Sr Bernadette Sweeney
Sr Bernadette Sweeney, founder of the Project
Dr Joanna Crooks

Sister Bernadette Sweeney
Retired Principal of St. Agnes’ Primary School, Sr. Bernadette continues to work tirelessy to promote and provide music throughout the community at the St. Agnes’ Community Centre for Music and the Arts.
Sister Bernadette Sweeney, a Religious Sister of Charity, was born in Dublin. She trained in Carysfort National Teacher Training College where she specialized in music. She graduated with a B.A. from University College Dublin, in Music, Greek and Roman Civilization and English. She received a Masters in Religious Education in Mater Dei College in 2006. In 1995 she received a Fellowship and Licentiate of Trinity College of Music, London, following vocal studies with Dr Veronica Dunne.
She was School Principal for eight years of Farranboley National School, St Columbanus’ Road, Dublin 14, and was then School Principal 1988-1997 at Our Lady of the Angels National School, Clonmel. In 1997-1998 while on sabbatical leave she toured schools extensively in the United States. From 1998 to the present she has been Principal of St Agnes’ Primary School, Armagh Road, Crumlin, Dublin 12.
In the year 2000 Sister Bernadette undertook training in the Kodaly method and also visited schools in Canada and New Zealand. Sister Bernadette trained and worked in the area of Reality Therapy between 2001 and 2003. She attended the World Congress of Music Therapy in Oxford. Between 2000 and 2004 she trained and worked in Transformative Leadership Facilitation. She has been on the Advisory Committee on Education of the Religious Sisters of Charity.
Since 1988 Sister Bernadette Sweeney has been extensively involved with the National Children’s Choir. She conducted in Thurles, Waterford and Clonmel, and gave training courses to teachers for the National Children’s Choir programme. She is currently Chairperson of the National Children’s Choir National Committee.
Since 2005 Sister Bernadette Sweeney has facilitated the unique project which is ongoing in her school,  St Agnes’ Primary School, Crumlin, a designated DEIS 1 primary school on Armagh Road, Crumlin, Dublin 12. A donation of €20,000 from the Religious Sisters of Charity greatly aided the project in it’s infancy.  An AIB Better Ireland Award enabled the school to buy class sets of string  instruments. All 400 children in the school including those with special needs from Junior Infants to 6th Class learn violin, while some also play violin, viola, cello and double bass in the School Orchestra. There is no charge for instruments or lessons.

Sister Bernadette is actively involved through various networks in supporting and advising other School Principals who have an interest in developing similar models in their schools to provide instrumental music tuition to their pupils and parents. She is committed to giving all children the opportunities for personal development through music, in the words of Mother Mary Aikenhead “To give to all what the rich can buy for money”. On behalf of the Religious Sisters of Charity, Sister Bernadette has overseen the refurbishment of St Agnes’ Community Music Centre on Armagh Road, Crumlin. Her concept is to give access to instruments and the opportunity to learn and play to everyone in the community at a minimal cost.

Sister Bernadette is committed to providing a range of activities for people in all stages of the life cycle, valuing equally all forms of music, to providing late start opportunities for adults in the community, and to providing young people with access to venue, instruments, practise and rehearsal facilities, and lessons within the local community.

Dr Joanna Crooks
Joanna Crooks (née Walmsley) is Irish. Born in India, she grew up in Dublin and studied English, Russian, German and French at Trinity College 1962-67, receiving a BA Mod and H. Dip. Ed. She and her husband Tony married as students - they have two daughters, three sons, three daughters-in-law, two sons-in-law and fifteen grandchildren. Back in Dublin with a young family after several years spent in Ontario which included teaching and  voluntary work, Joanna found herself in Dundrum, Dublin, teaching recorder to increasing numbers of children, and introducing them to ensemble playing at an early age. She was a founder of Dublin Youth Orchestras and was Hon Administrator 1982-1997. She devised the Inter-Schools Music Festival for Wesley College and in 1984 initiated DYO summer chamber music courses which celebrated 25 seasons in 2008. She is an Hon President of Dublin Youth Orchestras. In 1994 she was a founder of IAYO, the Irish Association of Youth Orchestras, and in 1996 devised the IAYO Festival of Youth Orchestras, giving an annual platform to eight youth orchestras. She is Hon President of IAYO. In 1995 at the request of the Arts Council, Joanna attended the General Assembly of Jeunesses Musicales International in Budapest, subsequently forming an Irish national section of this international youth music network. Opportunities opened to young Irish musicians including auditions for JMI’s World Youth Orchestra and Choir.
In 1995 the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland’s Board invited Joanna to accept the position of Director. During her tenure 1996-2006 the organisation underwent substantial change. The “I” (National Youth Orchestra of Ireland  18-24  ) and the “J” (National Youth Orchestra of Ireland under 18) were joined by NYSTO (National Youth String Training Orchestra), and TOUCH BASS, a programme to encourage double bass, bassoon and percussion. CDs appeared regularly from 1997. In February 1996 NYOI joined EFNYO (European Federation of National Youth Orchestras). Joanna served for six years on the Board of the European Federation of NYOs.  She also served on the Board of the Jeunesses Musicales World Orchestra.
Joanna has taken youth orchestras on tour in Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland,  France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Denmark, Finland, Canada and USA, visiting festivals and memorable concert venues, among them the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Konzerthaus in Berlin, and the Hatch Shell in Boston. The highlight of her work with the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland was the Wagner Ring Festival of 2002. The NYOI with international soloists conducted by Alexander Anissimov gave two complete concert performances (16 hours of music)  of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, in University Concert Hall, Limerick,  followed by Symphony Hall, Birmingham.
Since 2006 Joanna Crooks has been involved in the creation and development of St Agnes’ School Violin & Orchestra project in Crumlin, Dublin.  An AIB Better Ireland Award enabled the school to buy class sets of string instruments. 350 children in St Agnes’ Primary School and Scoil Colm from Junior Infants upwards  have weekly class lessons in violin, while some can choose to play viola, cello and double bass in the School Orchestra. There is no charge for instruments or lessons. The Project has won several awards including the 2007 RTE Lyric FM Moladh an Cheoil Music in Schools Award, a 2007 Irish Times Living Dublin Award and the 2008 Youth Orchestra Achievement Award. Past pupils continue to have tuition in their chosen instrument at St Agnes’ after moving to secondary school. St Agnes’ Parents String Orchestra was formed in 2010 and currently has 85 members, most of whom have started to play as adult beginners. Joanna is a keen member of the 2nd violin section. St Agnes’ Musical Society was formed in 2011. In 2013 St Agnes’ Community Centre for Music & the Arts was formally established, evolving from the ongoing community project based within the school. Joanna is a Board member of St Agnes’ CCM&A. Since the initiation of the project, young players from the community have gained places in Dublin Youth Orchestras, the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland, the Royal Irish Academy of Music and DIT Conservatory, as well as taking Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations with performance on their chosen instruments.
Joanna Crooks received an Honorary Doctorate D. Mus honoris causa from the National University of Ireland, St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, on September 10th 2007, for her contribution to music in the youth sector in Ireland.