SYNC Music Promise

SYNC Music Promise

The Nerve Centre’s SYNC ‘Music Promise in the Community’ initiative offered free access to music creation, collaboration, performance, production and mentoring opportunities to every young person in Derry~Londonderry throughout 2013. Since March 2013, it has delivered over 30 weeks of musical, creative and performance development sessions to the participants. This has lead to the creation, recording and distribution of their own songs on local and national radio. The young people have also been performing within their communities as an aid to building confidence and then graduating from community stages to larger club venues and festivals. Based on the success of the project, the Nerve Centre will continue to deliver the SYNC programme in 2014 to hundreds of young people.  

Here’s a flavour of what the students got up to during 2013.

Musician in Residence

Neil Cowley, UK City of Culture Musician in Residence at the Nerve Centre and award-winning pianist hosted a number of SYNC workshops with young people all across the city. 

'What strikes me is that there’s a real hunger from these kids to be involved in music. When you walk in the room it might appear like chaos but they’re really engaged, there’s something exciting going on,' he said.

'Without conceit, I think it’s important that someone like me can give a bit of direction, and help out all the other Nerve Centre tutors, by adding a bit of piano stardust here and there, something to remember the evening by.'

Music City!

In June the city was transformed into one big stage with Music City, a dawn-to-dawn festival celebrating music and performance. The SYNC students joined the 24hr party with a number of showcase performances on the main stage, wowing crowds with their talent and exciting collaborations.  

Music Hothouse

Over one hundred young people, aged from 11-18, took part in the free five-day scheme in July and August. During the workshops, the teens formed bands within their classes and with the guidance of numerous mentors including singer/songwriter, Paddy Nash and Japanese Popstar Gary Curran, gained a vital foundation in singing, songwriting and playing techniques.

Those skills were then put to the test as the young people braved renowned stages at Glasgowbury and the Nerve Centre for a night they’ll never forget.

'It was a great project to run through the summer as it kept me busy and I met amazing new people' said one budding performer while another simply added; 'Amazing craic! Made lots of new friends and enjoyed every second making music and just doing what I love to do!'

Steve Vai

In his only appearance of this kind in Northern Ireland, American guitar legend Steve Vai hosted an intimate workshop at the Nerve Centre in August. For a limited audience of SYNC Music Promise students, the solo six-string master delivered an evening of demonstration and discussion, as well as giving insight into his own extraordinary playing techniques. 

Speaking about the Music Promise programme, Vai said 'I think what you're doing here is vital and beautiful. Music is a birthright.'


Following on from the triumph of Steve Vai's workshop, Nerve Centre together with Rock/Fest presented a full day dedicated to the pursuit of rock virtuosity. Alongside a quirky, informative clinic with iconic bass virtuoso Stu Hamm, students attended fully-fledged masterclasses in all the core components of rock: guitar, vocals and drums, culminating in a jam session to finish the day.

Kevin Godley Q&A Session

Kevin Godley of Godley & Creme and 10cc was guest at a Q&A session, as part of the Music Promise programme in an educational, informational and promotional talk about the WHOLEWORLDBAND project. The session which was hosted by Professor Paul Moore (Dean of Faculty of Arts, UU) offered students the chance to jam live with musicians around the world using the WHOLEWORLDBAND app. SYNC young musician Cahir McLaughlin joined rock luminaries including Ronnie Wood, Stuart Copeland, Gemma Hayes and Soak to be contributing artists on the Whole World Band Project. 

Music Promise Playtrail Showcase

At the end of December, young SYNC rock bands, singers, electronic musicians, ensembles and singer songwriters strutted their collective stuff on the most unique stage in the city – the Playtrail Auditorium, to showcase the results of a remarkable year-long musical journey. Many of the city's finest young musicians have now taken their first steps towards achieving their dreams.

Finally, a number of the SYNC participants have formed bands or solo acts outside of the programme and are performing on a regular basis at events such as One Big Day, CultureTech, the Foyleside Sessions, Christmas Bandstand, Gigs in the Hood and YMCA youth music festival.


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