John O'Kane Announced as Executive Director RTÉ Orchestras
31 March 2014: Following a public competition, John O'Kane has been announced as the new Executive Director of RTÉ Orchestras, Quartet and Choirs.
Taking over from Aodan Ó Dubhghaill, Head of RTÉ lyric fm, who oversaw the role on a temporary basis, Mr O’Kane will head up RTÉ’s two orchestras – the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and RTÉ Concert Orchestra – as well as, RTÉ Philharmonic Choir and RTÉ Cor na nÓg, and the newly announced RTÉ Contempo Quartet.
Says Jim Jennings, Managing Director of RTÉ Radio and RTÉ Orchestras: “John O’Kane comes to this key role with an outstanding record as a musician and within arts management. This appointment represents a return to working directly in the realm of producing and presenting high-quality music performances and John comes to RTÉ at a time of challenge and opportunity for our musical groups and choirs. The orchestras offered more live performances in 2013 than in 2012, despite pressure on funding and resources, and this output is testament to the energy and commitment from musicians and staff. I’m confident John will match this energy and I look forward to inspiring and adventurous programmes in the seasons to come.”
Born and educated in Belfast, John O'Kane studied music initially at Queen's University and later at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester. He worked for 13 years as a professional cellist, including a period as Associate Principal Cello with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and a spell with the Ulster Orchestra. With an interest in contemporary music, he formed and directed the specialist ensemble Sequenza in Belfast. Following a period working as a freelance cellist in Dublin with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ Concert Orchestra and Irish Chamber Orchestra, he returned to full time education to undertake an MBA at UCD and this led to his appointment in a number of roles within arts management. In 1998 he became CEO of Music Network and, in addition to artistic programming duties, undertook a number of key developmental initiatives including the Vogler Quartet in Sligo residency and authorship of what proved to be an influential feasibility study that first proposed the formation of a national system of publicly funded local music education services. He joined the Arts Council in 2003 and, as a member of the senior management team, led on significant developments to the council's grant programmes and managed a number of high profile policy initiatives including the development of a new approach to regional Touring. Since 2007, he has been responsible for the council's support for key performing arts areas including music, opera, theatre and dance and, since 2012, this role expanded to include the Council's support for regional arts venues and festivals.
John O’Kane welcomed his appointment: “I am really looking forward to working with the remarkable team of musicians and everyone associated with the RTÉ Orchestras, Quartet and Choirs. I hope to bring to bear some of the perspectives and experience I have gathered together from my time working for over 11 years in the Arts Council and, prior to that, with Music Network. It is important that the arts are recognised as an essential element in articulating who we are and I regard the tremendous work of these wonderful RTE ensembles is being absolutely central to that.”
During 2013 RTÉ Orchestras, Quartet and Choirs performed to almost 200,000 people, presenting a total of 258 (249 in 2012) live performances and events, ranging from symphonic and popular classical repertoire, contemporary music, opera and ballet productions, film music, jazz and contemporary popular music, family concerts and education and outreach activities. Many of the concert performances were made available for broadcast on RTÉ lyric fm. Concert performance schedules were supplemented with recordings for radio, television appearances, commercial CD releases and film soundtracks. RTÉ Orchestras, Quartet and Choirs presented over 49 education-related performances, workshops and talks/interviews with leading artists and commentators. The Orchestras were heard regularly overseas through the services of the European Broadcasting Union.