Notes from Irish Jazz Education: Mike Nielsen, TU Dublin

We're coming up to International Jazz Day this Thurday 30th April, and we're shining a light on some of the people who create the jazz scene around Ireland! To give us an insight into the education of jazz musicians in Ireland we chatted to TU Dublin's head of Jazz Performance, Mike Nielsen. 
Described by the press as “one of Europe’s most distinctive and iconoclastic guitar voices, equally innovative on electric and acoustic guitars,', Mike Nielsen pioneered TU Dublin's Masters in Jazz Performance, tutors with the Sligo International Summer School and has given workshops at Berklee and the New School.

How would you describe jazz education in Ireland or the educational path for young jazz musicians?

Dedicated jazz education is now possible up to PhD level. The BMus programme at DCU (originally Newpark) has existed since 2005; TU Dublin offers an MMus in Jazz performance since 2008;  PhD Study (Research or DMus in Performance programmes  - TU Dublin. Outside of fulltime jazz courses, I have also written a Jazz Guitar syllabus for part-time students, and co-written the improvisation module for the revised BMus at TU Dublin (for non-jazz players). 

What is your favourite thing about teaching young jazz musicians?

Extending their knowledge of great music. Developing their musical personality through improvisation. 

In an ideal world, what do you think would be one thing which would make a big difference to young jazz musicians?

A designated jazz venue to perform at and gain experience (for older musicians too).

Could you name some artists/tracks you think should be essential listening for aspiring jazz musicians? 

Guitar: Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Kenny Burrell, John McLaughlin, Allen Holdsworth, Jim Hall, Pat Metheny, John Abercrombie, John Scofield, Nelson Veras, Jonathan  Kreisberg, Derek Bailey.

Piano: Earl Hines, Errol Garner, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Ahmad Jamal, Lenny Tristano, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau.

Sax: Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Johnny Griffin, Frank Foster, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Art Pepper, Paul Desmond, Charlie Parker, Michael Brecker, Dave Liebman, Steve Coleman, Cannonball Adderley.

Bass: Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, Dave Holland, Charlie Haden, Scott LaFaro, Victor Wooten, Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius,  Ron Carter, Charles Mingus 

Drums: Max Roach, Billy Higgins, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Jack De Johnette, Buddy Rich, Marvin Smithy Smith (to name but a few:)

Vocals: Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Nina Simone, Dinah Washington, Frank Sinatra. (to name but a few:)

Trumpet: Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Chet Baker, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd, Wynton Marsalis 

The ECM collection also features a lot of essential listening - it's a European development, and not beholden to the New Orleans tradition


Thanks Mike!

We've created a Spotify playlist of the host of fantastic musicians Mike has named, so if you're an aspiring or established jazz musician or a jazz-lover who wants to hear some essentials, have a listen! 


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