What Are You Like?

John Kelly


December / January 2012

John Kelly, CEO of the Irish Chamber Orchestra

John Kelly grew up on the grounds of Clongowes Wood College, near Dublin, where his father, composer T.C.Kelly was the head of the music department. He was one of six boys, all of whom played music. He started his performing career at the age of nine, appearing with his family on national television. John was a member of the first Irish Youth Orchestra, and won scholarships to study violin/viola at the Royal College of Music in London and the Nordwestdeutsche Musik-Akademie in Detmold, Germany, where he studied with the legendary Tibor Varga. He has performed throughout Europe and the USA in many festivals and concert halls.

John now works as the CEO of the Irish Chamber Orchestra. He took over the ICO in 1993 and has developed it into one of Ireland’s leading cultural ambassadors. The orchestra has forged relationships with world-renowned artists including Leon Fleisher, Jorg Widman, Pekka Kuusisto, Nigel Kennedy and Alison Balsom. It encourages and showcases young artists, and regularly commissions new works. With a strong commitment to bringing live performance to underserved areas, the orchestra is equally at home playing in a school in West Clare, or in Lincoln Center.

In addition to upholding the highest standards in artistic programming and performance, the ICO has established a community outreach program in Limerick’s disadvantaged schools that is changing the lives of students and teachers alike by helping children develop musical skills, with an added emphasis on transferable skills that they can use in other areas of the curriculum and in their lives as they grow. These include listening and responding, concentration and memory, communication and group cooperation, respect, and a strong sense of community. The program is now being expanded in partnership with schools in the United States and Singapore.

John says, “I would describe myself as a visionary and a motivator of people. I think of my work as helping to facilitate talent, including musicians, conductors, guest artists, composers, teachers and children. I take great pride (as does the whole ICO) in bringing some of the greatest masterworks ever composed to audiences throughout Ireland and around the world, and acting as cultural ambassadors for Ireland wherever we go.” The ICO recently concluded an eight-concert U.S. tour, which took them from the East Coast to the Rocky Mountains.

Your perfect day?
Sharing food with family and friends

Best opening line in a book or piece of music?
The first four notes in Beethoven’s 5th Symphony

Favorite composer?
Bach

Prized possession?
Violin/iPad

Your hero in real life?
George Muller, John G. Lake

Most interesting stranger that you met?
Gerry Adams

What is your greatest passion?
My greatest passion is the Irish Chamber Orchestra. First, developing it as a global brand so that as many people as possible can enjoy the amazing musical talent of this world-class ensemble. Second, expanding our work with children from the disadvantaged areas of Limerick with a view to establishing music as a compulsory subject in every primary school in the country

What is your driving force?
Knowing that God loves me

Favorite country you have visited?
Italy

Best advice given or received?
Love is the greatest law in life. To love is to discover life

Favorite instrument to play?
Violin

Favorite instrument to listen to?
Cello

Favorite sound?
Birds singing

First album you ever bought?
Mozart string quintets

Last album you bought?
Paul Simon, Graceland

What kind of music/artist would your friends be most surprised to know you listen to?
Charlie Parker

If you could have a drink with anyone (alive or dead) who would it be?
Jesus Christ

If you could live in any time period?
Today

Proudest moment?
Holding my daughter minutes after she was born.   Attending concert of the kids from the ICO’s Sing Out With Strings program for schools in Limerick’s underprivileged neighborhoods

Favorite venue/space to play in?
Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center

Your pet aversion?
People throwing rubbish on the street

What’s on your bedside table?
Bible

Hidden talent?
Whistling

Learn more about the ICO at www.irishchamberorchestra.com

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