The universal language

Posted on: 6th August, 2014

Category: Arts & Entertainment

Contributor: West Cork People

As part of our Education in Music Feature, West Cork musician Justin Grounds says it’s never too early or too late to pick up an instrument.


When to start?

When people find out I am a professional violinist one of the first questions that is often asked is “So how long have you been playing?” and people are often shocked when my answer is that I started at the age of four! Is that not too young an age to start? I believe it is a great age to start learning to make music. In this formative time, a child is beginning to explore their physical world with independence, and learning to communicate with their voice and body. Adding an instrument to this equation brings an amazing new element, which can empower them in so many ways. A good music teacher will know how to encourage and nurture this sense of playfulness and exploration in the early years of learning music. As soon as my young students learn how to play a note, and read and write it on paper, we immediately decide to compose our own piece using just that note!

However the other most common response I hear from adults is “I wish I’d learned an instrument as a child, but it is too late now!’ It’s not too late! I have several adult violin students who have started from scratch and are finding great enjoyment. The dynamic is of course different — as an adult one has a lot more self-criticism! However, again, a good teacher will work with this dynamic and nurture that sense of play and experimentation that is so essential to creativity.


Finding your instrument 

If making a start is the most important thing, finding your instrument comes next. Each instrument has a different sound, energy and way of being played. And in my experience everyone has a natural inclination towards certain instruments. Ask yourself now: If you could play any instrument, which would you most love to play? As a child I was a very frustrated and angry boy, and my mother found she could only stop me screaming and raging by wheeling me in the buggy to the window of the music shop where I would gaze lovingly at all the violins. So they quickly made me a cardboard cut-out violin and a stick for a bow, and I would ‘play’ away on it until they eventually bought me my first violin. The violin is a very intense instrument itself, with strings tuned to high tension played with a tensed bow! As I learned to grapple with this instrument and coax from it a sweetness and grace, I believe I was doing the same in my own self.

I meet many parents who tell me of the different energies their children display. Each instrument has an energy of its own and I often tell people to take their child into a music shop and see what excites them. Benjamin Britten’s work ‘The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra’ makes for fabulous listening together too, and can reveal each person’s desire for an instrument.



Of course, there is no avoiding this one! Practice really is the key to learning, as with anything in life. However for many people, practice can quickly develop into a chore, and then into a feeling of guilt when not done. This can be one of the most damaging things to nurturing the joy, playfulness and excitement of music making, and is one of the main reasons that many people give up entirely.

To prevent this happening, there are some really handy little tricks one can use. The first thing that I tell people is don’t put your instrument away in its case! Keep it out and nearby so that any time you feel bored, idle or just wanting to do something with your hands, you can gravitate towards picking up your instrument and playing. (My violins all hang on the walls of my house!) This creates a positive habit, and takes the effort out of having to set up. Small amounts of playing regularly will show massive rewards!

The second tip is to connect your playing with other people – show friends and family what you’re playing, what you’re trying to master, even the hard bits you can’t do. Give a little after-dinner concert. Everyone you meet will be impressed! And it will take away the niggling solitary self-criticism that we all sometimes let take over.



This leads me onto my last point. Music is so enjoyable to play on one’s own, and indeed I spend a good amount of time each day playing in my study. But the greatest joy, and the one that awoke me to the magic of it all at a young age, was when I started to play with others and perform in concerts. Music is a communication and opens itself up to us when we do it together. I learned French in school and found it intensely boring, until I eventually went to France and started communicating with people! Suddenly it all made sense!

For this reason I started the Clonakilty Youth Orchestra in February this year. We meet on Saturday mornings at 10am in O’Donovans Hotel (starting back in September) and all are welcome with their instruments. It is great fun making music together with all these fantastic young people, and I have noticed that they are all making great progress as players since getting together in the orchestra. Not only this but they are learning to connect, to listen to each other, to bring their own sounds into the harmony, and have taken great pride in performing in the town, to large applause!

If you would like to learn an instrument, why not pop into Hunky Dory music shop, Spiller’s Lane in Clonakilty. Mark has a good range of affordable instruments and a list of all the music teachers in town.

Justin Grounds, 085 192 4189

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Wave to Mary! 65-year-old Mary Nolan Hickey is running around the entire coast of the Island of Ireland to raise funds & awareness for the RNLI and is currently running the roads of West Cork.

Mary is the only woman to have completed every single Dublin Marathon (all 38 of them). She’s also completed the grueling Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, known as the ‘toughest foot race on earth’.

To mark her 50th year involved in Athletics Mary is taking on her biggest challenge yet (even though she thought she’d already done that when completing the Dublin Marathon when she was over six months pregnant!) She wants to raise as much money as possible for the RNLI.

Mary started her epic journey in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, on New Year’s Day. She aims to cover up to 5000 kilometers, using coastal routes, over the next five months. She hopes to get back in time to get her first pension payment in June when she turns 66.

Mary will stop off at as many RNLI stations as possible, on her once in a lifetime adventure. As far as she knows no other woman has ever taken on this challenge.

Speaking about her journey Mary said:

“I wanted to prove that age not a barrier. Coming from a coastal town I have a deep affinity with our local RNLI station & volunteers and have huge admiration for the brave men and women who risk their lives to save lives at sea”.

Mary, who’s depending on the goodwill of communities along her route for accommodation, has been astounded by the response so far. “The support has been overwhelming,” she said. “I have met the most amazing and encouraging people along the way”.

To see more about Mary’s adventures, and to pinpoint her location today, check out her Facebook page - rnlilapofthemap2018.
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20th March, 2018  ·  


This Saturday the 10th March, will see some magically curious activity as local Bandon national schools compete in a Wizarding Harry Potter Quiz. The prize will be the beautiful Bandon Banshee Perpetual Cup.

As any Harry Potter enthusiast knows, Bandon has the unique honour of having a character named after the town. The Bandon Banshee, was referred to as the nemesis of Gilderoy Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets. The book grossed €60 million in sales and was the 7th highest earning film of all time.

Locals, looking to enhance the town for young people, saw the quiz as an ideal way promote the connection. The universally absorbing book series brings young readers on a huge adventure of magic, adversity and triumph. It is also an exploration of loyalty and friendship, good and evil – so it is not only popular way to engage young people, it is a hugely positive connection.

Zoe Tennyson, one of the organisers said they were delighted with the response from schools who ran a qualifying quiz as part of World Book Day. On Saturday Bandon Town Hall will be transformed into Hogwarts Great Hall, with proceeds going Bandon Playground Group, and to cover costs of the event.

Bandon Books will be rewarding the winning team with vouchers to each of the five members. The Bandon Banshee, or Bean-sidhe na Bandaan Perpetual Cup will be hotly contested – but which school will the Banshee go to??

If you have any questions please call Marguerite McQuaid on 087 900 9494
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8th March, 2018  ·  

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
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20th February, 2018  ·  

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Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

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