School of Music History

MacCafferty School of Music History

The MacCafferty School of Music was started by the late James MacCafferty in the 1950s. At this time James was a very busy musician and his expertise was much in demand with choirs and schools. It was during this period that he formed The Little Gaelic Singers who were famous for their tours throughout America from the mid fifties tom the early sixties. They also toured throughout Ireland and Britain. Working with young people was natural to James and he quickly became well established as a piano teacher and a singing teacher.

In the fifties there were not many private singing teachers in Derry so the teaching aspect of his career became very busy. Initially he took his pupils at his home in 25 Francis Street but as the numbers increased he had to seek larger premises. Many adults in the town will remember going to singing classes in The Studios in Gt. James Street, St Columb’s Hall and the Convent in Artillery Street. The young pupils flocked around him at the piano and nothing was a bother to him.

James had piano pupils as well as singing pupils and many aspiring musicians took their Trinity College London piano examinations under his guidance. He was also a reference source for other music pupils who needed some encouragement and or guidance in the studies. ress through their grade examinations.

During this time, the fifties, sixties and seventies, singing was a very popular past-time with adults and James was no less busy teaching adults than he was with children. There was hardly a singer in Derry at the time who did not spend some time in the music room in Francis Street getting the benefit of his advice and guidance. There were few of them who did not have, at the very least, a brief moment of glory at a local fees as a result of his efforts. One of his many talents was being able to match a singer to a song and so show the singer to best advantage.

During this time James’s daughter Una qualified as a teacher and she gradually became involved in assisting her father in his teaching and on occasion deputizing for him. This involvement developed quite naturally into a partnership. Una saw that some of the pupils were interested in doing singing examinations as well as rehearsing for Feiseanna and she undertook this aspect of the school. When the time came for Una to take the reins it was a smooth continuation that resulted.

Una has directed the school since he father’s demise in 1995. Like him she has had to take the school to different premises, in what was The Foyle Arts Centre, now the music department of the University of Ulster, and then to the Millennium Forum where the young pupils come every Tuesday. Like her father before her Una is very focused on the singing being an enjoyable experience for the children and so the family tradition that started all those years ago continues into the future.