The Irish conductor Peter Shannon aspires to prove to others that orchestral music can transform communities. Innovative and tireless in his outreach, Shannon embodies the new and growing role of music director.
He works to reshape and re-imagine what orchestras are and how they serve their communities both musically and personally.
Beginning his musical career as a professional singer and organist, Peter’s performances focus on the singing aspect of the orchestra. Phrasing and articulation coupled with expressive powerful playing are signatures of his concerts. His performances are an eclectic mix of his Irish fun-loving personality, his strict German training, and his decade plus experiences of living in the USA.
2020/2021 is Shannon’s seventh year as Artistic Director and Conductor of the Jackson Symphony in Jackson, Tennessee.
He was the first Artistic Director and Conductor of the Savannah Philharmonic, in Savannah Georgia, from 2008 to 2018, before deciding to relocate with his family to his native Ireland. He commutes regularly to the USA and mainland Europe to conduct.
During his tenure with both orchestras, Shannon broadened the musical landscape stimulating unprecedented artistic and financial growth of the organizations. As a builder and orchestral architect, Shannon was tasked in 2007 with the forming of the Savannah Philharmonic orchestra and Chorus after the previous symphony went bankrupt. Under his tenure as Artistic Director, with much effort from the board and several executive directors, the orchestra has grown to a budget of almost two million dollars. In the first three years since his arrival with the Jackson symphony, with board support, the musicians’ earning have raised by 70%.
The son of a physician, Shannon hails from a long-line of medical professionals. Combining the performing arts with the healing arts, he has developed performance programs for cancer center patients including children receiving inpatient care and individuals in hospice care. In collaboration with physicians and healthcare professionals, Shannon has spearheaded projects using Music and Mindfulness, which has trained musicians to work as healers through a specially developed curriculum focusing on communicating with compassion. He has adapted Mozart’s The Magic Flute, specifically for sick children. A 2015 article in Symphony Magazine drew international attention to this important initiative performed by the Savannah Philharmonic.
Recognizing that violent crime continues to challenge many cities, Shannon, working together with the board leadership of the Savannah Philharmonic created and developed ‘Philharmonic in the Streetz’, a radically diverse collaboration between the orchestra musicians and the most at-risk youth in the community. This program drew significant attention from the City of Savannah and became a catalyst for broadening the reach of the orchestra. A strong supporter of the new music community, Shannon routinely conducts original music, such as the 2017 premier of Richard Sortomme’s violin concerto written for Elmar Oliveria.
He previously accepted invitations to lead the Warsaw Radio Symphony Orchestra, Irish Radio Concert Orchestra, the Irish National Symphony, the Göttingen Philharmoniker, Baden-Baden Philharmonie, Thüringen Philharmonie, Jena Philharmonie, Halle State Opera (Germany), and Rheinische Philharmonie. He has conducted music festivals in Norway, Italy, Germany and Denmark, and during each summer of 2009 through 2011, Shannon served as the Artistic Director and Conductor of Voices of Europe, a week-long festival of concerts performed by choirs of ethnic minorities from across Europe.
Since returning to Ireland in 2019, he has conducted the Irish National Symphony orchestra and is a sought after clinician for conducting masterclasses. Peter Shannon began his musical education as a choirboy in Cork Cathedral, Ireland. As a Bachelor of Music student at University College Dublin and a member of the RTÉ National Chamber Choir, he began studying conducting under the Irish conductor, Colman Pearce. In Germany, Shannon began postgraduate studies in Weimar at the Franz Liszt Hochschule für Musik, founded by the great pianist Franz Liszt. He earned a second postgraduate degree at the Karlsruhe Hochschule für Musik. Following in the steps of J.S. Bach who conducted the Leipzig Collegium Musicum, Shannon, at age 26, was appointed conductor of the Collegium Musicum Orchestra in Heidelberg, Germany, the county’s oldest and most revered third level institute.
Born into a family of doctors and surrounded by siblings all in the healthcare profession, Conductor Peter Shannon has always had a strong desire to connect Music and Medicine. Recognizing the integrative, holistic connection between music and healing, Peter has developed and shepherded programs at Hospitals, Cancer Institutes and Hospice settings for over a decade.
Primarily begun as a unique way to involve his orchestras in their communities, and to develop ways of ‘giving back’, Peter’s ideas have evolved enormously over the years, leading to the founding of the American Institute of Music and Healing.
The origins of his work began when he started bringing musicians to play for patients receiving chemotherapy at the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute in Savannah Georgia USA. Though Peter was familiar with research documenting the healing effects of live music on patients, what Peter soon recognized was that people responded not only to the music that was being played, but that the act of playing was, in essence, an act of compassion, and that that act, combined with the music being played, brought about a powerful response.
Furthermore, he recognized that over and beyond the obvious benefits this was having on patients, it was having an effect on all involved: the patient, the musician, any family members of chemotherapy patients present, and, importantly, the healthcare professionals themselves.
Shannon has partnered with Dr. Jacqueline Huntly, MD, MPH to further grow the work and abilities of the musicians in this arena of Mind/Body Medicine. Together, Shannon and Huntly created the “Awakening the Inner Gift” and “Nurturing the Inner Healer” workshops.
MUSIC AND HEALING
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