Committed to young players
In late 1981, a group of parents got together, among them Joanna Crooks and the late Agnes O’Kane, to see if it would be possible to form an orchestra for young players, and so in early 1982 DYO was formed. Nothing could have prepared the first Council for the rapid growth in demand for places, and over the following 30 years involvement in the orchestras has enriched the lives of thousands of young players. The first minuted meeting to discuss the orchestra’s formation was hosted by Vanessa Sweeney in Ranelagh in 1982. Vanessa has made an outstanding personal contribution as conductor of the DYO Junior Strings, from its very first rehearsal to the present day, and also as teacher and former Director of the DYO Summer Courses. Agnes O’Kane was the first Administrator of the Summer Courses when they began in 1984. The emphasis was on chamber music and the courses were open to players from all over the country. The courses have taken place at Aravon School in Co. Wicklow every year since then. In 1995 Agnes founded the Irish Association of Youth Orchestras. The Summer Courses are now directed by Una O’Kane.
The European Music Year in 1985 provided the incentive to invite a youth orchestra from Germany to visit Dublin, and since then the orchestras have travelled to Italy, France, England, Spain, Canada, Florida and China, and welcomed players from those countries back to Dublin. DYO Sundays began after an ad was placed in the free Southside Newspaper. Newsletters were typed and photocopied in the local print shop. Music was brought in Pampers boxes, and drinks and biscuits in tin boxes. DYO’s first home was Holy Child Community School in Sallynoggin, Co. Dublin. The late Lola Heffernan, Principal of the school, offered rehearsal space on Sunday afternoons once a month. Lola made a huge personal contribution to the orchestras, opening the school herself for every rehearsal, and taking part in Council meetings.
Every rehearsal and performance involved stacking, moving and arranging countless chairs. For many years, Kay and John O’Brien masterminded their setting up and putting back, so that the premises used for rehearsal were left as they were found. In its infancy, DYO ran on a budget tighter than a shoestring. The first two Hon. Treasurers, Carmel Ryan and Carolin Brangan, made an enormous contribution to the long-term survival of the orchestra with their expertise in planning and financial management.
In 1993, the Holy Child School was reconstructed, so a new venue for rehearsals was needed. Sr Basil, Principal of Sancta Maria College in Ballyroan, stepped into the breach. Sr Basil appreciated the work of the orchestras and made them welcome, giving invaluable support. Denise Burns, her successor, continues to provide the facilities of the College.
What has been remarkable in this organisation has been the level of voluntary commitment of many Council members, in many cases long after their own children have moved on. The Council is, as ever, extremely grateful for this assistance, without which the orchestras could not function.