with the next generation of musicians.”

Speaking of the diverse range of musical styles on the album, mentor and Blizzards band member Justin Ryan said: “If anybody knows Mullingar, and the music and musicians of Mullingar, we can assure you that there is a varied selection of music that they play and these kids are no different.

Tutors Frank Byrne (left) and Justin Ryan (right), and guest musician Graham Dowling (centre).

“I think it’s really important that people put time and effort into working with young people and young musicians, to give them that chance and opportunity to do something that maybe they wouldn’t have considered in the first place.

“We worked with people who had never written a song before and we helped to bring that out of them and the process has been really enjoyable for these kids. And the quality of the work has been incredible as well,” he said.

“We had some very diverse styles of music, from dance to punk, and their creativity really shines through in the writing process.

“To see them grow in confidence, even some who were really introverted at the start, and to see them grown in confidence has been very rewarding. By the end of it they were like different people.”

Killian Heanue and Andrea Calcea.

Online

Music Jam continues live online every Wednesday during lockdown and it is open to beginner musicians and singers, as well established young musicians and bands who wish to join in.

“Since October we’ve had to move back online because of restrictions, so we’re doing online tuition with ukulele and guitar,” said Frank.

“We’re always open to new members, and we are adding online songwriting sessions this week. We want to keep putting out music and keep the momentum going if we can,” he says.

“Once we can resume face to face activities, young people and young bands can access our Mullingar Music Box Studios to rehearse or record their music and make videos of their performances. At the end of the day, music is all about being together in a room, sharing ideas and playing together on bass, drums, guitar – that’s what you want.

“It’s great to have the studio facility here in the barracks because it’s very hard to bang out a drum kit or make a lot of noise in your house.

“At least here in the barracks, we have a hub that young people can come into and make a bit of noise every Wednesday, after school or at weekends if they want. “The benefit of it is that young creative minds can get together and have fun. But for the moment we will continue to work with the online tools that we have, and continue to make music.”

Anyone wishing to join in on the Songwriting Collective can contact Mullingar Eye and YoYo Café on Facebook, or email musicgen@offalycoco.ie.

Check out the album here or take a look at the documentary here .

Aidah Reilly.
Jacob Colton.
Zahira Varney, Oran O'Brien and Andrea Calcea/
Ewan Durkin and Ben Cranston.

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