NYU, UL forge music alliance

Loretta Brennan Glucksman, second from left, and Mick Moloney, second from right, were among those posing for pictures at the memorandum of understanding signing ceremony at Glucksman Ireland House NYU last week.

By Daniel Neely

On Tuesday, Nov. 19, New York University’s Glucksman Ireland House hosted representatives from NYU’s Faculty of Arts and Science’s Music Department and from the University of Limerick’s Irish World Academy of Music and Dance for a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing ceremony linking the two schools in the coming years.

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NYU’s FAS music program is a leading interdisciplinary liberal arts music program that “emphasizes approaches to musical knowledge informed by a range of critical theories and contemporary practices” and “encourages each student to engage actively in the creation of musical and sonic experiences.” UL’s Irish World Academy is “a center of academic and performance excellence,” offering bachelor’s and master’s courses in music and dance, with traditional music and dance being one of its major area concentrations.

The aim of this partnership is the exchange of students and staff, with no loss and mutual benefit to both institutions. As the relationship has only just been forged, program details are still to be determined. However, this MoU is a major step disentangling the more difficult logistical elements of such an arrangement and removes major institutional roadblocks that might interfere. This is an arrangement with major potential upside for for both schools, and for Irish music here in the City.

Turnout for the signing was small, but star-studded as these things go. Representatives from the University of Limerick included its President Desmond Fitzgerald, its Vice President of Academic Affairs & Student Engagement Kerstin Mey, the Irish World Academy’s Director Sandra Joyce, and Niamh Kavanagh, its Recruitment Officer for North and South America. NYU’s representatives included Faculty of Arts and Science Dean for Humanities Carolyn Dinshaw, David Samuels, the Chair of the Faculty of Arts and Science’s Music Department, GIH’s Director of Graduate Studies Miriam Nyhan Grey, its Clinical Assistant Professor of Irish Studies John Waters, philanthropist and Glucksman Ireland House founder Loretta Glucksman, and Mick Moloney, the renown musician and NYU Global Distinguished Professor of Music and Irish Studies.

The idea for this initiative was floated three years ago. Kavanagh, who at the time was looking for ways to globalize the University of Limerick’s presence (a mandate that matches that of NYU’s), floated the notion and quickly caught the ear of Moloney and Joyce. Shortly thereafter, Moloney approached Samuels at NYU, and with Kavanagh, Samuels (and others) worked hard to shepherd the construction of this institutional bridge.

It would be fair to say this relationship would not have been likely were it not for the relationship Mick Moloney has with both institutions. At NYU, he is the Global Distinguished Professor of Music and Irish Studies and teaches out of the FAS Music Department. However, NYU’s Global Distinguished Professorship is a special position, created to attract leading scholars from around the world to the school’s Faculty of Arts and Science. Past GDPs include the hugely influential philosopher Jacques Derrida and linguist Tanya Reinhart. Current scholars include the economists Lars Ljungqvist and Ernst Fehr, mathematician Sylvia Serfaty, political scientist Jorge Castañeda, and several others. Because of their international profiles these folks are capable of making rare connections, as is the case here.

Moloney’s relationship to Limerick has spanned a lifetime. In addition to being born in the shadow of where the Irish World Academy sits in the county, he enjoyed a long, close relationship with Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, the Irish World Academy’s founder and longtime Director who passed away a year ago. He also has maintained close ties with Chuck Feeney, the renowned philanthropist who put so much into the institution. Further, Moloney was the school’s first external examiner and over the years he not only developed a strong relationship with the school’s administration but has come to know the mechanics of the programs well. While Moloney passes credit for this new relationship on to others, it likely wouldn’t have happened were it not for his influence.

I am a product of NYU’s music program and I can confidently say this sort of connection is unprecedented. I joined the music department an undergraduate in 1993, and there, earned my bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Although my doctoral work was about Jamaican music, I was very active in Irish music throughout that time as a member and later, leader of the Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra. While I am aware of the University’s international campuses that benefit the school in general (and I think specifically of NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai), this is the first major partnership I know of that has specifically partnered the FAS music program with another institution. I am fascinated to see how it develops as I expect it will affect the academic pursuit of music – and traditional music in particular – in a positive way. Congratulations to all those involved in this endeavor!