The Inside Story: Jane O’Leary

Our next “Inside Story” feature is long-time PARMA artist, Jane O’Leary, a Connecticut native and resident of Ireland since 1972, a founding member of Aosdána, Ireland’s state-sponsored academy of creative artists, and artistic director and pianist of Concorde ensemble. Enjoy!


Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up?

I remember when Van Cliburn won the Tchaikovsky Competition – I became a big fan of his!  But probably my favorite artist was my mother – she had studied art, and some of her wonderful paintings hung on our walls.  Most of these were done long before she was married.  I always loved them.  It was a different way of ‘seeing.’  Later, she carved songbirds out of balsa wood, painted them, and mounted them on driftwood – they were so real they nearly sang!  But all this was done quietly and ‘out of the way’.  Mothers weren’t encouraged to do anything outside the home in those days.

When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist/composer/creator?

When I was four, I had a desperate wish to learn to play the piano, which I did. Of course, I had no idea where this would lead.  At the age of 19 I had my first composition class and felt that this was the most exciting thing, I’d ever tried!  I don’t think I ever said ‘this is what I’m going to be’ but I just kept following a path, with those two ways of making music enticing me to keep going.  Playing piano and writing music have always been intertwined for me.


What was your most unusual performance or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?

Over the years, I’ve performed with my new music ensemble Concorde in many amazing European cities.  Several times in beautiful Venice.  Once in a particularly unusual venue – the Prisons of the Doges Palace.  The Palazzo delle Prigioni is occasionally used for musical performances, with an atmospheric performance space.  There was a lovely champagne reception, but the lights flickered and disappeared for a few minutes during the concert – somehow we managed to keep going without losing a beat.  A few years later, the organizer said to me: ‘We never told you the story about the piano you were playing – it was a gift to the city of Venice.  The original owner was: Adolf Hitler!’


If you weren’t a composer/performer, what would you be?

I always enjoyed drawing, and at one stage asked myself – will it be music or art? In my confused (very young) mind I analyzed the situation thus: if I do art, I’ll have to have a lot of ‘stuff’ in my life – paints, paper, a place to store all those creations.  But if I do music, I can carry it all around in my head.  That seemed a much better option.  I felt I could go anywhere with music and be completely free!  (So why do I now have a house full of musical ‘stuff’?!)


Jane O’Leary’s THE PASSING SOUND OF FOREVER will be released on Navona Records Friday, February 13th. You can pre-order the albums on Amazon, iTunes, and Arkiv Music.  Until then, here’s a promo video: 

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