Royal Irish Academy of Music and Music Network unite in unusual charity challenge

The ‘Grade-1-a-thon’ offers people of all ages the motivation to take up an instrument and pass their Royal Irish Academy of Music (RIAM) Grade 1 exam free of charge, while raising money for the Music Network Instruments for Older People Appeal.

The appeal’s aim is to create a national bank of musical instruments to encourage people across Ireland to take up playing music later in life. The Grade-1-a-thon adds an incentive for Irish people of all ages to start learning an instrument they had always dreamt of playing up to Grade 1 level by summer 2021.

Participants are encouraged to raise money through sponsorship as they take up the challenge, whether they’re finally picking up that old instrument gathering dust in the attic or borrowing from a friend who can teach them. Even professional musicians are taking part by trying an instrument they’ve never played before. Jimmy Cavanagh, the former RIAM trumpet professor and Head of Performing Groups, is trying his hand at the Uileann pipes for the first time, while naturalist and broadcaster Éanna Ni Lamhna has taken up the flute.

The Instruments for Older People Appeal is an innovative approach to addressing the isolating impact Covid-19 lockdown has had on the over 65s, but the instrument bank’s benefits will continue long after the pandemic is over. As Music Network says, ‘Playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full body workout, enhancing memory and cognitive ability, while also boosting self-esteem and confidence.

‘At Music Network, we want to encourage more older citizens to become actively engaged in making music… We also know that by empowering and amplifying older voices, society as a whole will benefit.’

The project is an adjunct to Music Network’s Instrument Hub, which helps connect aspiring players to instruments, tuition and funds across Ireland. Supported by Creative Ireland, the Hub is an access point for new talent to participate in Ireland’s vibrant music culture, which adds around €700 million to the Irish economy each year.

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