Appointed Director of the Royal Irish Academy of Music (RIAM) in October 2010, Deborah Kelleher has played an integral role in the strategic development of the institution’s international profile, outreach, estate, and academic courses.
Milestone achievements include the revision of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees with industry-focused specialisms; RIAM Podium, the Centre for Performing Ensembles, which trains musicians for orchestras and large ensembles; the founding of Ireland’s first Historical Performance Department with foundation partners The Irish Baroque Orchestra; and the creation of the Open Youth Orchestra of Ireland (OYOI) a flagship ensemble for inclusive creativity.
In 2013, the RIAM became an associate college of Trinity College, the University of Dublin (TCD), and Deborah led this significant transition. In 2023, RIAM launched new and fully subscribed elective modules on music and society for the wider TCD student body, an example of the deepening bond between the two institutions. Since her appointment, the number of students entering RIAM’s third-level programmes has grown threefold. The large junior school of the RIAM has refreshed its curricula with the introduction of an additional support for the especially motivated pre-college musician, called The RIAM Young Artist Programme.
The RIAM has also forged significant performance partnerships with many of the world’s most prestigious music conservatoires, including the Juilliard School, New York, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris, Mozarteum University Salzburg and the Liszt Academy, Hungary. RIAM successfully bid for €400,000 Erasmus+ funding to investigate power relations in higher music education (known as PRIhME) with the participation of 10 institutional partners, a significant research project which will influence learning and working environments across the international music education sector.
Deborah has overseen a significant increase in professional development courses for private music teachers throughout Ireland and internationally who enter over 35,000 students for RIAM's Examinations, under the auspices of the recently launched RIAM Adult Division. This initiative is part of a wider strategy to make the RIAM a resource for adult musicians from amateur to professional level, through online and distance learning, performance opportunities and more.
In January 2023, the RIAM re-opened its transformed campus on Westland Row in Dublin. This €27 million re-development was devised and project managed under Deborah’s leadership and was funded through both public and private donors. It is the largest privately funded capital project for the arts in the history of the State. The new campus has double the number of teaching and practice studios, a 300-seat professional-level recital hall, Studio for orchestral rehearsal and streaming, and a music discovery hub for adults and children with additional needs.
In 2022 Deborah was elected President of the European Association of Conservatoires, an umbrella group for over 300 conservatoires and the leading voice for Higher Music Education in Europe.