DSC 4556 2Born in Dublin in 1955 into two worlds of music: traditional Irish and classical art music.  Both grandmothers were musicians and teachers so informal music began from the cradle.  Formal 'classical' lessons started on piano from age 4 (Dublin College of Music) and traditional music began about the same time with the tin whistle.  At 3rd level (Trinity College Dublin and Cork University) with studies in a range of instruments: principally piano, composition and conducting, Janet won a number of national competitions at the Feis Ceol.  Playing the harp from age 13 in Sion Hill Secondary School (with Máirín Ferriter of the famous Ní Shé sisters), she learned to sing and self accompany which was the tradition of harping at the time, but was soon playing the harp at traditional sessions and rose to prominence at the 'fleadh's (traditional music gatherings throughout the country).  From 1979-81, Janet had won every national Irish 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).   

Also in the late 1970s, while Northern Ireland's 'Troubles' (civil unrest) continued, Janet joined her Belfast cousins volunteering for 2 years with 'The Peace People' movement in Germany where she also collaborated with the Europa Zentrum in Tubingen researching the role of Irish scholars (and harpers) in Europe in the early middle ages.  This combined experience lead to Janet's move to Belfast where she pursued doctoral research on 18th century harp resources and was awarded a 2 year Research Fellowship at the Institute of Irish Studies (at Queen’s University, Belfast).  1986, she was appointed Curator of Music at the Ulster Folk Museum where she instigated a number of cross-community cultural heritage projects - the most dynamic of which was the formation of the Belfast Harp Orchestra (1992-2002).  From its launch in the Belfast Harpers' Bicentenary festival year, the Belfast Harp Orchestra brought a different story of Northern Ireland to the world stage and won international acclaim (including a Grammy Award winners with the Chieftains in 1993).  Comprising 20-25 young harpers from both communities in the Northern half of Ireland, the orchestra performed concerts and toured throughout Ireland, the UK, north Americas and Europe with guest artistes on other instruments.  Supporting its work, its harp schools throughout Northern Ireland and 'Belfast Harps', the orchestra's agency, Janet established the Harp Foundation Ireland Ltd (charitable) and served as CEO (1994-2002) accruing  awards and accolades for her role in assisting the peace process (including an honorary doctorate from Ulster University).  In 2002, with the 'Troubles' persisting, Janet moved all harp operations south to Castleconnell, county Limerick establishing the Irish Harp Centre, which provided a permanent base for her harp orchestra and residential harp college. 

At the Irish Harp Centre, Janet trained up and directed another community of professional harpers and teachers while publishing her ‘Method’ in 6 tutor books with teacher support manuals from 2006.  With residential and non-residential students, including apprentices from all over the world who aspired to careers in stage and studio performance, ceremonial performance (weddings), as background corporate entertainers, teachers and palliative harp therapists, Janet's teaching established an effictive and structured approach to traditional Irish harping that is widely used today.  Her orchestra (renamed the Irish Harp Orchestra with management in Munich, Germany) continues to tour and as a soloist, she continues her own performing (including accompanying President Mary McAleese on her state visit to China in 2003).  President Michael D.Higgins also visited the Irish Harp Centre and for the 14 years of its operation, it represents another busy chapter in Janet's life.   

Every 10 years or so, alighting on a significant historical anniversary, Janet created particularly dramatic, large-scale concert productions.  In 1988, it was the 'recreation' of the Belfast Harpers' Assembly in 1792 (that lead to the Belfast Harp Orchestra), in 1993 there was 'The Christmas Cantata' (suite of 13 ancient and new carols for choirs and harp orchestra), in 1997 there was the Colmcille 1400 anniversary (of his death) and the composition of 'Colmcille - a Columban Suite' (which is the subject of a large-scale virtual concert project in 2021 for Colmcille 1500 (of his birth).  This is an hour-long suite of plainsong and new harp music for choirs and harp orchestra; and in 2014, the Brian Boru Millennium festival presented another historic opportunity and the composition of the 'Brian Boru - Lion of Ireland' work involving massed choirs (adult and children's) with bagpipe bands and massed harps which was performed through the week's festival in St.Mary's Cathedral Limerick. 

In 2016, Janet returned to Northern Ireland as Visiting Professor of Music at Ulster University at Magee College, L'Derry (to 2020).   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).  Her considerable catalogue of publications continues to provide resources and direction for new generations of harpers and in March 2020, she presented the keynote speech at the Ulster University Belfast symposium on 'Irish Harp, by Note, Rote and Reason'.