Waltons Music for Schools Competition

Waltons Music for Schools Competition

A National Competition and Celebration of Music in Irish Schools

After an extraordinary Finalists Concert in the National Concert Hall on Tuesday, 2 May 2017, adjudicators Deborah Kelleher and Bill Whelan selected this year’s winners. Although there can only be six winning schools each year, all twelve of this year's Finalist schools performed brilliantly and should be very proud of their achievements.

See Finalists Concert 2017 Videos & Photos for a list of the 2017 prize winners, as well as videos and photos of the Finalist schools in performance and rehearsal.

Please email us if you would like to receive information on the 2018 Waltons Music for Schools Competition when it becomes available.


• Are you a primary or post-primary school teacher or principal?

• Would you like to engage your students in a creative and original music project?

• Would you like to expand your school music resources
– or start a new school music programme?

• Would you like to see a music group from your school
perform in a prestigious national concert venue?

• Would you like the opportunity to win up to €3,000 worth of
musical instruments or equipment for your school?


• Then enter the Waltons Music for Schools Competition!

The Waltons Music for Schools Competition
is presented by Waltons Music and Waltons New School of Music,
in association with RTÉ lyric fm and the National Concert Hall.

An overview of the Waltons Music for Schools Competition in video form,
including excerpts from entry videos submitted by past Finalist schools
as well as photos and videos of past Finalists Concerts.

Waltons Music for Schools CompetitionContents

About the Competition


The Competition’s objective is to promote the enormous benefits of creative music making for young people and to provide Finalists with the opportunity to perform their finished works at a prestigious national venue. The open nature of the Competition, now in its sixth year, offers schools the opportunity to think and work creatively with any combination of students, developing a creative and original musical project that has learning potential at every stage of the process.


An important aspect of this unique music competition is that it is open to all genres of music, and performing groups have included choirs, instrumental groups, mixed instrumental and vocal ensembles, traditional groups and rock bands.


All primary and post-primary schools in the Republic of Ireland are eligible to enter the Competition. To date, schools from all 26 counties have participated.


Each year, the Competition awards a total of €10,000 worth of vouchers for musical instruments, accessories, books, music technology or PA equipment from Waltons Music, to be divided among six winning primary and post-primary schools, including two First Prizes of €3,000 vouchers.


Each Finalists Concert is adjudicated by two renowned Irish musicians and/or music educators, as well as a representative of Waltons. Our previous adjudicators were • David Brophy • Carl Corcoran • Ellen Cranitch • Julie Feeney • Deborah Kelleher • Dónal Lunny • Gwen Moore • Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin • Bill Whelan.


The theme of the 2018 Competition will be announced soon. Performing groups can choose to interpret the theme in any way they see fit.

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The value of music and music education is undisputed. Numerous international studies* have shown that music instruction and active music making supplies intellectual, emotional and physical components critical to young people’s development. Yet despite the acknowledged results of these studies and the recent Department of Education and Skills music curriculum guidelines for primary schools, Ireland still has a school system where many young people have little exposure to music making. The Waltons Music for Schools Competition thus offers a unique opportunity for primary and post-primary schools to kick-start or develop their own music programmes.

(*For more information and specific studies on the benefits of music education, see the Why Music? page on the Waltons New School of Music website.)

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The Process

  1. School music groups develop an ensemble piece or song that addresses the Competition’s theme.
  2. Schools submit a video of the group performing their piece or song, as well as an entry form and jpg photograph of the performing group, by the entry deadline. (See below for entry requirements.)
  3. A shortlist of twelve Finalist schools (six primary and six post-primary) is chosen by our first round adjudicators.
  4. The first round adjudicators may also choose to recognise entering schools not selected as Finalists but displaying real merit as either Commended or Highly Commended. These schools will receive certificates of commendation.
  5. The twelve Finalist schools are announced by Liz Nolan on RTÉ lyric fm.
  6. Entry videos of the twelve Finalists are added to the Competition’s YouTube channel.
  7. Finalist music groups rehearse their pieces or songs.
  8. Finalist music groups perform in a gala Finalists Concert at the National Concert Hall before their peers and two distinguished adjudicators. (Tickets for Finalists Concerts are free, and after allocating seats for the performers and their supervisors, the remaining tickets will be evenly divided among the twelve Finalist schools to allocate for guests.)
  9. This year’s six winning schools (three primary and three post-primary) are announced at the end of the concert.
  10. Videos of the Finalists Concert are added to the Competition’s YouTube channel.

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2018 Competition Calendar

To be confirmed.

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Julie Feeney, Bill Whelan and Aideen Walton present the First Prize, Post-Primary Schools trophy and certificate
to Ciarán Somers (teacher) and Declan Quirke (student) of Borris Vocational School, Co. Carlow on Monday, 12 May 2014.


The following prizes are awarded each year to three primary schools:

  • First Prize • Trophy and €3,000 voucher (may be applied towards musical instruments, accessories, books or recording/PA equipment) for Waltons Music, as well as advice and assistance in setting up and/or developing the school’s music programme.
  • Second Prize • Trophy and €1,500 voucher for Waltons Music.
  • Third Prize • Trophy and €500 voucher for Waltons Music.

The following prizes are awarded each year to three post-primary schools:

  • First Prize • Trophy and €3,000 voucher (may be applied towards musical instruments, accessories, books or recording/PA equipment) for Waltons Music, as well as advice and assistance in setting up and/or developing the school’s music programme.
  • Second Prize • Trophy and €1,500 voucher for Waltons Music.
  • Third Prize • Trophy and €500 voucher for Waltons Music.

All performers in the Finalists Concert will also receive individual Finalist Certificates.

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Entry Requirements

Participating schools should submit the following materials:

  1. A completed entry form (see below).
  2. Either a DVD or an MPG, AVI or MOV video recording of an ensemble piece or song (no more than five minutes long) performed by an instrumental, vocal or mixed group of no more than 40 students, all of whom must be current students at the school. The piece or song can be in any musical style (classical, traditional, rock/pop, musical theatre, jazz, world, etc.) and can be existing or original, but it should in some way address the Competition Theme. Possible groups include: choir (with or without instrumental accompaniment), instrumental ensemble, band, traditional group, school musical group, etc. The video must be prepared specifically for the Competition; videos of school concerts or other events are not acceptable.
  3. A jpg photograph of the performing group.

Schools may enter more than performing group, but each should be submitted separately, along with its own video, photograph, entry form and information.

Initial entries are judged in three areas:

  1. Musicality, presentation and originality of their performance. Special attention will be paid to the inclusiveness of the performance – the range of abilities and/or different ages that are involved.
  2. Ambition, imagination and clear goals/intentions for starting or developing a music programme in the school.
  3. The school’s resources and how imaginatively it uses them.

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2018 Entry Forms

Available soon.

Forms are in pdf format and require Adobe Reader. They can be printed directly and filled out by hand. Alternatively, you can save an entry form to your computer, then open it in Adobe Reader and fill it out as follows:

  1. Click on the 'Sign' tab on the upper right. A new menu will appear below.
  2. Click on 'Add Text', place the cursor on the lines where you want to type and fill in the form.
  3. Go to File → Save As → PDF and save the form as '[Name of School] Entry Form'.

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Sending Your Entry

Since video files can be quite large to send by email, we strongly recommend that you use a file sharing service such as wetransfer to send them, although they can also be emailed directly to:


Although file sharing or email is preferred, we also accept entries and materials posted to:

Waltons Music for Schools Competition
Waltons New School of Music
69 South Great George’s Street, Dublin 2

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Finalists Concert Adjudicators

  • 2017 • Deborah Kelleher & Bill Whelan
  • 2016 • Gwen More & Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin
  • 2015 • David Brophy & Ellen Cranitch
  • 2014 • Bill Whelan & Julie Feeney
  • 2013 • Ellen Cranitch & Dónal Lunny
  • 2012 • Carl Corcoran & Deborah Kelleher

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Comments About the Competition from Past Adjudicators

2016 Adjudicators

‘I have two things to say about this Finalists Concert. First, to your parents, teachers, friends and mentors, and to yourselves, you are a credit. And second, what we saw today was a product, a goal you were working towards, but the process is equally important. So remember all of those hours of practice, of working together, and the friendships that have developed. These experiences will stay with you forever. And remember that participation, making music together, is the most special thing that you can take away from today. Thank you so much for your wonderful performances. It was a pleasure to be part of this.’
– Gwen Moore
   Musician and Coordinator, MA in Music Education
   Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick

‘One of the highlights of the year for us was to experience this extraordinarily joyous celebration of music and dancing. You seemed to perform from the very centre of your hearts, and there was such a wide variety of themes and artistic enterprise. The experience reminded me of a poem by Seamus Heaney called ‘The Rainstick’ and what he describes when you upend a rainstick as ‘a music you never would have known to listen for’. It is said that performing music is performing a part of yourself that you grow into. All of the descriptions of the Finalist schools indicated a belief that what young people are doing with these performances is expanding your consciousness, growing your personalities and most importantly developing a confidence that you will be able to bring with you, no matter what you do in life.’
– Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin
   Composer, Musician, Educator, Musicologist and Broadcaster

2015 Adjudicators

‘Behind the facts and figures relating to music education in Ireland, there lies an indisputable truth, thrillingly exemplified on the stage of the National Concert Hall during the Waltons Music for Schools Competition Finalists Concert: the depth of musical creativity among our young people is simply astonishing. This creativity, borne of endless hours practice and dedication and lovingly nurtured by music teachers throughout the country, is one of the greatest cultural assets our country could wish for. What an honour and privilege to witness at first hand the flourishing of Ireland's musical talent. Bravo to all involved!’
– David Brophy
   Conductor and Music Educator

‘Hearing such fantastic music making on the stage of the National Concert Hall, seeing the young musicians move and play with such confidence and joy, filled me with pride and admiration for them, their parents, teachers and everyone who contributes towards giving these musicians a gift that will always be with them. They are wonderful, and if this is where music education is headed, then we are in safe hands. A totally exhilarating and life-affirming experience.’
– Ellen Cranitch
   Broadcaster, Composer and Musician

2014 Adjudicators

‘I would like to congratulate all the young people on the stage today. It is really inspiring for me to see the truly excellent work that you have done, and what is most palpable is the passion oozing from every note, move and nuance. Outstanding to me also are your teachers. Thank you for being such wonderful catalysts in this beautiful event. Without a doubt my head is fizzing. Thank you, thank you, thank you.’
– Julie Feeney
   Composer and Singer-Songwriter

‘Two things stood out in my mind during this superb display of talent at the NCH. The first was the tremendous lift to the spirit that comes from seeing so many young musicians, singers and dancers perform. The second was the ease and confidence with which they moved from traditional Irish music to classical to contemporary – it was truly music without boundaries and a credit to all involved.’
– Bill Whelan
   Riverdance Composer and Musician

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Terms & Conditions

  1. All primary and post-primary schools, as well as special schools, recognised by the Department of Education and Skills in the Republic of Ireland are eligible to enter this competition.
  2. All entries must include a contact name (school principal, music co-ordinator or teacher) for all correspondence relating to the competition, and must be signed by the school principal.
  3. Prizes will consist of trophies and certificates/vouchers for obtaining products from Waltons Music, as follows:
    • Primary schools: First Prize €3,000, Second Prize €1,500 and Third Prize €500
    • Post-primary schools: First Prize €3,000, Second Prize €1,500 and Third Prize €500
  4. Vouchers are non-exchangeable and non-transferable and may only be applied towards musical instruments, accessories, books, recording and/or PA equipment from Waltons Music. Vouchers may not be used for products already on sale or at special discounts, and may not be exchanged for cash.
  5. There is a maximum of 40 performers in each group. All performers in submitted video recordings must be current students in the entrant school and available to perform, if the school is chosen as a Finalist, in this year's Finalists Concert.
  6. All student performers in both entry videos and Finalists Concert performances should wear their normal school uniforms, unless other clothing is absolutely necessary (i.e. a dancer wearing looser clothing or a student wearing a costume for a particular dramatic purpose).
  7. Primary school groups may include up to two adult participants, a conductor/director and/or an accompanist. Post-primary school groups may include one adult participant, a conductor/director or an accompanist.
  8. Other audio recordings, videos and/or photographs of music activities that have taken place at your school will also be accepted as part of the submission but are not essential.
  9. Finalist schools may be asked to provide evidence and verification of such activities.
  10. Participating schools and their entries may be used by Waltons Music and/or Waltons New School of Music in publicity relating to the Competition. Videos and photographs of the Finalists Concert will be featured on the Competition and other web pages and may be sent to national and local media.
  11. Decisions of both the initial judging panel (selecting the twelve Finalist schools) and Finalists Concert adjudicators are final, and no correspondence will be entered into.
  12. Although Second and Third Prize winners are eligible to enter the Competition again next year, First Prize winners are not eligible to enter for the next two years.

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© 2017 Waltons New School of Music
  • 69 South Great George's Street Dublin 2 Ireland 
  • Phone: +353 1 478 1884
  • Fax: +353 1 475 1346
  • Email: info@newschool.ie
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