Awardees announced for BAN BAM 2023
Awardees announced for the 2nd BAN BAM Commission & Development Award
Improvised Music Company and Moving on Music are pleased to announce the awardees of the BAN BAM Commission & Development Award 2022/23. This is the second edition of a new creative commissioning and career development opportunity open to Irish-born or resident female and gender-minority composers.
An international expert panel assessing the applications included Slovenian pianist and composer Kaja Draksler, musician, Arts Council England Relationship Manager, and programmer of Vortex jazz club Kim Macari, award-winning composer and conductor Brian Irvine, Director of the Centre Culturel Irlandais Nora Hickey M’Sichili, as well as IMC Director Kenneth Killeen, and Moving on Music Creative Producer Paula McColl.
Through a detailed analysis process, the judges unanimously rated three outstanding composers particularly highly – Meilana Gillard, Bianca Gannon, and Carole Nelson – and chose them to be awarded the commission in this round. The three composers will receive a commissioning award of €2,500, with performances of their works planned in Dublin, Belfast, Manchester and Glasgow. They will also be part of a bespoke development and mentorship programme involving IMC, MOM and other mentors during 2023.
Raised in Ohio, and based in Derry, saxophonist, vocalist and composer Meilana Gillard is praised by critics for her passionate and fiery story-telling improvisations and her robust tone. Her RBG Trio with bassist Dave Redmond and drummer Kevin Brady has played widely across Ireland and internationally, and are working on a debut album. Meilana said: "It is truly an honour to have been chosen to represent Northern Ireland as a recipient of this great award and in such talented company. I am so excited and grateful to be able to premiere new works for the RBG Trio and to do so with such incredible support from Moving on Music and Improvised Music Company."
Bianca Gannon is an interdisciplinary composer and improvisor, who weaves together her extensive training in composition, improvised music, piano and Indonesian percussion. Her works are often immersive, multi-sensory, and investigative with social commentary. Exploring parallels between seemingly disparate concepts, Bianca is motivated by that which connects us. Bianca said: "These types of initiatives play a crucial role in addressing the gender imbalance in composition, jazz, improvised music and performance. It's an honour to have been selected and to be among such fine company, representing diverse and innovative creativity and musicality. Without this commission, I don't think I would otherwise have the chance to push myself into the unchartered territory in my proposal. I'm excited for this growth spurt."
London-born pianist, saxophonist and composer Carole Nelson has been based in Ireland since 1986, and currently lives between the River Barrow and the Blackstairs Mountains, a landscape which inspires her music. Her current piano trio project has released two albums of her compositions, to critical acclaim. Carole said: “Gratitude to IMC for giving me this support and affirmation of my work. It means a great big smile as I look ahead to 2023.”
The judges commented on the outstanding creativity evident among Ireland’s composers. “Emerging from what was a wonderful, eclectic landscape of exciting creators our three final awardees exude invention, poetry, adventure, exploration, sensitivity and individuality in abundance. So inspiring to see this incredibly exciting group of artists evolve further and deeper in their practice under the umbrella of BAN BAM’s fantastically thoughtful, articulate and nurturing programme.” - Brian Irvine
As an initiative, BAN BAM aims to promote women and gender-minority people in jazz and improvised music, to address a gender imbalance in the scene. Beginning with research and a festival in 2017, the Commission & Development Award began in 2020. The inaugural awardees - Úna Monaghan, Sue Rynhart, & C.V. Lunny - created a trio of diverse new works which, due to the pandemic, were developed into site-specific audio-visual projects, screened at the Irish Film Institute & Jazz Promotion Network conference amongst others.
The judges noted that the Award has a key role to play in supporting composers to develop their voices. Kim Macari commented “Schemes like these provide benefit on so many levels, not only in the commissions and mentoring awarded but also for the panel to be exposed to a whole host of innovative and exciting artists that we'll be keeping a close eye on in the future. We have three distinctive, strong artistic voices in the cohort of winners this year and I'm excited to see what they produce.”
Due to the excellent overall quality of applications, the panel has also awarded special recognition to two other composers. Dublin-based Romanian vocalist Aleka, and saxophonist Andrea Jones (a recent graduate of DCU’s degree in jazz and contemporary music performance) will both receive support and mentorship from IMC and Moving On Music in 2023.
IMC and MOM note that BAN BAM awardee Bianca Gannon is currently employed part-time with IMC as Artist Development Officer. All judges were made aware of this once the application was received. Full impartiality and standardised marking were upheld throughout the process.
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Meilana McLean Gillard is a Tenor-Saxophonist, Vocalist, and Composer residing in Derry, Northern Ireland. She is praised by critics for her passionate and fiery story-telling improvisations and her robust tone which has been said to recall modern masters Joe Lovano and Branford Marsalis as well as legacy-masters such as Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, and Dexter Gordon. She has also been praised for her composition and arranging skills that range from traditional to completely experimental.
Gillard currently has two albums out as a leader. 'Day One' was released in 2009 on Greg Osby's label 'Inner Circle Music' and her trio album 'Dream Within a Dream' ('Lyte Records) was released in 2017 and made the top ten list of several critics that year.Meilana relocated from the US to Northern Ireland in 2012 and since then has worked with artists like Liane Carroll, Tom Harrison, Quentin Collins and performed at festivals such as Love Supreme, London Jazz Festival, Cork Jazz Festival, Sligo Jazz Festival, Brilliant Corners Festival and Derry Jazz Festival.
In 2019 she formed the collective RBG Trio with two of Ireland's top-call artists Dave Redmond and Kevin Brady. In 2019 they performed at EuroJazz Fesival in Mexico City and Brilliant Corners festival in 2021& 2022 and are currently working on material for their debut recording together.Gillard is the leader and lead vocalist of Derry-based 6 piece experimental Soul & R&B group The Funkitects' which features regular Jazz collaborators John Leighton, Joseph Leighton, Neil Burns, Rohan Armstrong and Andrew McCoubrey. She is the ensemble's primary songwriter and producer.
Meilana studied Jazz at The New School University in NYC where she resided for about 8 years. She was a 5 year member of Charli Persip's Big Band 'Supersound' and his Quintet. She composed the title track to his 2007 album 'Intrinsic Evolution'. She performed at Birdland, Jazz Standard, Blue Note, Minton's Playhouse and Dizzy's Club. She also performed at several festivals in the US and Europe at that time. She also had substitute roles in The Diva Jazz Orchestra and Christian McBride Big Band.
Raised in Ohio, Gillard was brought up on the strong Jazz scene in Columbus Ohio. She studied saxophone with Gene Walker, Pete Mills and Michael Cox and got her start playing in big bands like Vaughn Wiester's Famous Jazz Orchestra and Todd Stoll's Jazz 2 Go as well as Gene Walkers 'Generations' and 'Cotton Club' bands. There were many great Jazz musician and jam sessions in Columbus that helped to shape Gillard and greatly inspired her.
Carole is a London-born jazz pianist, saxophonist and composer who has been living in Ireland since 1986.
Her current project, the Carole Nelson Trio, with Carole on piano, bassist Cormac O'Brien and drummer Dominic Mullen, began at the 2015 Dublin Trio Trio Trio Piano Festival. The Trio’s first album, One Day in Winter was released November 2017 .
The album, all original compositions from Carole, follows the course of a winter’s day, inspired by the South County Carlow landscape between the River Barrow and the Blackstairs Mountains, where she currently lives.
'A finely-wrought meditation that tapped into the spacious European piano trio tradition of Tord Gustavsen and Marcin Wasilewski' Cormac Larkin, Irish Times.
Arboreal is the trio's second album, released February 2020 and features another collection of outstanding compositions. 'One of the most original jazz composers in Ireland' Irish Times 'a rare and exceptional talent' Irish TimesCarole formed Zrazy with vocalist Maria Walsh in 1991. Their debut CD Give It All Up won the 1992 Hot Press/Music Critics Best New Band Award. Carole has since recorded five further albums of critically-acclaimed and award-winning music with Zrazy. Their 1998 album Private Wars won an American GLAMA award (Gay and Lesbian American Music Award) for Best Jazz. Zrazy performed this year at the Galway Jazz Festival, the Cork Jazz Festival and have toured extensively in North America and Europe.
"glorious free-spirited jazz” – The Irish Times
Carole has arranged original music for the Dublin choir Gloria. Her composition Beloved and other arrangements are now performed by choirs worldwide.Carole's theatre work includes composition for The Trojan Women at the Peacock and Emma Donoghues's Ladies and Gentlemen at the Project.
Described by JOLT as “redefining the idiom”, Bianca Gannon is an Irish interdisciplinary art music composer and improvisor. Weaving together her extensive training in composition, improvised music, piano and Indonesian percussion, her works are often immersive, multi-sensory, and investigative with social commentary. Passionately exploring parallels between seemingly disparate concepts, Bianca is inspired by that which connects us.
Bianca’s free improvisations and instant-compositions traverse time, form and genre. The other-worldly extended harmonies and tunings of solo simultaneous piano + gamelan + singing bowls create an ethereal lyricism layered with meditative pulsating difference tones. Unique timbres, ritualistic rhythms, jazz and post-classical references resonate in an expansive timelessness. Bianca has toured this solo work across Australia, Europe and North America and has been selected by Improvised Music Company as a 30/30 Artist - one of Ireland’s outstanding Improvisors. JOLT have described her as "one of Australia's rising jazz stars" and Australianjazz.net as “breaking barriers”.
Pythia Prize Winner (Composition) and 2020 Artist in Residence with the City of Greater Dandenong, Bianca's work has been presented internationally by leading ensembles including loadbang, Ensemble Offspring, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the Australian Art Orchestra, and the Irish National Concert Hall Gamelan with Elizabeth Hilliard. Bianca recently performed her Melbourne Symphony Orchestra commission ‘Utter Stutter Flutter’ for piano, orchestra, video, electronics and West Javanese angklung, at the Myer Music Bowl. With an audience of ten thousand, The Age described it as “soul-stirring” and the ABC as “extraordinary...a really special work”.
The premiere of her work 'Our House Is On Fire' by Rubiks Collective was awarded the 2021 Percy Grainger Award. ClassikON hailed it as “living up to the evenings luminary thread... A beautifully crafted and relevant work... its relevance possesses a need for dissemination into the canon of Australian chamber music."
Bianca has lived in and studied music intensively across the Indonesian archipelago including as a recipient the Indonesian Arts and Culture Scholarship, as well as collaborating with internationally acclaimed Indonesian artists and with custodians of endangered Indonesian food-centric instruments on ‘The Sound of Shadows’ series.