Jamie O'Reilly Bio & Reviews

Jamie O'Reilly


Many titles in the arts nomenclature can be assigned to Jamie O’Reilly. It is her love of singing, an expansive creative spirit, and a fiercely held belief in the value of the artist in community that fuel her active and vibrant world.


With her distinctive lilting voice and broad vocal range, Jamie approaches folk music with the passion of a theater artist and the attention of an art song interpreter. Her programs include songs reminiscent of by-gone eras, traditional, and original work in the singer/songwriter genre. Vocal selections range from romantic standards from the 1920s – 40s, to sultry gypsy ballads and celtic folksongs, to parlor songs and Americana ballads. She is accompanied by the finest musicians on guitars, piano and more.

Jamie is accompanied in her current programs by pianist John Erickson. (johnericksonpiano.com) In Love’s Sweet Song (a parlor song concert), they revisit the songs she sang when she was coming up as a young professional, and those she performed on radio, for concerts, tributes and in cultural series throughout the Chicago area. These songs were heard at the Chicago Cultural Center (for the centenary of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition), in an Irish Vaudeville program at the Irish American Heritage Center, and in a cabaret series with the Jamie O’Reilly Trio.

In her program, A Voice for the Soul of the City: Jamie Sings of Cities, Jamie features songs and stories of Chicago neighborhoods. And more.


Jamie is known for her moving essays and creative writing on her Blog. Her frank and personal reflections focus on what inspires and challenges her as an artist and activist. And how we make our way in the rapidly shifting cultural landscape.

 As a poet and lyricist, she contributes to spoken-word and musical performances, theatrical productions and published work. With the launch of her new website Jamie is featuring work as A Voice for the Soul of the City:  essays, stories, poetry and memoir, further exploring the range of the artist voice in community. Jamie Sings of Cities, songs and stories celebrating the culture of cities, and highlighting local lore of Chicago neighborhoods and Illinois communities will be among her performance offerings. 


For over 25 years, J. O’Reilly Productions made artist services and production a primary focus of its mission. Though she’s scaled back in these roles, she advises individuals and not-for-profit arts organizations on a case-by-case basis. Jamie continues to collaborate with writers, musicians and visual artists, and to showcase their work through Roots Salon and various projects. As a musical agent, Jamie represents songwriter Michael Smith. Presenters across the US and Canada, express deep love and respect for Michael, “one of the best songwriters in the English language”, whose rich career history spans five decades.


Jamie hosts soirees and curates the Roots Salon, a century old family tradition of presenting art, music and conversation. Roots events have included Roots Fest: a music festival featuring local favorites, End of Life/Afterlife: a year-long arts residency in collaboration with St. John’s Episcopal Church, Rekindling the Salon: an artist retreat and concert for the HotHouse at Lakeside Studios in Michigan, and the Roots Master Speakers Series: talks with high profile Chicago area personalities, Rick Kogan among them. Jamie now hosts Roots Salons at Wishbone North restaurant in Chicago and elsewhere.


Jamie’s work as a Media Producer brings a worldwide audience to a talented roster of artists and writers. She is known for her essays, articles and creative writing pieces on her Blog. She manages social media pages, and promotion for songwriter Michael P. Smith. For several years, Jamie was Creative & Communications Director of Women’s Media Group, and produced a radio series featuring women in the arts, which aired on WFMT Fine Arts Radio. She was also co-writer and Musical Director of the series.


As a Theatre Producer, Jamie is known for the powerful productions she brings to the stage, and the projects she brings to the recording studio, among these are Pasiones: Songs of the Spanish Civil War, (with Katrina O’Reilly), and the award-winning Hello Dali: From the Sublime to the Surreal, a box office hit during the 2001 Victory Gardens Theater’s Tony-Award winning season. Other celebrated programs include Songs of the Kerry Madwoman, which sets the poetry of Patricia Monaghan. The Gift of the Magi, performed with WGN Radio Host Rick Kogan, has been a highlight. In 2014, Jamie produced End of Life/Afterlife, an arts festival in collaboration with St. John’s Church. Epitaphs, Apparitions and The Wintry Guest was seen at Prop Thtr.

“Together their musical palette is pretty astonishing.”
Chicago Magazine

In 1994, Jamie began a creative collaboration with Michael Smith, performing and recording songs he wrote and arranged for her. They created a niche for themselves with a popular series of folk-cabarets. The Lunar Cabaret, a performance hot-spot in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, became the launching pad for Pasiones: Songs of the Spanish Civil War, Hello Dali (with Beau O’Reilly and Jenny Magnus) and Scarlet Confessions (with Paul Amandes and Anne Hills).

In a more recent collaboration, Songs of a Catholic Childhood, they reflect on life in parochial school. The concert features personal stories and musical selections from the soundtrack that accompanied their formative years: Michael’s in the working class Irish/Italian neighborhoods of post-WWII in New Jersey – Jamie’s as one of 14 kids, in the post-Vatican II-Baby Boom era, outside Chicago.


Michael, Jamie, Peter 1996

In 2013, Jamie and Michael created And the Poet Sang, with guitarist Peter Swenson as guests of the Poetry Foundation. The program featured some of their finest material with original song-settings of poems by ranging from Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, Bertold Brecht, F. Garcia Lorca and essayist Anne Carson to late Chicago poets David Hernandez and Patricia Monaghan. Settings of the work of the Shulamites of Lebanon, ancient Irish and Chinese poets are among the selections. Highlights from this program are often part of their work. See more literary programs here.


For over 20 years, J. O’Reilly Productions and Jamie O’Reilly brought a roster of fine writers, performers and programs to print, music venues, theaters, radio and recordings. Through her Roots Salon program, she showcases artists who possess originality and a strong work ethic. Jamie also provides project development, advising and referral services.

For twenty-five plus years, the Arts have received the lion’s share of Jamie’s attention. Jamie is a registered Arts Consultant with the Illinois Arts Council. She has developed strong and lasting relationships with prestigious Arts institutions. In the mid ’90s, she was Vice President of The Friends of the Chicago Cultural Center, serving in the role for five years. She has been the recipient of major arts commissions, and grant awards. Jamie was named a Notable Chicagoan, in 2010 by Chicago Tribune’s Rick Kogan.

At the start of her career, when she wasn’t performing concerts of Irish songs, Jamie toured the country in Between The Times, a musical about the right to work. This project of Chicago Call to Action was a recipient of the 1987 Social Justice Communications Award from the late Cardinal Bernadin. Touring the United States, and hearing the stories of working people, had lasting impact on Jamie’s life. She has been an activist for social justice for 30 years.

It was while doing a 1986 radio interview about Between The Times, that Jamie first encountered historian and author Studs Terkel. In the late ’90s, the folk-cabaret Pasiones: Songs of the Spanish Civil War, which she created with Michael Smith and Peter Glazer, elicited strong emotion from Chicago’s progressive community. It also reacquainted her with Studs. Pasiones was a favorite recording of his. They shared the stage on numerous occasions, with the activists and scholars of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, and the Veterans of Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

In time, Jamie would sing many memorials for the “Lincolns.” But it was Annie Laurie, the Scottish ballad, that was Studs’ favorite. Studs told Jamie that Haymarket martyr Albert Parsons sang Annie Laurie in his prison cell the night before he died. He loved to hear her sing that song! Jamie sang it at the memorial when Studs passed away, and for his centenary at Chicago’s Newberry Library.


In the mid ’90s, Jamie developed classes in career development and “Making a Life in the Arts” workshops for the Columbia College Arts Management Department, and was a teaching artist at the Portfolio Center. Later she taught workshops in business skills for the artist, and singing classes for adults with special needs, at artScape, housed at Gallery 37 in Chicago. The Artscape program was a collaboration between Harold Washington and Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. In 2006, she began providing one-on-one artist development services at her own office, under the auspices of J. O’Reilly Productions.