Trans-Atlantic Partnership Underway!

Ray James is Director of Bands and Assistant Professor of Instrumental Music Education and Low Brass Studies at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas. He chose to spend his sabbatical in the fall of 2011 teaching within the Section of Music at DkIT.James remarked, "I was looking for music professors within Ireland that were student-centric and forward thinking; a place where I could not only learn about the music education system within Ireland, yet contribute to the institution as well.

While at Dundalk, James served as a visiting professor of Jazz History and Music Education. He also started a jazz group, which involved approximately 16 players. 4th year-student Barry Hynes stated, "it was an enriching experience for me, in particular, the improvisational aspect of the music which allowed for so much musical creativity which made it fun and exciting to be part of". The group was organized in early October, and they rehearsed weekly. They played a holiday concert in early December, which showcased both vocal and instrumental talent within the program.

James worked with leadership at DkIT to initiate a partnership between his University and DkIT. The President of Baker University, Dr. Patricia Long and Mr. Denis Cummins, President of Dundalk Institute of Technology met through a conference call in October to discuss potential opportunities to share students and staff. James commented, "Leadership within the Music and Digital Media department is stellar. There are many opportunities to partner, yet a key place to begin may be through some type of teaching exchange." James along with Head of Music and Creative Media, Eibhlis Farrell, Head of Section of Music, Adele Commins and Tommy Fegan, Atlantic Academy of the Arts at DkIT collaborated on several potential scenarios. Baker has a strong reputation for preparing students as music educators. Dundalk has digital music and media offerings that surpass most American Universities. Allowing students to benefit from both programs would give students enhanced opportunities to learn and also gain from the natural cultural exchange that would occur. With the advent of technology, online course offerings may be the most cost-effective method to get underway, although student travel programs will be a definite goal.

James is currently searching for funding opportunities within the United States through government and foundation grants for potential seed monies to pilot an initial program, yet he is convinced that some programs could be initiated with very little cost, providing there is a way to connect through Skype or other cost-free audio and video programs. In addition to potential course offerings, James feels strongly that performance majors have a lot to gain by just sharing performances across contents. "The breadth and depth of talent at DkIT is incredibly rich. I never tired of listening to the traditional music shared by the students, and it would be terrific to stream live performances across the Internet.," James remarked. "I think this could be a reality as early as fall 2012.

Next steps? James will return in July and looks forward to collaborating once again with his valued colleagues at DkIT. He stated, "Being part of the faculty and getting to work with young Irish musicians was an opportunity of a lifetime! It proved to me that music is clearly an International language. I felt an immediate sense of belonging and collectively, we got right to work. The hospitality and support extended by Bob Mc Kiernan, Head of the School of Informatics and Creative Arts was absolutely fantastic. I am so looking forward to returning to Ireland this summer to move this worthy collaboration forward." James will be working with the Music Generation Programme throughout Ireland the last two weeks in July along with his meetings at Dundalk. When asked about how he plans to put a plan into motion, he simply smiled and responded, "Every great musical work usually comes together one note at a time!"

Picture 1: Ray with Staff from Dundalk Institute of Technology

Picture 2: Ray with Dr Gerard Bob McKiernan, Head of School of Informatics and Creative Arts, Dr Eibhlis Farrell, Head of Music and Creative Media and Adèle Commins, Head of Section of Music

Picture 3: Ray with Brian Casley, Year 4 student BA (Hons) Applied Music