Music Series hosts renowned, classical musician The Xavier Newswire’s exclusive interview with pianist and radio host, Christopher O’Riley

By: Nick McGill ~Sports Editor~

Christopher O’Riley is a classical pianist and a public radio host of the show, “From the Top” on
National Public Radio in which he highlights young musicians. He is known for his piano arrangements of music by alternative artists. O’Riley performs about 30 concerts a year in addition to hosting his radio show.

At 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 28 in the Gallagher Student Center theatre, O’Riley will be holding a concert with arrangements of songs by Radiohead and a classic work by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Ticket prices start at $12 for the public while tickets are only $5 for students provided they have their student I.D. Visit for more information.

The Xavier Newswire spoke with O’Riley to discuss his concert.

Xavier Newswire: What got you started in music and what influenced you to make it your career?

Chris O’Riley: Well, the nuns at school said to my mother,  “Well he knows how to read. He’s going to be bored and he’s going to get into trouble. We don’t want any trouble makers.” So they offered either French lessons or piano lessons. And we took piano lessons. I remember it making a lot of sense when I was four or five years old.

Christopher O'Reilly - xavier dot edu
Radio host Christopher O’Riley will perform his piano concert at 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 26 in the Gallagher Student Center theatre

XN: Is there a favorite piece of yours that you enjoy playing?

CO: You know, with reference to the program I am preparing, the (Sergei) Rachmaninoff second piano Sonata. I’m working on it, I’ve known it for a while, but I look at it in terms of the 1913 version versus the sort of dumbed down version. I look at the 1913 version and I think every moment is incredibly special and every page of it just feels like, wow this might be the ultimate piece written for piano.

XN: What does it mean to you to tour professionally and share your passion with so many people?

CO: It’s what I’ve always wanted to do and I feel very privileged to do it in so many different ways: on the radio, my classical repertoire and my arrangements repertoire and concerto repertoire. It’s a real pleasure every time I get to get out and play.

XN: What would you say to students here on campus to encourage them to attend recitals as part of the Xavier Music Series?

CO: I think there’s no substitute for a truly live concert experience. It really is a matter of the walls vibrating and your feet sort of feeling the sound throught the souls of your feet. I think this program in particular is a good example of how much variety one can have in a piano recital.

XN: What do you hope people from the Xavier and Cincinnati communities walk away with after hearing your concert?

CO: I am trying to make the case of piano as the ultimate instrument capable of emulating a symphony orchestra or a five piece rock band. There is a certain amount of success with the music I’ve arranged for this first half that I’ve been working on for many years and pieces that I’ve recently started.