Very Early Years Music & You!

We’ve had some amazing 0-3yrs classes this past year both in The Exchange in Buncrana, and the Sliabh Sneacht Centre in Drumfries.  There’s so much more to this experience that just singing Wheels on the Bus – though that’s great fun too!  Everything we do is based on fun and helping our kids learn and grow, and doing it with the people they love and regularly sing and play with!  earlyyrsmusicbernie3

It’s motor skills, it’s spatial awareness, it’s literacy, it’s speech, it’s expression, it’s social, it’s gaining confidence, it’s learning what it means to work within a group.

Of course it’s also full of song and dance, colour and activity, bubbles, parachutes, scarves and lots of laughter!

You as the adult, play a huge part in our 0-3 class, particularly in terms of what you and your child will get out of it, so it’s important to us that you are relaxed and enjoying things too.  We may even bribe you with a wee cuppa before we start to get you settled in.  Also, I’m very aware that on busy mornings, parents may not even see a cup of tea or coffee before they leave the house!!

The best way to get the most out of class for both of you is to make sure you stay engaged in what’s happening and stay in the moment with the music and your child.  This is a very social occasion, but if we get completely caught up in chatting to our neighbour, we lose out on the benefits of doing this class together.

Snacks and toys from home are best left in the car, they usually attract plenty of wee ones that would also like your snack and your toy so unless you brought enough for everyone, it can be distracting.  Of course babies need to eat when they need to eat, so by all means feed those babas!

Otherwise, get comfy – have that wee cuppa before we start and settle in for a lovely time shared with your child.  It’s hard to get free time, to find activities to share so young, and music is one thing that reaches across all ages and generations.  You’ll hear songs that you sang when you were little and lots of new songs to share together.  We incorporate lots of different sounds and activities to keep everyone interested and if there’s anything you think we should add or change, we’d love to hear that too! cropped-boogiebugsjpeg1.jpg

Looking forward, as always, to our next 0-3yrs block of classes and to seeing all your wee ones enjoying the music and action! ❤

Sponsored Post Learn from the experts: Create a successful blog with our brand new courseThe Blog is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.



Welcome to a wonderful new year of music at The Music Box!  Our classes take place in The Exchange Buncrana, The Sliabh Sneacht Centre Drumfries and in family centres, theatres and schools all over the North West of Ireland! 

We have early years music, Community Singing groups and Guitar groups, as well as running seasonal workshops/camps and Songwriting Sessions. We welcome children from everywhere to join us for music, opportunity and the craic!musicForever3

We have lots of news and plans to share between now and Christmas so here’s everything you need to know!


Most of our classes are full at the moment, but we’d love to welcome more singers both in Buncrana & Drumfries.  Registration for singing will only be open for a few more weeks until January, as we prepare for a busy Christmas schedule of performing and recording! Guitarists with previous experience are always welcome to return to playing, as we usually have space in our improvers classes. As always, with the support of The Inish Times, many of our students get to write music related articles! Boogie Bugs & Beginners guitar classes are full.  Waiting lists in operation.


This year we are absolutely DELIGHTED to stage a wonderful Christmas show in the Inishowen Gateway Hotel, in the beautiful Lisfannon Suite.  We hope to welcome all our families and everyone from the area who would like to enjoy a great community event full of all your favourite Christmas songs and seasonal cheer!  

The Show will be on Thursday 19th December, at 7pm and will feature music from our little Boogie Bugs class, The Music Box Singers, The Sliabh Sneacht Singers and all improver/advanced guitar classes.  Beginner guitarists will not take part in Christmas shows for their first year. christmas-music_01_94139c1

We’ll have some great prizes to raffle at the Christmas show, thanks in part to suggestions from our children! Admission will be €6 for adults, €3 for children over 5, with a maximum family ticket price of €18.


We are planning for our Singing groups to re-record the Christmas songs we recorded last year!  christmas cd coverOur hopes of producing a Christmas EP in 2018 were dashed by disappointing work on behalf of the studio we hired, but we are not beat – we’ll do it again this year and our new studio is wonderful! Recording dates to follow!


I’ll be planning a lovely project – our very own Buncrana Choir of Ages!  I’m really looking forward to welcoming singers young and old to join forces for a really special event, combining  the generations and talents from our wonderful town and surrounding townlands!

CONGRATULATIONS to our students that recently took part in a fantastic Culture Night event featuring Songs of Ireland and the play I wrote – “Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Drumfries Adventure”.  It was a brilliant night, that also featured outstanding dancing from Valerie Harkins dancers. I am always trying to broaden the children’s ideas of what is possible for them to achieve, from singing to playing music, songwriting to newspaper writing,  performing to recording, acting and supporting each other.  

They may not stay in class forever, but hopefully some of what we’ve done in class will stay with them forever! ❤

To join any of our classes, or if you have any questions, pm me on FB: The Music box or PH/TEXT Bernie 086 3068655.

Music Classes Beginning in September!

For anyone that might not be familiar with what happens at The Music Box, here’s a wee intro to our classes.  There’s Improvers Guitar & Singing in Drumfries, and Beginners& Improvers Guitar, Singing and our amazing 3-6yrs Boogie Bugs class in Buncrana. Something for everyone and every level – it’s a great time to bring music into your child’s life!

The Music Box Singers/The Sliabh Sneacht Singers 6yrs +

These groups are amazing – affordable and lively, they are performance based singing groups staging their own Christmas and Summer shows, as well as smaller appearances at charity and community events throughout the year.facebook_ the music box (2) We focus on technique, confidence and collaboration, and respect and appreciation for performance of all levels.

The Good CarnivalWe have loads of solos, harmonies and everyone shares a great experience – learning so much while having a great time, and building life long memories and friends! As with all our groups, we endeavour to keep costs low, so there are no big surprises along the way – just the cost of classes and the option to buy our t-shirt/hoodie. We have also recorded over the years and have exciting plans to do so this year as well!

MUSIC BOX SINGERS meet in The Exchange in Buncrana on Wednesdays 5-6pm, and SLIABH SNEACHT SINGERS meet in Drumfries on Tuesdays 5-6pm

Guitar Academy, Beginners 7yrs +
We try to accommodate beginners every year, and this year beginners will meet in The Exchange in Buncrana on Thursdays at 5pm. We try hard to learn some basic chords in the first couple of months so that by Halloween we’re starting to put a few tunes together to keep the kids interested instead of just looking at chord sheets!

Guitar academyAgain, we are focused on the music and performance – but in a group class, we are always good to each other and supportive, fostering the confidence to play in front of each other, and eventually our families and friends.

Guitar Academy, Improvers – all ages.
Whether you’re returning after the Summer break, or have lapsed in your playing for a while, we have groups at various levels of playing so we can find the right fit for you and you’ll be very welcomed back to guitar playing!! Get in touch to discuss where your child’s playing level lies and we’ll get to work! VARIOUS TIMES, PM FOR DETAILS

cropped-boogiebugsjpeg1.jpgBoogie Bugs 3-6yrs.

This is where it all begins! Our youngest drop off class that is full of life, sound, colour and movement! We do it all in this group, and lay the foundations for a life long love of music, singing, playing, songwriting and performing. Bright MusicWe explore the sounds of many instruments and enjoy all kinds of songs and dances, as well as the opportunity to take to the stage in a non pressured way to protect those tiny musicians of the future from stage fright 🙂 This class meets on Wednesdays 4-5pm in Buncrana.

We can’t wait to hear from you to get going in a big year of music – singing, learning, playing, exploring, collaborating and performing – all while supporting each other and having loads of fun and laughs along the way. 

Summer Music should be FUN!!

Summer-MusicWe really change things up for the Summer here at The Music Box!  Abandoning our traditional weekly class format for a choice of two very different 4 day camps, to learn, laugh and really enjoy music, games, activities and songwriting.  Camps this year are:  “Movies & Musicals” Singing/Songwriting Ft. Natasha Grant Dance & “Playing The Hits” Guitar/Songwriting ft. Guest tutors.

We want to keep things focused on the fun, so our song choices reflect that, while offering musical challenges along the way – for our singers/songwriters, they’ll have the challenge of dancing with Natasha Grant this year – something new for our Summer school!  Our music will include songs from The Greatest Showman, Annie, Toy Story 4, The Wizard of Oz, Beauty & The Beast and The Sound of Music – something for everyone!

summer music camp updateOur guitar/songwriting guest tutors are really special this year – former students that have really worked hard on their playing and are definitely ready to share some knowledge.  I’m delighted to be able to bring them in for our Summer Camps – they are worth hearing! Music from this camp includes modern songs from the last few years, as well as tips and techniques to improve everyones playing.

There are games, activities, challenges and lots of laughs to be had.  If we get some sun, we’ll even do some of our songwriting outdoors!

Places are becoming limited, so here’s all the info.

Camp takes place in The Exchange Inishowen, Buncrana, Co. Donegal

Singing/Songwriting camp is July 8-11, 10 – 12.45pm. No previous experience needed.

Guitar/Songwriting camp is July 8 1.15 – 4pm. Attendees must have at least 6 months playing experience.

Camps are €50 each, but there are discounts for families, or children attending both.

CAMPS ARE OPEN TO EVERYONE, not just Music Box members!





Music Summer Camps are open for booking!!!

summer camp '19Summer is getting SO close – and this year we think our music camps are going to be the best ever!  We’re going all out with big sounds at our “Movies & Musicals” themed Singing/Songwriting camp.  Lots of great songs, movement, activities, performance and guest tutors. For our musicians, we’re keeping it modern – playing all the big songs of the last couple of years in our Guitar/Songwriting camp.  Pairing great songs with some challenging new playing techniques and great little tips and tricks to make your guitar playing sound more professional.

Of course we’ll also be trying our hands at some songwriting – getting to grips with the ideas and themes that will make the process seem much more possible – and also writing a group song – a great challenge that takes trust. patience and collaboration!

There’ll still be time for games and some craic – so book early.  Places are always limited and when they’re gone, they’re gone!!

Here’s all you need to know!


The Exchange Buncrana, JULY 8-11 (Singing/songwriting 10am – 12.45pm – Guitar/Songiwriting 1.15 – 4pm)


€50 per camp (€20 deposit required.  Discounts for children attending both camps or 2 children from the same family.)


FB The Music Box. EMAIL PH/TEXT 086 3068655.


Guitar goals – February is a BIG month for us!

guitarsIf you are in any of our guitar classes – you’ll know that for the month of Feb we are focused on our technical proficiency!  Sounds like fun doesn’t it……probably not and to be honest it’s hard work too lol!  But it’s sooooooo worth it!  Every now and then we put down the song sheets and focus on the chords/tabs/scales/bars etc we’ve been working on to make sure that we don’t just ‘kind of’ know these things but rather we know them inside and out, backwards and forwards and that we are growing into players that can pick up a guitar and play somewhere outside of class, start a band, play for family, school events, community events and of course – exams at school!

Many of our older players are already dabbling in these areas, so depending on the level of your class, we’re perfecting some or all of the following areas

  • chords
  • tabs
  • scales
  • bar chords
  • notes on the fret board
  • capo key changes

This is all so necessary especially in group classes to make sure that no one is falling through the cracks or falling behind in any area.  I always encourage the kids to come tell me if something doesn’t make sense, but these weeks are crucial to get us all up to speed.  As always attendance is so important.  With full attendance we can move quickly and avoid repeating lessons, so weather permitting – we’ll all be much better players in March than we were in January!

Boogie Bugs & The Many Benefits of Early Years Music.

Families in our area have long realised the benefits to their children of regular organised music sessions – Boogie Bugs early years music has been part of the weekly scheduled activities in the lives of countless families all over Donegal & Derry through public classes, classes in preschools and community projects. cropped-boogiebugsjpeg1.jpg

In a study conducted by Bright Horizons, elementary school teachers shared their views on what they believe to be the most important school readiness factors for any child to succeed in a public or private school setting:

  • Basic understanding of language and math concepts
  • Social readiness
  • Emotional preparedness

Teachers were unified in their feeling that children should enter their first years of school with an ability to comprehend broader language and math concepts, as well as to be prepared for the social and emotional demands of school.

This is not lost on early years music facilitators, in fact a local Primary school principal informed me that they can readily notice accelerated literacy, social skills and learning ability in children who have regular music in their lives either at home or in their preschool setting.  They are ‘school ready’ in a broader range of areas than their counterparts who have not had a regular musical experience at the same age. Children love modern music too, and it certainly has an important place in their lives but in terms of social & educational benefits – simple, easily learned, carefully planned music and music exercises makes real and lasting impact on the progress of children in their early years journey.

At Boogie Bugs music, we regularly see improvement in so many areas including the ability to share, to wait, to take turns, to collaborate and work together.  To learn spatial awareness, motor skills, to learn social skills like greeting (hello/goodbye), to look out for each other, to practice making and keeping a beat, to use a variety of instruments, to enjoy sensory activities – all these are easily accessible in the form of early years music sessions and of course there is the sheer enjoyment that children get from music and dance.  Our sessions are often the children’s first and only experience of live music. They have access throughout the year to hear or try a range of instruments including guitar, ukulele, fiddle, whistle, and a wide range of children’s percussion and instruments gathered from around the world.

boogiebugsposter2018-page-001I write music for children too, so I’ve been able to add songs over the years that I felt might support their learning, whether it’s colours or numbers or animals or gaining the confidence to speak out during a song or activity.  For example, I noticed in many settings that younger children might struggle with the confidence to suggest an animal themselves when we sing ‘Old McDonald’, so I created a different song ‘Walking ‘round the Farm’ – where I make the animal noise and the children answer which animal made the noise.  The difference seems small, but it really works in the group – answering a clear question, rather than making an unprompted suggestion.

There is a loose structure to the sessions I run both in our public class, and in Preschools, but using a variety of instruments, seasonal and repeated songs and sensory tools, the structure is not readily perceptible to the children.  We start out singing a familiar Hello Song, and often move to a song that will require us to take part in some way. This exercise strengthens the children’s bond with the music and the session, as well as building trust each other and myself.  One such song is our ‘Hands Up’ song, which goes through healthy and unhealthy food choices in a fun way. ‘Hands up if you like bananas………etc’ and ‘Hands up if you like chocolate, hands up if you like ice cream, hands up if you like sweeties, but are they good for you?’ By taking an active role in the song – they have ownership of it, and the information in contains.

We have great action songs to keep everybody moving. They contain instructions that must be followed and that are easy to achieve, and fun to dance to.  Then we move on to activities such as instruments or rainbow ribbons or parachute games and some bubbles. Because of space and facilities, our public class also includes stage and microphone time and more physical games like using hula hoops to encourage movement further. We don’t push too hard for public performances at this age though – there’s plenty of time for that. At this stage the social benefits and growing confident in their own space and abilities is a much more important goal.  

Our public class for Boogie Bugs is in Buncrana on Wednesday evenings 4-5pm and musiplaces must be booked.  There’s so much to learn and see and in our music class, and because Boogie Bugs is part of The Music Box school, many of our wee Boogie Bugs graduate to our singing groups or guitar classes.  We have former Boogie Bugs that are now teenagers and still coming to our Senior singing class and our guitar group too!  

Bernie Doherty

Boogie Bugs Music Facilitator

Facebook: Boogie Bugs Music OR The Music Box



Music. By Amy Doherty

Our students like to write about Music as well as play and sing.  Here’s a wee piece by Amy Doherty!

Music. By Amy Doherty.

Music is really fun to do.  Some instruments are easy to learn and some are hard.  My sister and I play guitar. Guitar is really fun and easy to do.  My guitar teacher is really nice to us. There’s 13 people at my guitar class.  There are 3 boys and 10 girls. My guitar teacher is called Bernie. I also go to singing and she is my singing teacher too.  We do a lot of shows with her and recording. We do Summer shows and Christmas shows. I love singing and guitar. I go to singing and guitar on a Tuesday at the Sliabh Sneacht Centre.  Singing lasts an hour and guitar lasts an hour. On Thursday we are having a show in the Plaza. My sister and I both have a solo. Mine is Jingle Bells, and my sisters is Jingle Bell Rock.  My sister is doing hers with Cloadagh and Kiera. I am doing mine with Makensie. There are a lot of people doing solos. I am really nervous about it because I have to sing by myself. There are going to be a lot of people at the show.  I practice music all week long. My singing starts at 5 and ends at 6, and guitar starts at 6 and ends at 7.

First up in our Junior Journalist series – Shannon Harkin.

IMG_20181105_173153We have a small army of singers and musicians, but they are talented in so many other ways. Our new series of articles by junior journalists, and interviews in our Student Spotlight segment will let you know more about the world our students live in and what they think about music and life! Our first story (below) has already been picked up by the Inish Times, and is a lovely piece written by Shannon Harkin, 5th class Scoil Naomh Padraig, Drumfries!

Five Reasons why I love The Music Box by Shannon Harkin

Every Tuesday from 5pm to 6pm, I go to singing classes at the Sliabh Sneacht Centre, Drumfries. I am part of The Sliabh Sneacht Singers and my teacher is Bernie Doherty. Here are five reasons why I love singing class:

We get a lot of opportunities to record songs and visit a recording studio, which not many children or even adults get to experience.

Singing class is a lot of fun, although we do work very hard and learn lots of new things.

We get to sing solos of our choice at our Christmas and summer shows, and also learn harmonies etc. I like that our families get the chance to hear us sing at these shows.

I love singing, and The Music Box has really helped to build my confidence.

Going to class is really enjoyable because my teacher is very nice and helpful, and I also like spending time with the friends that I have made.

I would recommend these classes to anyone of any age who loves to sing. It is such an enjoyable pastime.

Shannon Harkin