The spacious Castlebar facility is a Mayo performing arts hub
The official opening of the home of Music West, which includes the Mayo Concert Orchestra, Mayo Youth Orchestra and Castlebar Concert Band, will take place next Saturday, May 28 at 1 p.m.
It will be performed by founding members of the Mayo Academy of Performing Arts, who worked to deliver the new facility at Breaffy Road Retail Park in Castlebar, together with Deputy Minister Michael Ring, former Department of Rural and Community Development.
It represents the culmination of many years of planning and effort by those who are determined to put the future of the three organizations on solid ground.
Members are indebted to St. Patrick’s National School for providing rehearsal and storage space for many years and members have always felt welcome there.
The school was also the venue for weekly Music West lessons led by a team of accomplished tutors and these lessons are now operational at the new headquarters with places still open to new students, with a wide range of instruments available for hire. .
A major step towards establishing Music West was taken when a significant contribution from the Castlebar Development Association helped secure the purchase of Unit 19 at Breaffy Road Retail Park, as did donations from the Castlebar Lions Club and of the Stephen Garvey Memorial Committee.
It remained vacant for several years until sufficient funding was secured to renovate the building into a state-of-the-art center suitable for the performance and learning of music.
This was achieved with the support of Leader funding approved by the South West Mayo Development Company, Newport, in conjunction with Mayo County Council, Tús and the Department of Rural and Community Development, during MP Ring’s tenure as MP minister.
It was also accomplished with the help of a number of benefactors and supporters, including the Naughton Foundation, the Mayo Male Voice Choir, former Taoiseach Enda Kenny, former European Commissioner Padraig Flynn and elected members of the Borough of Castlebar and County Council of Mayo.
Once the necessary financing was in place, local construction company Michael Duane Limited was appointed as the main contractor for the project, which was carried out with immense professionalism and care.
Next to a large rehearsal room with acoustic paneling, six rooms are allocated to teaching as well as a kitchen, a meeting room, a storage room for instruments, toilets and a beautiful reception area.
There are also parking spaces for members as well as a drop-off/pick-up area for parents of students.
The center has become an active center of musical activity since Covid restrictions were lifted with other bands including Rolling Waves (Castlebar CCE), fronted by John Kilkenny, and emerging local rock band Powder House, whose Castlebar Concert Band drummer Luke Dunne is a member, also using the facility.
With the center having achieved music examination status, the annual examinations of the Royal Irish Academy, as well as Comhaltas, are taking place there for the first time in 2022.
A key restructuring of Music West has also taken place in recent months with the merger of the Mayo Academy of Performing Arts and Music West and a series of new committees set up to take on new responsibilities and ensure the smooth running of operations at the ‘coming.
Needless to say, everyone associated with Music West is very proud.
As Music West approaches its proudest day in its history, it is worth remembering those who are no longer with us and who have contributed so much to the organization.
Michael Basquille, who passed away on January 16, 2016, was the inspiration behind the desire to provide a forever home for the orchestras and the band and he never lost faith in his dream.
He will be remembered in a special way by the naming of the rehearsal room in his honor.
Music West has indeed come a long way since the days when brass band music became a feature of Castlebar life in the last century.
Because Castlebar is a town with a military barracks, the influence of army bands has inspired a love for playing instruments like trumpets, trombones and euphoniums for many decades.
The town hall has long been a hotbed of musical activity and this has led to many others developing a love of piano, violin and clarinet, with tutors always on hand to point young students in the right direction .
The town’s strong musical culture laid the groundwork for the formation over a century ago of the Castlebar Town Band, which later became the Castlebar Concert Band, while the Mayo Concert Orchestra and Mayo Youth Orchestra emerged more recently.
From humble beginnings, Music West has experienced impressive growth and is now well positioned to expand further and reach the entire county in the years to come.