DSC 4556 2Born in Dublin in 1955 into two worlds of music: traditional Irish and classical art music.  Both grandmothers were musicians and father a renowned pianist in the 1940s, music was an inevitable future and formal lessons started on piano from age 4 (Dublin College of Music).  Traditional music began about the same time with the tin whistle.  At 3rd level (Trinity College Dublin and Cork University), studies embraced a range of instruments: principally piano, composition and conducting (winning a number of national competitions at the Feis Ceol) and started harp at age 13 in Sion Hill Secondary School (with Máirín Ferriter of the famous Ní Shé sisters).  Plucked string instruments were starting to appear in traditional session playing and Janet was among the first to play harp regularly in Dublin sessions.  From 1979-81, Janet won every national harp competition (including the All-Ireland Championship) and a number of international festival competitions (including the Isle of Man Millennium Competition and Festival International de l’Harpe Celtique, Dinan) and was the first harper to tour the world with Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann (1980).   

In the late 1970s, while Northern Ireland's 'Troubles' (civil unrest) persisted, Janet worked with 'The Peace People' and resided in Germany 2 years working with their projects there.  In Germany she also collaborated with the Europa Zentrum in Tubingen researching early harp resources - which inspired her return to Ireland and her move to Belfast where she pursued her doctorate at Queen's University and was awarded a 2 year Research Fellowship at the Institute of Irish Studies.  Appointed Curator of Music at the Ulster Folk Museum in 1986 where she instigated a number of cross-community cultural heritage projects - the most dynamic of which was the Belfast Harp Orchestra (1992-2002).  Early collaborations with The Chieftains brough world fame and a Grammy Award for their first collaborative album; the first of 4.  Comprising 20-25 young harpers from the Northern half of Ireland, the orchestra performed concerts throughout Ireland, the UK, north Americas, Europe and the middle east.  Supporting its harp schools and the 'Belfast Harps' agency, Janet established the Harp Foundation Ireland Ltd (charitable) and served as CEO (1994-2002) accruing many awards aon the way (including an honorary doctorate from Ulster University).  In 2002, Janet moved harp operations across the border to Castleconnell, county Limerick establishing the Irish Harp Centre, which she directed from 2002-2016.   

In 1999, the orchestra was renamed the Irish Harp Orchestra as they became an adult professional concert company. Janet continued her solo performances (including accompanying President Mary McAleese on her state visit to China in 2003).  

Janet's major concert productions include the 'recreation' of the Belfast Harpers' Assembly in 1792 (that lead to the Belfast Harp Orchestra), 'The Christmas Cantata' (suite of 13 ancient and new carols for choirs and harp orchestra, 1993), the Colmcille Suite for choirs and harp orchestra (1997) ; and the 'Brian Boru - Lion of Ireland' suite for massed choirs, harps and bagpipe bands. 

In 2016, Janet returned to Northern Ireland as Visiting Professor of Music at Ulster University at Magee College, L'Derry.   Revisiting her academic interests in ethnomusicology, psychology, linguistics and pedagogy, much of her time is now spent researching, writing and organising the considerable archive of the Belfast Harp Orchestra, the Irish Harp College (the training & examination programme from 2006), and managing her considerable catalogue of publications.  In March 2020, she presented the keynote speech at the Ulster University Belfast symposium on 'Irish Harp, by Note, Rote and Reason' and today, she continues to perform, compose and teach as a freelance musician and musicologist.