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Northern Ireland Young Musicians’ Platform Awards Winners Announced

Friday 5th December 2014 at 3pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music


Five exceptional and talented young Northern Ireland musicians have won the Northern Ireland Young Musicians’ Platform Awards.

The awards, run by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in collaboration with BBC Northern Ireland, were launched earlier this year to showcase and support the development of young Northern Ireland musicians and were announced at an event at BBC Broadcasting House earlier today (Friday, December 5). 

For the first time, the awards were extended beyond the classical music arena, also extending the opportunity to enter out to musicians from jazz and traditional Irish Music backgrounds.

The five winners are, in the classical section: Soprano Sinéad O’Kelly from Belfast; cellist David Sloan from Jordanstown and Belfast-born Mezzo Soprano Dawn Burns. The folk award went to Uilleann piper Conor Mallon from Armagh and the Jazz award went to Jazz Percussionist Edward Dunlop from Belfast.

The Northern Ireland Young Musicians’ Platform is a biennial scheme which this year recognises the talents of these five high quality musicians through the provision of five individual awards of £5,000. This financial award will enable the recipients to spend a sizeable amount of time learning from a master musician, mentor, teacher or composer either in Northern Ireland or abroad. 

As well as this training opportunity, the recipients will receive two professional radio broadcast engagements, including one with the Ulster Orchestra between January and December 2015. Performances at this level raise not only the professional profile of the young musicians but also give a boost to their performance experience.

Highlighting BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle’s commitment to specialist music and developing new musical talent, this year three presenters from the station will mentor the young musicians as well as following their progress on their programmes and helping them prepare for performances with The Ulster Orchestra for BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle concerts.

John Toal, a classical pianist and presenter of Sounds Classical will mentor the three classical musicians - Sinéad O’Kelly, David Sloan and Dawn Burns; while Folk Club presenter, musician and singer-songwriter Colum Sands will mentor Conor Mullan, the traditional musician; and jazz musician, educator and presenter Linley Hamilton will mentor Edward Dunlop, the young jazz percussionist.

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, at the Arts Council, commented: “Congratulations to all five new awardees of The Young Musicians’ Platform Award. This prestigious award is an unique opportunity for our outstanding young musicians to develop their musical skills, learn from the best in their genre and receive professional experience of playing with a live orchestra.  All of the previous recipients of this award have gone on to have successful, professional careers. I’ve every confidence that their experience received through this award will act as an exceptional platform to shaping their professional, musical development.” 

Fergus Keeling, Head of Radio, BBC Northern Ireland, says: “At BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle we are dedicated to providing our listeners with the best in specialist music and nurturing new talent is something we are extremely passionate about. We are delighted to be involved in finding new classical, jazz and traditional artists and to be able to have our listeners engage in their journey as they grow and develop with some help from John, Colum and Linley, each of whom are extremely talented musicians with a deep love of music.”

Previous recipients of the award include Derry~Londonderry's Laura Sheerin, soprano with Opera NI, violinist Michael Trainor, celebrated pianist Michael McHale and clarinetist Sarah Smith.

Short biogs of each winner:

Dawn Burns is a mezzo-soprano from Belfast.  She recently graduated with a Distinction from the MA Opera course at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.  Dawn was a Young Artist with Mid Wales Opera this year and covered the role of Mercedes in their production of Carmen.  She has also worked with Grange Park Opera, NI Opera, and looks forward to performing the role of Marthe in Faust with Winterbourne Opera next year.  Dawn was the 2012 winner of the NI Opera Festival of Voice competition and has enjoyed performing as a recitalist with the company on a number of occasions.

Dawn said: "I'm absolutely delighted to have been offered the Young Musicians' Platform award. It will really help me develop as an artist by allowing me to further my singing and language studies in Germany next year.  The award includes a number of exciting opportunities over the course of the year and I'm particularly looking forward to performing with the Ulster Orchestra."

Edward Dunlop originally started out on trumpet, and played 4th trumpet in the Ulster Youth Jazz Orchestra for a year and a half.

However following a lip injury he had to give up the trumpet a few years ago and subsequently took up drums and percussion, after which he was able to re-join the Ulster Youth Jazz Orchestra a couple of years later on the drums.

Edward auditioned for several music colleges in the winter of 2013, and was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to study jazz drums and percussion at the Royal Academy of Music and is currently in his first year at the college.

He was also fortunate enough to be able to work with artists such as Rick Swann, Linley Hamilton, Scott Flanigan, Meilana Gillard and many others in and around Belfast and NI.

Edward Dunlop said: “Exposure is key for anyone wanting to make it in the music scene, and this award will be a huge asset in helping me put my name and my playing out as many people as possible: promoters, venues, other musicians etc. This kind of support is invaluable to anyone looking to follow this risky career path, especially in today's economic climate.”

Conor Mallon was Senior County, Ulster and All-Ireland Champion on Uilleann Pipes in the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2013. He was awarded a Piping Scholarship by the Na Píobairí Uilleann Dublin in 2008 and was the first recipient of the Mark Donnelly Bursary Uilleann Piping Award in 2010.

Conor was also presented with the Dick MacRae award by the Pipers club in 2013. He hAs performed in many festivals in Ireland, Europe and the USA including the William Kennedy Piping festival, Piping Live in Glasgow and the Milwaukee Irish Fest. Conor has performed for a number Radio shows, TV programmes for RTE, TG4 and the BBC. He is a teacher in the Armagh Pipers Club and his local Comhaltas branch St. Mochua's, Keady.

Conor Mallon said: "Winning the BBC/ACNI Young Musicians Platform award will give me the springboard to launch me into the professional music career that I have always dreamed about."

Sinéad O’Kelly has just attained a First Class BMus (Hons) from the Royal College of Music in London, where she studies with Russell Smythe and Christopher Glynn. She is an RCM Scholar, supported by a Big Give Award, the David Ross Foundation and the Josephine Baker Trust on the Master Programme.

Sinéad is NI Opera’s ‘Voice of 2013’ having won the main prize and the audience prize at the Festival of Voice last year. She is also a keen advocate of Song repertoire and has just been featured in this year’s London Song Festival singing Schumann, Strauss and Marx. She is the 2013 winner of the Courtney Kenny English Song Award and attained 2nd place in the RCM’s biennial Schumann Competition this year.

On the stage, Sinéad has just made her professional debut singing ‘First Lady’ in NI Opera’s autumn tour of The Magic Flute.

Sinéad is also a keen choral singer, and to that end has sung with ensembles including Sestina, Mousai and Reverie Choir. She is an ex-choral scholar at All Saints Fulham and was a member of Gene

Sinéad O’Kelly said: "This award will give me the means to develop, to the highest level, the skills I will need in my ambition to become a professional opera singer. The opportunities that it provides really are invaluable to my development at this stage and I am so grateful to the Arts Council and BBC NI for giving me this chance."

David Sloan studies with Professor David Strange at the Royal Academy of Music, London where he holds a Leverhulme Trust Orchestral Mentorship and the Sylvia Simon Scholarship.  He is a member of the 2014/15 London Philharmonic Orchestra Foyle Future Firsts.  In 2013, he graduated with a First from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, studying with Robert Irvine, winning all the chamber music prizes whilst there.  In 2012 he was a ‘Special Prize’ winner at the 1st International Sandor Vegh String Quartet Competition, Budapest.  He was Principal Cello of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain for two years and a member of the European Union Youth Orchestra for four.   2013/14 saw his St Martin-in-the-Fields solo recital debut; as well as participation in master classes with Steven Isserlis, Steven Doane and Josephine Knight.   He is a member of the Academy Cello Ensemble and has played Principal Cello with the RAM Symphony and Opera orchestras.  David is most grateful for the support of Newtownabbey Borough Council and Wright Bus Ltd.

David said: “This award will help me achieve the highest level of playing and the performance opportunities to help launch my career. I am absolutely delighted to be a recipient of the BBC/ACNI Young Musicians Platform Award NI.”

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