Our Creator Spotlight this month is on Darren Day, a pianist, teacher and composer who lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Darren has been teaching piano for 27 years, is an examiner for Trinity and has been involved in a number of musical projects, from Caberet and Opera to Classical, Swing and Pop.
Read more about Darren’s life, musical career, compositions and arrangements below.
Darren, thank you for being under the spotlight this month. Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your musical career to date?
I am from Belfast, Northern Ireland and am married to Tony, with two brilliant step kids and two dogs! I was fortunate to grow up at a time when our primary school had a full-time music teacher, and she introduced me to an exciting world of Classical music. I had lessons for a year aged 10, then was self taught until the age of 15. I then sat under the wonderful tutelage of my primary music teacher, Hilda Dixon, for a couple of years. I had regular oboe lessons and also weekly theory lessons from a dear uncle who helped to shape a lot of my musical growth.
After some performance opportunities at high school with some great musical friends, I went on to study music at the University of Ulster, and then studied for my LTCL. I began teaching privately, in schools and music centres, whilst working as a freelance musician. I also worked in various churches developing their music, and have worked as an Arranger, Music Director, Composer, Accompanist and Soloist whilst continuing a busy teaching schedule. In 2019, I began examining for Trinity College.
Who or what inspired you to start composing?
The piano was a great influence! The fact that I had several years without a teacher meant that I noodled, improvised and played by ear a lot. The piano had this power to draw me in, and seeing all of those keys was an invitation, as a young learner, to play, create and put into practice anything I had picked up from other musicians. I also enjoyed singing, and used to make up silly songs in my head as I went about my errands.
My interest in composing developed in the background throughout school and university, until I was given opportunities to write for a local choir and orchestra. Things grew from there, and a couple of years ago I really felt the musical urge to write interesting and educational pieces for the piano.
I recently purchased, and have been exploring, your fantastic new ‘Countdown to Christmas‘ book. I can’t wait to start teaching some of your festive arrangements and pieces to my own pupils in the run up to Christmas! Can you tell us a bit more about this book?
I began working on this last year and thought the idea of 25 pieces in the build up to Christmas was a great idea – until I started to arrange, write and create backing tracks (and wondered if I was sane and would get it finished!). However, I’m really pleased with the result.
Countdown to Christmas has 25 carols and songs, including 4 original solos for piano. They have been arranged for Elementary to Early Intermediate Level (Grades 1 to 3) with each piece including lyrics and free access to fun backing tracks.
I like the idea of students enjoying the arrangements as stand alone solos, but wanted to give options to encourage other skills such as singing along whilst you play or accompanying friends and family. The backing tracks really help to develop important musical skills and are great fun!
I also included a playlist of all the tracks at a slower tempo to help when still learning the pieces.
Do you have a particular work that you are most proud of?
I tend to feel immensely proud every time I complete a project or piece. Looking back, I really enjoyed my days in New Irish Arts when I composed pieces for orchestra and choir, and got to conduct them at their concerts. I also particularly love my recent Christmas solo for advanced pianists, ‘Fantasia for Piano‘ and my advanced arrangement of ‘Danny Boy‘ (see above for links to these pieces).
Watch this space though, as I now write and arrange with an amazing vocal duo, called ‘Bello Duo’, who are set for great things. We are coming up with some exciting new pieces!
How would you describe your compositional style?
Fairly broad in terms of embracing several genres, but always lyrical and tonal.
Do you have any nuggets of advice for budding composers?
Keep learning and listening, and keep your musical ideas! Sometimes, when you return to ideas later, even months down the line, you have a new perspective to work with and can look at things with a fresh pair of eyes.
Finally, My Music Resource was launched in October 2020, and this weekend we are celebrating the site’s 1st birthday! What has been your experience of selling your work through mymusicresource.com?
I have had a great experience and felt very encouraged by joining and selling my music through My Music Resource. It is very well organised, and Ruth is amazing at giving help and support when needed. I would certainly recommend My Music Resource to other Creators, and with all products automatically coming with a Studio Licence, it is perfect for teachers who are looking for music and material.