“There’s always been a bit of an audience for Blues in Dublin” On a dark Wednesday evening you walk into the Leeson Lounge on Upper Leeson Street. It’s a great place to take refuge from the rain, the cold, or whatever is on your mind. You grab a stool and a pint. Some musicians are playing. At first you don’t take any notice. Then something happens: your left foot starts tapping. Some of the songs feel old, or of a different time, but here there’s new life being given to them. Very soon it’s hard to take your eyes from the stage. The band is Los Paradiso, and the music they’re playing is the
Looking for stars? Try BIMM
Spotted a famous musician in Dublin recently? There’s a fair chance they were coming out of DIT’s school of commercial music. Situated on Francis Street in Dublin 8, the The British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) holds regular masterclasses for its students with world-class musicians: Imelda May, Danny O’Donoghue of The Script, Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlain and even Hozier have paid surprise visits. US singer-songwriter John Grant offered a songwriting masterclass. U2’s The Edge has attended a BIMM graduation ceremony.
All of the tutors at BIMM are working musicians or industry professionals, and it’s this expertise that is teaching the students how to build a career in music. There’s an impressive list of tutors working in the college: James Byrne (manager of Girl Band), Louise MacNamara (one half of duo Heathers), Conor Brady (ex The Blades guitarist), Rory Doyle (drummer – Hozier, The Walls, BellX1), Tully Gunawardhana (acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, composed and producer, founder and manager of The Chapters and who has played with acts including James Vincent McMorrow) , Ró Yourell and Kieran McGuinness of Delorentos are just some of the 60 or so notable teachers.
“Students attend BIMM for many reasons ranging from an aim to have a sustainable career in the music industry to becoming a successful artist in their own right” says BIMM principal Alan Cullivan. “They could be a session musician, music teacher, studio sessions player, manager or promoter. Some students attend BIMM with the main aim of becoming a better musician and to have a degree with the transferrable skills that can be achieved with all honours degrees.”
We prefer our tutors to be current and active in the industry so they can pass on their first-hand experience to students in the ever-changing and evolving world of the music industry
BIMM prides itself on the fact that all the teachers are current music industry practitioners. “We prefer our tutors to be current and active in the industry so they can pass on their first-hand experience to students in the ever-changing and evolving world of the music industry,” says Cullivan. “The tutors dedicate varying amounts of time to teaching here in BIMM, and at times our tutors cannot commit to teaching because they are away touring or working on projects.”
The college was established in 2011 and it’s an offshoot of the Brighton Institute of Modern Music; alumni from its various branches include James Bay, Marina Diamandis of Marina and the Diamonds and Tom Odell. Closer to home, BIMM Dublin graduate Niall Cash has topped the iTunes singer-songwriter chart and is making a name for himself here.
Most of the BIMM alumni don’t go on to become big names, of course. But many are happy to build a career in the industry. Laura Mackey, a tutor at the college, has been playing guitar since she was a child, and she was a part of Dublin band Boss Volenti, who were nominated for a Choice Music Prize in 2007. She herself trained at the Newpark Music Centre in south Dublin and today she mixes part-time music teaching with post-doctoral research into health technologies at University College Dublin.
“Boss Volenti wound down around 2008 but I still loved playing music,” says Mackey. “I felt I was at a crossroads: do I develop a music school, or should I play in other bands? I decided to step away from music for a while and went back to study, doing a degree in physiotherapy at UCD from 2009 till 2013. Then, in 2014, I got a call from Alan in BIMM and he asked me to come and teach there.”
The music industry remains dominated by men and there are little or no female headliners playing at festivals. “There are a lot of women playing music but many of the instrumentalists are men. I’ve been in bands and playing guitar since my early teens and joined bands as soon as I could. BIMM were also interested in me because, having done a PhD in health literacy, I have a research background and can teach research skills; now, I teach one project class for the fourth-year students and one module in performativity and live music.”
At BIMM, the focus is on developing a suite of different skills, not just on being a great musician
Mackey says she loves keeping her hand in music and she is currently playing with some cover bands. Every year, one of her big music projects involves playing a full Led Zeppelin album with tribute act Whole Lotta Zepp. She says it is very possible to build a career in music, “At BIMM, the focus is on developing a suite of different skills, not just on being a great musician, and they learn about the industry and the business of music as well as mastering their instrument or voice.”
Meanwhile, the BIMM campus and the surrounding area has become a major creative hub in Dublin, adding to the environment already created by the nearby National College of Art and Design; students from the two colleges have collaborated on a number of projects. “The impact of BIMM is also evident in the live music scene in Dublin where, on any given night, many of the acts playing in Dublin venues are BIMM-associated bands such as Farah Elle, The Fontaines, Le Boom, AE Mak, Orchid Collective, Jafaris and Brass Phantoms, to name but a few,” says Cullivan.
Ultimately, BIMM aims to instil a sense of entrepreneurship in its students. “Collaboration with other artists and other art forms is encouraged,” says Cullivan. “This is an era where technology has empowered new artists to create, write, design, film, release and market, on their own terms, and our students are perfectly placed to create and shape the industry.”
For more information visit www.bimm.ie/dublin/
Phil Lynott, Dr Seuss and Eminem stroll into a bar. They sit down, have a few drinks and start to have a raucously good time. That’s the sort of vibe you get from writer and performance poet, John Cummins. John would argue that Bob Marley has a place at the table too. “Bob Marley was huge where I was growing up. You’d hear him out of literally every window. And sure Dalymount Park was one of his last gigs.” John cuts a curious figure. Skinny. Tall. Thin. Bearded. But with a wild braided bardic beard, not a hipster one. Overall there’s a gentle, affable groove to
Being in The Dubliners always made you feel like a bit of an ambassador for the city. I mean we were all instantly recognisable, and I think people felt at one with us. There’s a nice feeling of unity about being a Dub. And Dubliners in general never made any great fuss of their own sons and daughters who became well known (laughs). When The Dubliners celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2012, I had been with the band for 48 of those 50 years. I served an apprenticeship as an electrician in the ESB, and worked there as a draftsman for a few years. But the music was always a hobby, and at a certain point I had to give it up and join the lads. It was precarious in the early days, but there was always a great sense of adventure about the whole thing. We were doing it for the craic as much as anything else, and gradually it became a living. I think anybody who can extend their hobby to the extent that it becomes their livelihood, that’s a real privilege. Especially anyone who’s making music.