A former army officer who set up a music school with the aim of promoting music as a tool for social inclusion is the winner of Cork Person of the Year Award.
Bob Seward, founder of the Cork Academy of Music, was yesterday announced as the 25th winner of the prestigious event before more than 250 invited guests at the
Rochestown Park Hotel.
He was selected for his groundbreaking achievements in providing music education on the northside of Cork City.
Mr Seward established the voluntary, not-for-profit, school of music in 1994 to provide an education in music literacy and instrument skills for people living in an area of the city regarded, at the time, as an economic blackspot.
“Our original aim was to use music as a tool for social inclusion, so we located the Cork Academy of Music in an area of the city with relatively low educational achievement and high unemployment levels,” Mr Seward said.
“Since then, the academy has provided a music education for many thousands
of people and created a pathway to work and, indeed, further education.”
He said the academy had also fostered important relationships with individuals and groups in the local community, focusing on combating disadvantages and helping to promote social inclusion.
“I’m honoured and delighted to accept this award and I’d like to thank Manus O’Callaghan and the team for organising such an excellent awards scheme,” said Mr Seward.
Operating in a voluntary capacity at the Cork Academy of Music since its foundation 23 years ago, Mr Seward has carefully steered and guided the work of the academy since its inception.
The retired army captain is also the proud recipient of two United Nations peace medals, awarded in recognition of his service in the Congo in 1960 and in Cyprus in 1963.
Awards organiser Manus O’Callaghan said Mr Seward thoroughly deserved to be the Cork Person of the Year.
“Bob is a very popular winner of the award,” said Mr O’Callaghan.
“His contribution to music education in disadvantaged areas of Cork City has been phenomenal and has opened the world of music to so many young people that otherwise wouldn’t get this opportunity.
“He has also steered young people from his music tuition back to mainline education courses in other areas to help them secure employment.”
Mr Seward was chosen by judges Tim Lucey and Ann Doherty, respective chief executives of Cork County Council and Cork City Council.
He was presented with the award by Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald and the mayor of Co Cork, Declan Hurley.
Mr Seward, one of 12 monthly winners throughout 2017, had been nominated for the award by the legendary Cork musician Joe Mac (Joe McCarthy) offame.
Mr Seward has received many awards over the years marking his successes in music education, including the Lord Mayor’s Award for Community Development.
He also received an honorary M.Mus from UCC and an ‘Inspiration Life Award’ for his voluntary work from former president Mary McAleese.
There were also contributions on the day from the guest of honour Micheál Martin, who had launched the awards scheme in 1993, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, and Dee Forbes, director general of RTÉ .
Ted Crosbie and his son Tom, chairman of Landmark Media’s, also spoke at the event.
The audience was also treated to a performance by Cork soprano Cara O’Sullivan.
The sponsors of the Cork Person of the Year award scheme were the Irish Examiner, RTÉ, Southern, AM O’Sullivan PR, Lexus Cork, Tony O’Connell Photography and Cork Crystal.