McGinley students are the stars of new Ken Wardrop documentary

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Famed Derry piano teacher, Ray McGinley, and two of her star pupils, feature prominently in critically acclaimed Irish documentary maker Ken Wardrop’s new film, ‘The Piano Lesson’, which allows viewers a unique glimpse into the lives of young novices.

Rosa O’Reilly, aged 10, and Sally Mae Comey, aged 12, are among the stars of the film, which received a standing ovation when it premiered at the Dublin International Film Festival last month.

They, and Ray, were the only northern students and tutor selected to appear in the fly-on-the-wall documentary, the latest work from the man who brought us the award-winning ‘His and Hers’ (2009) and ‘Mom and Me’ (2015).

Ray, the founder of the McGinley School of Music on the Northland Road and mother of the internationally renowned, Ruth McGinley, said being involved was a great experience.

“I got a phone call to say that Ken Wardrop was making a film about piano teachers. So he talked to me for a while about what happens at a lesson, I told a few stories and different things, and he rang a couple of weeks later and said he liked what he had heard,” she explained.

“They came up and talked to me for about two hours and decided they wanted to feature us in the film and they chose Rosa and Sally Mae to take part.

“It was lovely that they had heard of the school and they knew that people come from far and wide to study piano here and that that reputation’s there.

“It’s a great honour, really, for Derry. I was just so pleased.”

The Buncrana-native said the final product, which she watched in the Irish Film Institute with other participants last month, provides a sneak peak into the inner sanctums of music rooms and schools around Ireland.

“It’s a very, very funny film and a great insight into the piano teacher’s life and into the life of the students.

“It was so true to life, every situation, every different type of teacher, for me, from a teacher’s point of view, I’ve experienced them all, and you see the situations.”

Ray, of course, has guided generations of young pianists in the North West since moving to the Northland Road nearly 40 years ago.

She suggested the foundations for the school’s success were originally laid by her piano-loving grandmother.

“My grandmother was a great pianist, she was invalided in bed, but she had me playing the piano when I was four years of age. She was the one that got me started and it just continued,” she said.