Forming a group of young musicians is not rare in Dublin. The Musik Makers are something else, half way between a band and a club, in a setting (Dublin 1) where drug abuse and petty crime are abiding temptations. At their centre is Jesuit Brother Tom Phelan, who has worked in Ireland’s midlands, Dublin’s suburbs and the Jesuit mission in Zambia. A keen piper, he is now based in St. Francis Xavier’s Parish, Gardiner St, Dublin. He explains. It's nearly twenty years since we started the Musik Makers. Over these years many young people have passed through our club. Some have become good musicians, others just play for their own enjoyment and some have given up playing altogether, and to be honest some never learnt much at all. But all were made welcome. As well as music classes, day trips and holidays gave them a sense of belonging.
For the Musik Makers music has nothing to do with competition. The man who taught me, Tommy Moore, never, ever charged a penny. Tommy saw it as a gift that was to be passed on to others freely. So I am happy to pass on my limited knowledge of music as well. That's why I'm part of the Musik Makers! Tommy also taught the famous Finbar Furey, and I was lucky enough to grow up alongside the Furey Brothers.
Music is our way of developing young people and it's not about turning out stars of the music industry, it's about including everyone. That's why we never turned a child away for lack of ability. Natural ability is great and of course we encourage it. Where we've come across it we've set up funded scholarships in schools of music.
We're making a CD at the moment It's about two things. Firstly to mark our twentieth anniversary and secondly to give the members a sense of achievement. To date we've laid down two tracks which should have been a nightmare seeing as we were using some very inexperienced members and 14 tin whistles! In order to have some hope that we all sounded together we had to make sure that everyone had the same tin whistle. Insulation tape flattened notes here and there! Much to the surprise of the sound engineer the rendering of Raglan Road and The Sally Gardens turned out to be very pleasant. When we were leaving the studio I remember saying to the youngsters "Wasn't that good, didn't you enjoy that?" Their reply brought me back to reality very quickly: "Yeah it was great, can we go to MacDonald's now?" I'm finding God in the ordinary things!
What I pick up from talking to past members is their sense of gratitude for having a place where they felt at home and making good friends along the way. What I am personally grateful for is, that most of our past members never got into drugs. There is no doubt in my mind that some of them could have been drug addicts or be dead from drug abuse if they were not involved in the Musik Makers. Not such an ordinary thing.