Pianist, Dr. Orla McDonagh is Head of the DIT Conservatory of Music & Drama in Dublin, Ireland. An active soloist, chamber musician and contemporary music practitioner, McDonagh has performed throughout Europe, the U.S. and Canada. A fascination with contemporary music was sparked by a performance in Dublin for Olivier Messaien when she was just seventeen years of age and led to premieres of new music in major capitals on both sides of the Atlantic. She has recorded and performed live for Irish national television and radio as well as several classical music media outlets in the USA. In addition to her solo appearances she is a founding member of the McDonagh Sisters Duo and The Belisama Piano Trio with whom she performs regularly.
Having studied at the Royal Irish Academy of Music as a child with Dr. John O’Conor, McDonagh left Ireland for New York in 1991 and was awarded a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance degree by the Juilliard School for the Performing Arts where she studied with Seymour Lipkin, Jacob Lateiner and Jerome Lowenthal. Following that, McDonagh received both the Master and Doctor of Music in Piano Performance degrees from the renowned Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, studying with Mennahem Pressler and Edmund Battersby.
Both a pianist and lecturer, McDonagh taught for the Music Theory Department and the Young Pianists Program at Indiana University Bloomington from 1998-2001 before moving to Portland, Oregon where she was Director of the Keyboard Faculty at Lewis & Clark College from 2001-2010. An award winning professor, McDonagh returned to Ireland in 2010 and became Head of Faculty for Musicianship at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in addition to opening a private piano studio in the city. In January 2016 she accepted the position of Head of the DIT Conservatory of Music & Drama where she is also a member of the piano faculty. Dr. McDonagh is a regular guest artist at conservatoires and festivals throughout Europe and the USA, was on the faculty of the Indiana University Summer Piano Academy in Bloomington from 1999-2014 and has been on the faculty of the International Piano Master Course in Duszniki-Droji, Poland since 2014.
In addition to her performance and teaching activities, McDonagh has over 20 years of adjudication experience in the USA and Ireland, is the external examiner for Performance at Trinity College Dublin in 2015/2016 and was recently invited to be the overall external examiner for the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Dr. McDonagh is a member of the EU Fullscore Evaluation working group and is a reviewer for the Association of European Conservatories and the Musique review systems. In April she will travel to Croatia to review the Universities of Music in Zagreb and Pula. Recently, McDonagh co-authored the Dublin International Piano Competition “Piano Project”, an educational programme based on the piano, its music and history, which is currently being delivered in over 25 primary schools throughout Ireland.