Derry now a world class producer of Jazz talent- Professor Lyons

ALL THAT JAZZ!. . . .Pupils from Sacred Heart PS pictured enjoying an outdoor Jazz Gig at the school on Friday afternoon when they were entertained by The Red Stripe Band. DER1615MC0124
ALL THAT JAZZ!. . . .Pupils from Sacred Heart PS pictured enjoying an outdoor Jazz Gig at the school on Friday afternoon when they were entertained by The Red Stripe Band. DER1615MC0124

As a music professor in Derry and an expert on jazz in particular, Frank Lyons is perhaps the person best judged to weigh up how successful the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival has become.

And part of that success has been the participation of a growing troupe of graduates and world-renowned musicians who themselves honed their skills while studying at Magee.

The Palais Swing Band, who performed at the Playtrail Ampitheatre on Sunday at the Charity Concert in aid of Ardnashee School and College. DER1715MC145

The Palais Swing Band, who performed at the Playtrail Ampitheatre on Sunday at the Charity Concert in aid of Ardnashee School and College. DER1715MC145

Ulster University was the first place in Ireland where jazz was taught as a specialism as part of the undergraduate and PhD Music courses.

Interest in the courses has soared since the move from Jordanstown to Magee back in 2004- just as the Derry Jazz Festival was finding its feet.

As Jamie Cullum brought down the curtain on the 14th festival last night, Professor Lyons said: “We moved the course here and we have always had a lot of interest from jazz musicians and it has just grown and grown and grown.

“We have had a lot of big names through the door doing PhD and they have gone out into the big bad world and made a contribution to the 
creative industries.

Enjoying the Palais Swing Band, at the Playtrail Ampitheatre on Sunday are Siobhan Heraghty with granddaughters Farah and Roma Crossan. DER1715MC146

Enjoying the Palais Swing Band, at the Playtrail Ampitheatre on Sunday are Siobhan Heraghty with granddaughters Farah and Roma Crossan. DER1715MC146

“Even though our students graduate and they go off, we have a really good relationship and the festival provides a great event for them to come back to town. There is a great buzz when you see how well most of them are doing.”

Among the musicians who have come through the Magee undergraduate and PhD courses are Paul McIntyre, David Lyttle, who now runs one of the most successful recording labels in Europe and Linley Hamilton, an internationally-renowned trumpeter and BBC broadcaster.

Another young girl making waves is drummer Rebecca Montgomery, while Mark McKnight has been making his presence felt in New York.

And Mr Lyons said the eclectic nature of the Derry Jazz Fest meant that it wasn’t just Magee’s jazz experts who were being given a platform.

David Lyttle entertaining students at St. Cecilia's College during the Jazz Event on Friday afternoon at the school. DER1615MC0122

David Lyttle entertaining students at St. Cecilia's College during the Jazz Event on Friday afternoon at the school. DER1615MC0122

“Some of our students play rock fusion, blues trad, and it all adds to that general buzz that the city has over 
the weekend.

“The course success has been very, very broad. There’s a jazz, blues and rock element to it and still a very strong Irish traditional element and we can always contribute, and always do, to different festivals and events locally.

“Even in terms of student numbers we are taking double what we used to do these days, with 65 to 70 undergraduates in Music.

“We were the first university to have graduates in Jazz at PhD level, and we are still by far the biggest generator- nowhere else produces so many.

JAZZ COMES TO ST CECILIA'S!. . . . .Jazz musicians David Lyttle and Neil Cowley pictured at St. Cecilia's College on Friday afternoon where they entertained students as part of the Jazz Festival Academy, in partnership between Outer West and Nerve Centre, and funded by DCAL. Included at back from left are Emma Jayne Kelly, teacher, Joan Keaveney, teacher, Marty McGill, Music Programme Manager, Nerve Centre and Glenn Rosborough, Musician. DER1615MC0124

JAZZ COMES TO ST CECILIA'S!. . . . .Jazz musicians David Lyttle and Neil Cowley pictured at St. Cecilia's College on Friday afternoon where they entertained students as part of the Jazz Festival Academy, in partnership between Outer West and Nerve Centre, and funded by DCAL. Included at back from left are Emma Jayne Kelly, teacher, Joan Keaveney, teacher, Marty McGill, Music Programme Manager, Nerve Centre and Glenn Rosborough, Musician. DER1615MC0124

“It really does give you a very unique brand. Higher education is such a competitive field and if you have something you can sell that is very unique it sets you apart from 
the competition.

“This is a city with great musicians like Gay McIntyre and it is important to show we are carrying on that heritage.”

Alongside the local talent, Prof. Lyons said the Jazz Festival has attracted many of the world’s biggest names on the jazz scene.

“We have this ideal combination,” he said. “You get the real world class talent like Jamie Cullum, Brian Priestly, really important world stars, and then you have the 
younger generation.

“It is the ideal combination and Derry has got that just right.”

He added that the organisers “got in at the right time and captured the imagination and it gets great support from the people of the city”.

Professor Frank Lyons, Ulster University.

Professor Frank Lyons, Ulster University.

“You are walking past people who are internationally renowned. These are total and utter susperstars in jazz internationally.”