Ciaran O’Donnell has picked up the baton as Head of Wolverhampton Music Service, which provides quality education to thousands of children and young people in and out of school.
He has joined the City of Wolverhampton Council from the award-winning Services for Education Music Service in Birmingham, and takes over from Chris Norton, who has retired after many years at the helm.
Wolverhampton Music Service provides tuition and musical opportunities for youngsters from schools across the city, including the chance to perform with its flagship groups, Wolverhampton Youth Orchestra and Wolverhampton Youth Wind Orchestra.
Every week, over 5,000 children enjoy expert one-to-one and group tuition from 28 music teachers, as well as taking part in public performances, music school classes and events.
This summer for instance, around 300 children from 12 primary and special schools performed in the Music Service’s annual concert in Queen Square, while members of six Wolverhampton Music School ensembles worked with the BBC Concert Orchestra as part of the broadcaster’s Ten Pieces initiative.
The Music Service already works with the majority of local schools, but Ciaran hopes to grow its remit and range so that even more children and young people are able to enjoy musical opportunities.
He said: “Wolverhampton has a history of producing top quality musicians and it is up to us and our schools to spot the seeds of talent and nurture them.
“Music is incredibly important in schools; it helps pupils develop their concentration and memory, improves their confidence and – in an era when you can get everything at a touch of a button – teaches them about perseverance because learning to play an instrument or how to sing takes time and commitment.
“These are exactly the skills that school leaders and employers want to develop in young people so that they may succeed and take their place in the world. It is also an essential art which makes for a richer and happier school life.”
Ciaran, who was previously Head of the Music Service at Services for Education, also wants Wolverhampton Music Service to provide tuition to more children who are in the care of the council.
He plans to introduce a similar programme which was delivered in Birmingham where looked after children receive one-to-one tuition from music teachers and then come together with their peers for a day-long band session. They will also work towards a formal accreditation. He said: “Music is a real tool for improving the mental health and wellbeing of looked after children.”
Ciaran takes over from Chris, who worked for the City of Wolverhampton Council for more than three decades and has retired to spend more time with his family, walking, woodturning and playing his clarinet and saxophone.
Chris said: “Our music service has grown much in recent years in the breadth of its offer to schools. We continue to provide quality instrumental tuition and opportunities for all young people through our work in schools and through ensemble playing opportunities in the evenings and at weekends.
“We now also organise massed singing opportunities, rock music projects, music theatre, extensive provision for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities as well as support and advice for all schools with their curriculum music provision.”
Councillor Lynne Moran, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, added: “Music is an important part of a child’s education and, under Chris’ leadership, Wolverhampton Music Service has for many years provided quality teaching for young people in our city.
“I am delighted with the appointment of Ciaran – I wish him well in his new role as Wolverhampton Music Service continues to go from strength to strength.”