Dermot OReilly, who died suddenly in February 2007, was indisputably one of the most influential and popular musicians in Newfoundland and Labrador. To honour his memory family, friends and music lovers have established the Dermot OReilly Legacy Award, which will be awarded for the first time in 2011.
The award is designed to encourage and promote traditional Newfoundland and Labrador music and will be given annually to a part-time or full-time student that can demonstrate leadership and creativity in support of traditional music, storytelling or dance.
This is a special award at Memorial as it is focused on rewarding a student who is contributing to the cultural fabric of our province regardless of academic discipline, said Dr. Penny Blackwood of the Office of Alumni Affairs and Development, who worked closely with businessman Herb Davis and the OReilly family to establish the criteria and terms of reference for the award.
Mr. OReillys eldest daughter, Deirdre, said that she, her mother Ann and her sisters Suzanne and Grainne, felt that establishing the legacy award is the ideal way to carry on her fathers legacy in encouraging and supporting the promotion of traditional music, dance and storytelling among the younger generation.
Dads life was music, and he delighted in sharing music with others. From his days with Ryans Fancy bringing the music of Ireland and Newfoundland to the rest of North America to his own television specials highlighting the rich cultural heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador to his recording work with Newfoundland and Labrador musicians, Dads enthusiasm and genuine interest in learning were keenly apparent. He was also a mentor to many aspiring young musicians. I have heard many stories of his gentle encouragement from the young people whose careers he helped shape, as well as from people close to some young musicians who remarked on the positive influence he had.
A fundraiser held in September 2008 at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. Johns kickstarted the awards endowment fund and featured a host of musicians who have been influenced by Mr. OReillys life and work.
Dr. Conleth OMaonaigh, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Memorials Faculty of Medicine, was a close friend of Mr. OReilly and worked with musician Hugh Scott to organize the 2008 fundraiser.
There is a generation ahead and a generation behind, both of which have been positively influenced by Dermot OReilly. His memory endures in the minds of those that knew him and through this bursary his contribution to the province should be kept fresh in those who may never have met him but are also captivated by the folk tradition in this province, be it music or song, said Dr. OMaonaigh. The best educators are not always found in the furrow of academia. This educator ploughed his own furrow and planted many seeds that went on to bloom fruitfully. We are in the midst of enjoying this harvest. Long may it continue.
The deadline for applications is Feb. 1, 2011. Students interested in applying for the Dermot OReilly Legacy Award should contact the Scholarships and Awards Office at (709) 864-3956 or e-mail email@example.com to receive an application form and the complete terms of reference.