Richard Riley believes in the power of the human voice to convey life's greatest joys, most profound sorrows, and deepest passions. He heartily subscribes to the sentiment expressed by Renaissance composer William Byrd that "There is not any Music of Instruments whatsoever, comparable to that which is made of the voices of men [and women], where the voices are good, and the same well sorted and ordered."
Possessing a fine voice as a boy and young man, Mr. Riley stopped singing in 1982 when his right vocal cord became paralyzed following a bout with pneumonia. Since then, he has primarily channeled his singing sensibility toward those he conducts, though he has recently begun to sing again. He agrees with William Byrd that "The exercise of singing is delightful to Nature, and good to preserve the health of Man" and that "It doth strengthen all parts of the breast, and doth open the pipes."
Currently, Richard Riley is the Artistic Director of the Burlington Choral Society and a frequent guest conductor of the Montpelier-based Onion River Chorus. Previously he was on the performance faculty at Cornell University where as director of the Cornell Chorale (1997-99) and Sage Chapel Choir (1999-2006) he conducted performances of large works by Bernstein, Britten, Orff, Stravinsky, Dello Joio, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Handel, Bach, and Purcell as well as premiere performances of works by twelve Cornell-affiliated composers, and his ownSilent Thunder (2002). Additionally, the Sage Chapel Choir sang 60-75 smaller works each year as part of their ongoing duty to provide music for the University’s nonsectarian chapel service. He concurrently served as the director of the Cornell Concert Series, where he presented such artists as Yo Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis, Mark Morris Dance Group, Kirov Orchestra, Thomas Hampson, Marilyn Horne, Anonymous 4, Tallis Scholars, and King's Singers.
He left Cornell to become Managing Director of the Brattleboro Music Center in Brattleboro, Vermont, where he had responsibilities for programming, production, and financial management of a dynamic, multi-program organization founded by the distinguished conductor Blanche Moyse, with whom he had studied in the early 1970s while a student at Marlboro College. Previously Mr. Riley directed Powers Music School in Belmont, MA, and Music in Deerfield in Deerfield, MA.
Other professional activities have included music journalism, ghost writing, co-founding the Light in Winter festival in Ithaca, NY, establishing the Music on the Hill summer camp in Belmont, MA, directing the premiere performances of five operas written for children and adults, and performing as a musician at Shakespeare festivals in Oregon, Utah, and Burlington. He currently serves of the boards of directors of Scrag Mountain Music and the Community Engagement Lab.
Mr. Riley received his Bachelor’s Degree in the Performance of Early Music from the New England Conservatory, studying voice with Susan Clickner and early woodwinds with Nancy Joyce Roth, and his Masters Degree in Choral Conducting from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. A native of Baltimore, he was the first conducting student of Theodore Morrison, founder of the Baltimore Choral Arts Society.
Richard Riley lives in a former one-room schoolhouse in East Montpelier with his wife, artist Susan Bull Riley. They have two grown daughters.