John O'Conor

Distinguished Artist-In-Residence; Chair, Keyboard Division; Associate Professor, Keyboard/Piano


Faculty Member since 2010

"With his depth of artistry, vivid imagination, insight and musical passion, John O'Conor has the unique ability as a teacher to be fully focused on the student and the music in a way that is deeply challenging yet completely supportive and positive," Professor of Piano Elizabeth Temple.

Applied Area(s)

Piano, Classical


B.M., University College, Dublin; Diploma in Teaching, Diploma in Accompanying, Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music, London (LRAM); Licentiate of the Royal School of Music (LRSM) in teaching and Associate of the Royal College of Music, London (ARCM) in performing

Professional Highlights

  • For his services to music he has been awarded Honorary Doctorates by the National University of Ireland, by Trinity College Dublin and by Shenandoah University, the title "Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" by the French Government and the "Ehrenkreuz fr Wissenschaft und Kunst" by the Austrian Government.
  • John O'Conor will continue to be Professor of Piano at the RIAM but has also taken on a new position as Distinguished Artist and Professor of Piano at Shenandoah Conservatory of Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia.
  • In August 2010, John O'Conor retired as Director of the Royal Irish Academy of Music after 16 years at the helm during which time he introduced Masters and Doctoral degrees in performance, oversaw a major refurbishment of the building itself, acquired many new instruments for the teaching rooms (including Steinway Grand Pianos) and persuaded the most prominent Irish musical personalities to join the teaching faculties of the Academy. Many students have had great successes in International Music Competitions and have gone on to forge major performing careers.
  • Mr. O'Conor is regarded as one of the most important piano teachers in the world today. His students have won many international prizes and he is in great demand for masterclasses and as a juror at the most prestigious International Piano Competitions worldwide.
  • Mr. O'Conor's early studies began in his native Dublin. He spent five years in Vienna studying with the renowned pedagogue Dieter Weber, winning 1st Prize at the International Beethoven Piano Competition in Vienna in 1973, and made a special study of Beethoven with the legendary German pianist Wilhelm Kempff.
  • In 2007 and 2008 he recorded the complete Piano Concertos of Beethoven with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andreas Delfs and these have been greeted with great acclaim.
  • John O'Conor first gained widespread attention in the USA in 1986 with the release of the initial volume of the complete Beethoven Sonata cycle on the Telarc label which was issued as a box set in 1994. CD Review described Mr. O'Conor's performances as "piano recording of the highest calibre and Beethoven playing at its best". Mr. O'Conor has made more than 20 recordings for Telarc, including the complete Beethoven Bagatelles (which was cited by the New York Times as the best recordings of these works) and Mozart Concertos with Sir Charles Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. He has also recorded the complete Nocturnes, Sonatas and Concertos of the Irish Composer John Field.
  • He has performed throughout the world with many of the world's leading orchestras including the London Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony, l'Orchestre National de France, the NHK Orchestra in Japan and the Atlanta, Cleveland, San Francisco, Dallas, Montreal and Detroit Symphonies in North America. He has given concerts in many of the world's most famous halls including Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington, the Wigmore Hall and South Bank Centre in London, the Musikverein in Vienna, the Dvorak Hall in Prague and the Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo. He enjoys collaborating in Lieder recitals and performing chamber music with many instrumentalists and ensembles such as the Cleveland, Tokyo, Vanbrugh, Vermeer, Takacs, Vogler, Audubon, and Ying Quartets.
  • Through his recitals, concerto appearances and critically acclaimed recordings, the Irish pianist John O'Conor has earned a reputation as a masterful interpreter of the Classic and Early Romantic piano repertoires. He has been praised for his formidable technique and through his eloquent phrasing, mastery of keyboard colour, and in particular his unique sound he has been called a true "Poet of the Piano."