Nils Kavanagh wins first prize for young Irish jazz musician

Nils Kavanagh, a jazz pianist from Sligo, has won the inaugural Young Irish Jazz Musician Award. The musician received the award in a live competition at the University Concert Hall, Limerick on April 10, organized by Limerick Jazz in association with Improvised Music Company (BMI).

Kavanagh was selected by a panel including composer Bill Whelan, flautist, composer and host Ellen Cranitch, and trumpeter, host and educator Linley Hamilton. “It was a very inspiring evening,” Whelan said. “The level of these young musicians was quite remarkable and bodes very well for the future of Irish music.”

The competition included six finalists aged 17 to 22 – Cork drummer Michael McCarthy, Dublin guitarist Matthew O’Connell, Clare saxophonist Jamie Lundy, Clare singer and guitarist Julie Martin and Meath Miles drummer Ronayne.

Kavanagh started playing jazz aged 16 thanks to the Sligo Jazz Project – a summer school with workshops, masterclasses and jam sessions. He currently works as a professional musician in Cardiff and studies jazz performance at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. As part of her award, Kavanagh will record with a professional ensemble and perform at the University Concert Hall Rising Stars Concert alongside other young classical and operatic musicians. He will also receive a scholarship to attend an international jazz summer school.

Commenting on the inaugural award, John Daly, Chairman of Limerick Jazz, said:

Limerick Jazz is delighted with the success of the first ever Young Irish Jazz Musician event. Our feedback from finalists and judges has been very positive. The finalists especially enjoyed the opportunity to rehearse intensively with the house band over the weekend and get to know their peers from across the country. We are delighted to have BMI as a valued partner of this event.

Kenneth Killeen, director of BMIadded:

BMI are delighted to be part of this important new platform for emerging jazz professionals with the wonderful Limerick Jazz team. It has been one of our goals for some time to develop national talent development programs for Irish artists. Providing this platform to spotlight and recognize the formative talents of jazz is crucial to the development and long-term sustainability of this music. I congratulate Nils on his victory as well as the other finalists for what was a high-flying musical evening.

Limerick Jazz and BMI established the Young Irish Jazz Musician Award with the aim of making it a regular feature on the Irish jazz music scene, aiming to increase young people’s interest in jazz music. As well as being the first year of the Young Irish Jazz Musician Award, this year marks the 40th anniversary of Limerick Jazz and the 30th anniversary of BMI.

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