Sean Woods was 30 when he decided to call time on his work in Berlin as a builder but did not realise that his life had already taken a different path seven years earlier. What happened next changed Sean’s life and the youngster who had no time for school or for learning disappeared.
“I can remember it as if it were yesterday. It was 1987 and I was at home watching the television when a programme called ‘My Derry’ came on. It was hosted by Gerry Anderson and in it he was interviewing a classical guitarist from the Top of the Hill called Brian O’ Doherty. I listened to Brian playing the guitar and I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard.”
Sean bought his first ever classical guitar from a guitar shop in Strabane for £32. His fervour for the classical guitar went from strength to strength and when he returned home from Berlin in the mid 1990s his wife suggested he try to build a career out of his musical talent.
Sean applied to study musical performance at Leeds College Of Music and was called for interview. In 1998, at the age of 32, he then went on to study at Bretton Hall, University Of Leeds, where he achieved a BA (Honours) degree specialising in the classical guitar and under the direction of renowned guitarist Luigi Palombo. Sean also holds a Master Of Music degree in performance studies (MMus) 2006 from The University Of Ulster studying with Carlos Bonnell.
Since graduating Sean has worked for the Derry Classical Music Society, North West Regional College, The University Of Ulster and The Donegal Vocational Education Committee. He has passed on his love of music to hundreds of students from all over the world. He has also given many performances in the UK and Europe both as a soloist and an ensemble player. He has performed in duets and trios with Carlos Bonell, Margarita Escarpa and alongside the internationally acclaimed flautist Sarah Murphy. Many of these include broadcasts on BBC radio for the BBC Music Live Series and live broadcasts on Austrian tv.
However Sean’s insatiable passion to bring the guitar to an even wider audience in Derry/Londonderry led him to the creation of the City Of Derry Guitar Festival in 2002. Since the first festival was held at The University Of Ulster At Magee campus eleven years ago, Sean, as founder and artistic director, has managed to bring some of the biggest names from the classical guitar world to Derry.
This year’s City of Derry Guitar Festival runs from August 22nd to 25th. It’s a festival for everyone. From complete beginner to experts. The festival caters for all guitarists from complete beginners to advanced players and brings a range of eclectic styles. The artists include acoustic guitar maestro Tony Mc Manus, flamenco guitarist John Walsh, Benyounes Quartet, Sean Woods and Sarah Murphy (classical guitar and flute), and classical guitarists Pat Coldrick and Tatyana Ryzhkova. The festival also has the cream of the crop in local talent including course facilitators Eoin O’ Callaghan AKA Best Boy Grip (song writing course), Ted Lynch (Thin Lizzy Riff Library) and Ronan Kearney (beginners guitar).
Sean also owns his own successful recording studio Birchwoods Recording Studio in Ardmore. He said that his hopes for the future are to expand his work through the recording studio and to continue to improve the City Of Derry Guitar Festival.
“Music is my life – I don’t really know or want to do anything else.
I will always love playing
the classical guitar and
I suppose that’s why I am so passionate about the festival. The festival as with my playing and teaching are a great source of gratification to me as it is what people get and take from it that fuels my passion. I suppose that is why I will always strive to make the festival the best it can be for students and audiences alike
,” said Sean smiling.