Meilana recently taught on the faculty of the Sligo Jazz Workshop, and annual week-long residential festival hosting over 120 students and over 20 teachers. She taught alongside saxophonists Tony Kofi, Cathal Roche and Micheal Murray and performed nightly in the Hawkswell Theatre and at Hargadon's pub with Phil Robson, Toni Kofi, Liane Carroll, Sara Colman and many more.
The RBG Trio's debut album will be released 20/9 which features several compositions penned by Meilana, Dave Redmond and Kevin Brady. They will do a tour of Northern Ireland and some other shows around Ireland and greater UK (more TBA). The album was made possible by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland's General Arts Award, as well as the tour which is organised by Moving on Music.
Starting in September '23, Meilana will be a part of an initiative to bring together a community of Women/Trans/Non-Binary Jazz musicians founded by Moving on Music. This community will share information, learn about harmony/theory/improvisation/stagecraft and more, while providing a supportive and positive environment for artistic growth.
Meilana recently performed at the Derry Jazz Festival with Gene Calderazzo, Joseph Leighton and Neil O'loclainn as well as hosting special guests the Joel Frahm Trio at Bennigans along with John Leighton, and also performed with the john Street Quintet at the Playhouse, and a live radio vocal performance on BBC Radio Foyle with John Leighton
Meilana was awarded one of the Ban Bam commissions for female jazz composers in NI/IE. She will debut her piece in January among several related performances. (Supported by Moving On Music, Improvised Music Company, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Arts Council Ireland)
The RBG Trio performed at the JPN (Jazz Promotion Network) Conference showcase in Belfast and received highly favourable reviews in Jazzwise Magazine and All about Jazz
In 2022, Meilana was selected as one of Improvised Music Company's 30/30 Artists, celebrating 30 years of the organisation. Through this selection, the RBG Trio was able to record at Camden Studios in Dublin and release their single 'Neither Here nor There' (available on Bandcamp).
Some things People often get mixed up
Not technically American, just raised in USA
Meilana Gillard is pronounced "Muh - LAY - Nuh Gill-urd"
Moved to the USA at age 5.
Got started on the Columbus, Ohio music scene.
Biography (short version)
Meilana Gillard - Saxophonist, Vocalist, Composer
Meilana McLean Gillard is a Tenor-Saxophonist, Vocalist, and Composer residing in Derry, Northern Ireland. She is praised by critics for her passionate and fiery story-telling improvisations and her robust tone which has been said to recall modern masters Joe Lovano and Branford Marsalis as well as legacy-masters such as Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, and Dexter Gordon. She has also been praised for her composition and arranging skills that range from traditional to completely experimental.
Gillard currently has two albums out as a leader. 'Day One' was released in 2009 on Greg Osby's label 'Inner Circle Music' and her trio album 'Dream Within a Dream' ('Lyte Records) was released in 2017 and made the top ten list of several critics that year.
In 2019 she formed the collective RBG Trio with two of Ireland's top-call artists Dave Redmond and Kevin Brady. In 2019 they performed at EuroJazz Fesival in Mexico City and Brilliant Corners festival in 2021& 2022 and are will release their debut album on 20 September, 2023. She started her own label ‘Auragami Records’ and has released the Michael Barkley Quartet’s debut ‘Portals’ in April 2023 and will release ‘RBG Trio’ as well.
Meilana (born in London, raised in Ohio) relocated from the US to Northern Ireland in 2012 and since then has worked with artists like Liane Carroll, Tom Harrison, Quentin Collins and performed at festivals such as Love Supreme, London Jazz Festival, Cork Jazz Festival, Sligo Jazz Festival, Brilliant Corners Festival and Derry Jazz Festival.
Meilana studied Jazz at The New School University in NYC where she resided for about 8 years. She was a 5 year member of Charli Persip's Big Band 'Supersound' and his Quintet. She composed the title track to his 2007 album 'Intrinsic Evolution'. She performed at Birdland, Jazz Standard, Blue Note, Minton's Playhouse and Dizzy's Club. She also performed at several festivals in the US and Europe at that time. She also had substitute roles in The Diva Jazz Orchestra and Christian McBride Big Band.
Raised in Ohio, Gillard was brought up on the strong Jazz scene in Columbus Ohio. She studied saxophone with Gene Walker, Pete Mills and Michael Cox and got her start playing in big bands like Vaughn Wiester's Famous Jazz Orchestra and Todd Stoll's Jazz 2 Go as well as Gene Walkers 'Generations' and 'Cotton Club' bands, and Roger Hines and Stan Smith's 'Madrugada'. There were many great Jazz musician and jam sessions in Columbus that helped to shape Gillard and greatly inspired her.
Gillard is the leader and lead vocalist of Derry-based 6 piece experimental Soul & R&B group The Funkitects' which features regular Jazz collaborators John Leighton, Joseph Leighton, Neil Burns, Rohan Armstrong and Andrew McCoubrey. She is the ensemble's primary songwriter and producer.
Meilana performs regularly as a Jazz/Soul/R&B vocalist. Recently, she had the honour of having the Joel Frahm Trio perform with her at the Derry Jazz Festival while she performed an evening of her favourite standards to a sold-out room. Her self-produced single ‘Christmas Glow’ has gotten steady holiday radio play around UK and Ireland.
Meilana is also a sideman in Comrade Hat (Neil Burns) projects as well as Derry-based all-star group the ‘John Street Quintet’ (also feat: Michael Barkley, John Leighton, Rohan Armstrong and James Anderson) where she performs as a vocalist and saxophonist.
Gillard has been a 3-time faculty member of the Sligo Jazz Workshop, 2-time guest artist for the Newpark Big Band Workshop and currently teaches saxophone, voice, theory/improv, and composition at her private studio.
She is currently a member of Live Music Now, and organisation that brings music into Care Homes and SEND schools alongside longtime collaborator John Leighton forming the duo ‘Joyology’. This is something she is very passionate about and hopes to continue to develop.
Some have said:
“Gillard’s gutsy full-toned tenor saxophone lines sweeping majestically like a West Coast surfer…” - Nigel Slee, JAZZWISE
“Gillard's tough tenor confident and full of ideas” - Stephen Graham, MARLBANK.NET
"… Gillard is a gutsy, inventive player with a forceful melodic sense and an open, old-school tenor sound." – Cormac Larkin, IRISH TIMES
“A tenor player who marries old school, blues-based melodicism with a more modern edge—somewhere between Coleman Hawkins and David Murray—“ - Ian Patterson, ALL ABOUT JAZZ