Our amazing team
NIGEL IRELAND ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/VIOLIN
Nigel began to learn the violin at age 7 in 1973 at his school in North Belfast through the BELB peripatetic service, culminating in his appointment as leader of the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra in 1985. His studies continued at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) Manchester under Malcolm Layfield and Alex Robertson and he became leader of the RNCM Symphony Orchestra in 1989. From 1990 to 1992 he was a member of Northern Chamber Orchestra, Manchester and also played with Manchester Camerata and Scottish Opera before becoming a member of the 2nd Violin section of the Ulster Orchestra in 1998.
He taught violin in various school’s throughout Northern Ireland and the City of Belfast School of Music (CBSM) from 1990-2005. Since joining UO along with Principal Bass Gareth Hopkins, he has been at the forefront of the Orchestra’s education and outreach program and has developed and performed many projects and workshops including the award winning Up The Tempo project with the Ulster Bank.
Nigel formed the Ireland String Quartet in 1992 which has performed at countless events throughout the UK and Ireland over the past 24 years and was the quartet in residence at Queen’s University for a project for young composers run by London based Sound Inventors led by local composer Deidre Gribbin.
Other projects with composer Brian Irvine MBE and the Ulster Orchestra’s Education Department included the ‘Inspire Mark’ award winning project the ‘Pied Piper’, ‘Recycle and Renew’ with the Patton Group; and a project involving four primary schools; ‘Rain Falling Up’.
GARETH HOPKINS PROJECT MANAGER/BASS
Cardiff born Gareth joined the Ulster Orchestra double bass section more than forty years ago.
His first love was the Classical Guitar and was the first winner of BBC Wales Guitar Competition.
He has been actively involved with many educational projects. Initially with Big Bad Bass, a double bass trio, aimed at nursery and Key stage 1 schools.
For the last 18 years, Gareth has partnered Nigel introducing the string section of the Ulster Orchestra to countless schools in a fun-filled and informative way with projects such as “Now That’s What We Call Music 1800!!”, “Sticks Strings and Musical Things” , and the Award winning “ Up the Tempo” .
JONATHAN SIMMANCE ASSOCIATE COMPOSER/VIOLA
Jonathan began his musical education learning piano with his father, before taking up the viola at the age of 9. He studied jointly at the University of Manchester and at the Royal Northern College of Music before beginning a successful and varied freelance career in the North West of England.
In 2003 Jonathan joined the viola section of the Ulster Orchestra. As well as his role as an orchestral viola player, he is an active chamber musician with a variety of ensembles, as well as an instrumental, orchestral and composition tutor in a number of Belfast schools. He also works extensively as a composer and arranger with recent commissions for ensembles ranging from the Ulster Orchestra and the Choir of St. Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, to the Ireland String Quartet and a large number of bespoke education projects.
ANDREW LAVERY DRUMMER/PERCUSSIONIST
Andrew has been playing drums since the age of eleven and nowadays (aged 43), enjoys a varied career as a freelance drummer/percussionist, combining a busy performance/recording schedule (with a vast range of band & artists including Brian Irvine & the Ulster Orchestra) as well as teaching.
Andrew draws on 25 years of professional experience as a freelance musician (drums & percussion) to conceive, focus & deliver the material used at his private teaching studio “Beats Drum Studio” based in Lisburn.
Andrew is currently an Associate lecturer in Music Performance at the South Eastern Regional College where he is the course coordinator for the Level 2 Music Performance program.
As part of this work Andrew has also been involved in devising and delivering music workshops with participants from a wide range of backgrounds (primary & secondary schools, students with mental & physical disabilities & adults).