Audrey McKenna, a music teacher for 20 years (photo), opened the Kingston Academy of Music in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin last September. The academy hosted its inaugural recital in the National Gallery of Ireland last month.
“Music has a great ability to distract one from day-to-day stresses,” said McKenna, who studied music at both undergraduate and postgraduate level in Maynooth, and was the first female president of Maynooth Music Society.
More recently, she headed the music department at Rathgar Junior School in Dublin, before launching a private teaching practice. “Working in this area for the past 20 years, I could see the demand and waiting lists for experienced and qualified tuition,” said McKenna.
With encouragement from students, parents and teachers, she identified south Dublin as the ideal location for an academy. After preparing a business plan, McKenna secured funding, and while a number of suitable premises were turned down at the last minute, a location was finally found at 45 Patrick Street. The Georgian building has high ceilings and large windows in every room. Each room now has an upright concert piano, and the percussion room has drum kits, an Irish harp, selection of guitars, violins and wind instruments.
There are nine teachers at the academy, with further recruitment planned for this year. The academy has students who range from three-year-old beginners to active retirement groups. Other pupils are Junior or Leaving Certificate students or business professionals taking time out. “Music is something that everybody can relate to and enjoy,” said McKenna. “Music has no barriers, and the joys that it brings are endless. It stimulates language and communication skills.”
McKenna’s immediate expansion plans include delivering corporate workshops with a focus on team building and communication. She is also in discussions with the local county council arts office to bring music to the wider community, and is hopeful of finding ways to work with local schools to increase their students’ exposure to all types of music. She is also seeking a local patron or sponsor to allow her to develop a bursary in the academy’s name. In the longer term, McKenna would like to expand the academy through additional openings in Dublin and the surrounding counties.