Trad Ireland / Traid Éireann Research Report

In February 2019, Jack was appointed as researcher for Trad Ireland / Traid Éireann, an organisation established by Oisín MacDiarmada and Tristan Rosenstock that advocates for the Traditional Arts in Ireland. Commissioned by Trad Ireland with the support of the Arts Council, “Navigating the Traditional Arts Sector in Ireland: A Report on Resources, Challenges, and Opportunities” was published in November 2020. You can read the report here.

Find out more about Trad Ireland here.

If you would like additional information on the research, please use the contact form here.

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PhD Dissertation:

The Ivory Tower and the Commons: Exploring the Institutionalisation of Irish Traditional Music in Irish Higher Education (Discourse, Pedagogy and Practice)

Dissertation Abstract


This dissertation explores the institutionalisation of Irish traditional music pedagogy in Irish higher education. In particular, this research examines how Irish traditional music is located in academic institutions, and how this relates to the practices and processes of the wider Irish traditional music community. Informed by elements of social-science-inflected ethnographic practices (particularly interviews), this study, for the first time offers a diverse and extensive range of community commentary on third-level Irish traditional music pedagogy to the academic record. This dissertation also examines public discourse that has facilitated intra-communal debate on the institutionalisation of Irish traditional music in Irish higher education. Throughout the dissertation, I use the term ‘discourse’ to describe “ways of speaking about the world of social experience” that “is a means of both producing and organising meaning within a social context” (Edgar and Sedgwick 2008, p.96).


In addition, this research provides an overview of the historical development of Irish traditional music studies in Irish higher education, as well as presenting a contemporary overview of the Irish traditional music studies offered in nine higher education institutes in the Republic of Ireland. Also, this thesis examines the existence of discourse and research in extra-academic contexts such as Irish traditional music events, with a view to assessing the extent to which practitioners and other stakeholders in the Irish traditional music community engage with discourse, intellectualisation, and analysis of Irish traditional music.


Three chapters of this dissertation deal specifically with three prominent themes that have emerged from a combination of international scholarship on the educational institutionalisation of Western classical music, jazz, and folk and traditional music, and the large-scale fieldwork interviews conducted specifically for this research. First, I explore the concept of canonicity in music education, and explore how the selection and prioritisation of elements of a musical culture such as repertoire, style, and aesthetics, for example, impacts the diversity of third-level Irish traditional music pedagogy in Ireland. Second, I examine the ways in which folk and traditional music pedagogues draw on, adapt, or depart from Western art music educational models, to better understand how third-level Irish traditional music pedagogues negotiate the historical predominance of the Western classical tradition when designing pedagogies for Irish traditional music. For example, to what extent do pedagogues design music theory systems based on idiomatic musical characteristics of Irish traditional music? Third, I investigate how higher education institutes offering studies in Irish traditional music negotiate community expectations and needs in relation to balancing what are perceived as authentic and traditional interpretations of Irish traditional music, with artistic exploration and experimentation. Notwithstanding the cultural and geographical specificity of this work, my research findings are expected to contribute to wider, international conversations that are happening on how best to locate folk and traditional musics in higher education environments. This dissertation does not provide a critical ethnography of all or any of the institutions engaged in the research. What it does do is provide an overview of histories, activities, practices and discourses in order to provide context for the institutionalisation of Irish traditional music within and beyond Ireland.

(2017) 'Non-Canonical Pedagogies for Non-Canonical Musics: Observations on selected Programmes in Folk, Traditional, World, and Popular Musics' in Moore, R., ed., College Music Curricula for a New Century. Oxford University Press.

College Music Curricula for a New Century

Edited by Robin D. Moore

  • Examines curricula in national and international programs

  • Uses global perspectives for discussions of how best to reform academic music instruction

  • Provides a more comprehensive overview of progressive curricular experiments taking place than has ever existed before

From Oxford University Press:

"Critiques and calls for reform have existed for decades within music education, but few publications have offered concrete suggestions as to how things might be done differently. Motivated by a desire to do just that, College Music Curricula for a New Century considers what a more inclusive, dynamic, and socially engaged curriculum of musical study might look like in universities. Editor Robin Moore creates a dialogue among faculty, administrators, and students about what the future of college music instruction should be and how teachers, institutions, and organizations can transition to new paradigms.

Including contributions from leading figures in ethnomusicology, music education, theory/composition, professional performance, and administration, College Music Curricula for a New Century addresses college-level curriculum reform, focusing primarily on performance and music education degrees, and offer ideas and examples for a more inclusive, dynamic, and socially engaged curriculum of applied musical study. This book will appeal to thoughtful faculty looking for direction on how to enact reform, to graduate students with investment in shaping future music curricula, and to administrators who know change is on the horizon and seek wisdom and practical advice for implementing change. College Music Curricula for a New Century reaches far beyond any musical subdiscipline and addresses issues pertinent to all areas of music study".

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