Jamie O’Reilly

“A Voice for the Soul of the City”
Performer, writer, producer, media personality

“Jamie O’Reilly uses her powerful voice and generous
spirit to enlighten, enliven, and enrich whatever community
she addresses, all in an effort to encourage positive change
in the world.”

-Sydney Lewis, Writer/Editor

Many titles in the arts nomenclature can be assigned to Jamie O’Reilly. It is her love of singing, an expansive creative spirit, and a fiercely held belief in the value of the artist in community that fuel her active and vibrant world.

“Jamie is especially gifted, with her vibrant voice and a passion for life.”

 Studs Terkel


With her distinctive lilting voice and broad vocal range, Jamie approaches folk music with the passion of a theater artist and the attention of an art song interpreter. Her programs include songs reminiscent of by-gone eras, traditional, and original work in the singer/songwriter genre. Vocal selections range from romantic standards from the 1920s – 40s, to sultry ballads and Celtic folksongs, to arts songs and parlor songs, contemporary folk, and Americana ballads. She is accompanied by the finest musicians on guitars, piano and more.

Read Jamie’s Work History Blog – 40 plus years of programs and projects

“As talented a performer and artist as there is on the cultural
landscape, Jamie O’Reilly is also, remarkably, an impassioned and
captivating activist for the arts and their importance in our lives. To
listen to her, in song or in speech, is to realize that she carries an
essential message. She enlightens. She empowers. She enraptures.”

-Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune, WGN

Jamie is accompanied in her current programs by the pianist John Erickson. (johnericksonpiano.com) While creating new work on a regular bass, Jamie’s programs also revisit the songs she sang when she was coming up as a young professional and throughout her 40 plus year career as a ballad singer; those she performed on radio, for concerts, tributes and in cultural arts series throughout the Chicago area. Programs heard at the Chicago Cultural Center, the Poetry Foundation, the Chicago Humanities Festival, and myriad arts venues. She specializes in period pieces — music for the centenary of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, Irish Vaudeville, European-style cabaret and songs from the folk canon. Highlights from the award-winning musical revue Hello Dali: From the Sublime to the Surreal, created with Michael Smith, are also included in Jamie’s programs.

“Jamie O’Reilly brought such lilting beauty to our Bloomsday Chicago at Chief O’Neill’s, her captivating voice perfectly capturing mood and tone throughout our evening. Her voice was as lambent light across and even through the very words of our play, a gift of whimsy and romance, a reflection on love and loss, a perfect complement to our take on James Joyce’s grand story.”

JR Sullivan, Theatre Director/Writer/Producer


Current Programs
Roots Salons, music and poetry events at Tre Kronor Swedish Bistro
In Old Chicago: Stories and Songs of a Beloved City
Tough Broads and Tender Lasses: Songs of Resilience
Voices of Old Chicago Legacy Project with a concert & talk
Read more here: https://www.jamieoreilly.com/projects/cultural-programs/

Coming out of the worst of the pandemic, in 2021, Jamie produced the Roots in the Garden Series. In 2022, she produced Tough Broads & Tender Lasses: Songs of Resilience. She hosted a Storytime for Children at the Sweden Shop. Fall of 2022 brought an indoor Salon Series to local treasure Tre Kronor Restaurant. 2023 is proved to be a busy year for Jamie. See a list of the past year’s salons here: https://www.jamieoreilly.com/projects/roots-legacy/

2024 offers a Subscriber Series and a broadening roster of guest writers, readers, musicians and more. See the event page for more.

In her program In Old Chicago, singer/writer Jamie O’Reilly – part memoir, part concert – captures an explosive time in Chicago history, as a great city comes of age. Through stories and songs, she shares the roots of a vocal tradition and rich history of her Irish American family who have been in Chicago for over 120 years, and how that tradition led to the singer/activist she is today.

Last year she is developed Voices of Old Chicago as a Legacy program, bringing a multimedia element to cultural venues. Two CD albums: Legacy and In Old Chicago were recorded from a WFMT Broadcast and released in fall of 2023.

poster by Nia O’Reilly Amandes

In her program In Old Chicago, Jamie sings of Chicago and features songs and stories of Chicago neighborhoods. In Old Chicago also features Christopher O’Reilly and Judi Heikes reading poetry and excerpts from family memoirs of Chicago from the turn of the 20th century into the outbreak of WWI and the early 20s: the newspapers, the neighborhoods, the union halls, activism, and the arts. And more.

“It moves me every time I hear you…She’s one of a kind, ladies and gentlemen. One of a kind.”

Rick Kogan, WGN Radio 720
poster by Nia O’Reilly Amandes

With the SongBirds Series Tough Broads and Tender Lasses, Vocalist and Producer Jamie O’Reilly brings programs of songs to lift the spirit; folksongs, World War II blitz-ballads, torch songs, lullabies, anthems, humor and novelty tunes to Chicago area venues.

Jamie honors the 20th century chanteuse — women who met adversity and struggle with tenacity and vigor — leaving behind classic songs and stories. These are women who weathered the stormy entertainment world with determination and vivacity, surviving world wars, poverty, and personal loss.

Jamie performs an uplifting and intimate program of songs about and by singers and songwriters who influenced her distinctive vocal style. Among them: Vera Lynn, Judy Garland, Mahalia Jackson, Sophie Tucker, Jeanette MacDonald, Victoria de los Angeles, Edith Piaf, Dionne Warwick, Martha Schlamme, Joan Baez.

Read More https://www.jamieoreilly.com/projects/jamie-oreillys-songbirds-series/

Listen to Jamie’s lovesong playlist: 21 songs she recorded over 35 years.

More songs, listen below.

Listen to Sanctuary City from In Old Chicago

Loves’s Sweet Song with John Erickson, piano

Listen to Annie Laurie, with Michael Smith on guitar

Listen to Blue River with John Erickson on piano


Jamie is known for her moving essays and creative writing on her Blog. Her frank and personal reflections focus on what inspires and challenges her as an artist and activist. And how we make our way in the rapidly shifting cultural landscape.

As a poet and lyricist, she contributes to spoken-word and musical performances, theatrical productions and published work. As A Voice for the Soul of the City, Jamie’s work includes essays, stories, poetry and memoir, and pieces further exploring the range of the artist voice in community.

In Old Chicago, researched, written and performed by Jamie, features songs and stories celebrating the culture of Chicago during the Arts Revival of pre-WWI Chicago, highlighting family history, local lore of Chicago neighborhoods.

With the launch of the SongNotes Series, Jamie offers the stories and history behind her recordings. https://www.jamieoreilly.com/jamie-o-songnotes-hey-kid/

Arts Consultant & Music Agent

For over 30 years, J. O’Reilly Productions made artist services and production a primary focus of its mission. Though she’s scaled back in these roles, she advises individuals and not-for-profit arts organizations on a case-by-case basis. Jamie continues to collaborate with writers, musicians and visual artists, and to showcase their work through Roots Salon and various projects. As a musical agent, Jamie represented beloved songwriter Michael Smith for nine years. With his passing in August, 2020, Jamie retired this role for her friend and collaborator.

Presenters across the US and Canada, express deep love and respect for Michael, “one of the best songwriters in the English language”, whose rich career history spanned five decades. Please continue to support his songs.


Jamie hosts soirees and curates the Roots Salon, a century old family tradition of presenting art, music and conversation. Roots events have included Roots Fest: a music festival featuring local favorites, End of Life/Afterlife: a year-long arts residency in collaboration with St. John’s Episcopal Church, Rekindling the Salon: an artist retreat and concert for the HotHouse at Lakeside Studios in Michigan, and the Roots Master Speakers Series: talks with high profile Chicago area personalities, Rick Kogan among them. Jamie now hosts Roots Salons at Tre Kronor restaurant in Chicago and elsewhere.

More on the Salon on the event page. https://www.jamieoreilly.com/events/

“Jamie not only has the voice of an angel, but possesses an adventurous spirit that allows her to create shows and moments and memories that are real and lasting…She is a Chicago treasure.”

Rick Kogan
WGN Radio, Chicago Tribune

Media Producer/Writer

Jamie’s work as a Media Producer brought a worldwide audience to a talented roster of artists and writers. She is known for her essays, articles and creative writing pieces on her Blog. She managed social media pages, press releases, promotion and proposals for celebrated songwriter Michael P. Smith for many years. From 2008 to 2011s, Jamie was Creative & Communications Director of Women’s Media Group, and produced a radio series featuring women in the arts, which aired on WFMT Fine Arts Radio. She was also co-writer and Musical Director of the series.


As a Theatre and Music Producer, Jamie is known for the powerful productions she brings to the stage, and the projects she brings to the recording studio, among these are Pasiones: Songs of the Spanish Civil War, (with Michael Smith and Katrina O’Reilly), and the award-winning Hello Dali: From the Sublime to the Surreal, a box office hit during the 2001 Victory Gardens Theater’s Tony-Award winning season. Other celebrated programs include Songs of the Kerry Madwoman, which sets the poetry of Patricia Monaghan. The Gift of the Magi, performed with WGN Radio Host Rick Kogan, has been a highlight. In 2014, Jamie produced End of Life/Afterlife, an arts festival in collaboration with St. John’s Church. Epitaphs, Apparitions and The Wintry Guest was seen at Prop Thtr.

In Old Chicago, debuted before the Covid pandemic. A revival in 2021 played to a sold-out house. In 2021 and 2022 Jamie produced the Roots in the Garden Series, sold-out outdoor concerts, in collaboration with women-owned businesses. Now she is back to a full schedule.
Read her blogs about current work. https://www.jamieoreilly.com/blog/

“Together their musical palette is pretty astonishing.”

Chicago Magazine

Michael Smith Collaboration

A statement from Jamie O’Reilly
It is with heavy heart, I tell you, our Michael passed away August 3, 2020, peacefully at home. Our collaborations changed the way I think about, make, and present music and theater. And about how I think about life! Michael composed dozens of songs for me, and with me. At times, we came up with an idea for a new program on our own. More often than not, we received musical commissions. We created trunk shows that would travel and employ us. We were especially lucky to have the guitarist and musical arranger Peter Swenson to flesh out the music. And director and fellow musician Paul Amandes to bring several programs to the stage.

My blog will has a feature Song Notes Treasures, the stories and audio recordings of songs Michael wrote for me and/or performed with me, along with other pieces.

Michael & Jamie 1996

In 1994, Jamie began a creative collaboration with Michael Smith, performing and recording songs he wrote and arranged for her. They created a niche for themselves with a popular series of folk-cabarets. The Lunar Cabaret, a performance hot-spot in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, became the launching pad for Pasiones: Songs of the Spanish Civil War, Hello Dali (with Beau O’Reilly and Jenny Magnus) and Scarlet Confessions (with Paul Amandes and Anne Hills).

Their 2011 autobiographical collaboration, Songs of a Catholic Childhood, reflected on life in parochial school. The concert featured personal stories and musical selections from the soundtrack that accompanied their formative years: Michael’s in the working class Irish/Italian neighborhoods of post-WWII in New Jersey – Jamie’s as one of 14 kids, in the post-Vatican II-Baby Boom era, outside Chicago.

Program sample
Michael, Jamie, Peter 1996
Michael, Jamie, Peter 1996

In 2013, Jamie and Michael created And the Poet Sang, with guitarist Peter Swenson as guests of the Poetry Foundation. The program featured some of their finest material with original song-settings of poems by ranging from Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, Bertold Brecht, F. Garcia Lorca and essayist Anne Carson to late Chicago poets David Hernandez and Patricia Monaghan. Settings of the work of the Shulamites of Lebanon, ancient Irish and Chinese poets are among the selections. Highlights from this program were often part of their work. See more literary programs here.

Working for the Arts

For over 20 years, J. O’Reilly Productions and Jamie O’Reilly brought a roster of fine writers, performers and programs to print, music venues, theaters, radio and recordings. Through her Roots Salon program, she showcases artists who possess originality and a strong work ethic. Jamie also provides project development, advising and referral services.

For twenty-five plus years, the Arts have received the lion’s share of Jamie’s attention. Jamie is a registered Arts Consultant with the Illinois Arts Council. She has developed strong and lasting relationships with prestigious Arts institutions. In the mid ’90s, she was Vice President of The Friends of the Chicago Cultural Center, serving in the role for five years. She has been the recipient of major arts commissions, and grant awards. Jamie was named a Notable Chicagoan, in 2010 by Chicago Tribune’s Rick Kogan.

At the start of her career, when she wasn’t performing concerts of Irish songs, Jamie toured the country in Between The Times, a musical about the right to work. This project of Chicago Call to Action was a recipient of the 1987 Social Justice Communications Award from the late Cardinal Bernadin. Touring the United States, and hearing the stories of working people, had lasting impact on Jamie’s life. She has been an activist for social justice for 30 years.

It was while doing a 1986 radio interview about Between The Times, that Jamie first encountered historian and author Studs Terkel. In the late ’90s, the folk-cabaret Pasiones: Songs of the Spanish Civil War, which she created with Michael Smith and Peter Glazer, elicited strong emotion from Chicago’s progressive community. It also reacquainted her with Studs. Pasiones was a favorite recording of his. They shared the stage on numerous occasions, with the activists and scholars of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, and the Veterans of Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

In time, Jamie would sing many memorials for the “Lincolns.” But it was Annie Laurie, the Scottish ballad, that was Studs’ favorite. Studs told Jamie that Haymarket martyr Albert Parsons sang Annie Laurie in his prison cell the night before he died. He loved to hear her sing that song! Jamie sang it at the memorial when Studs passed away, and for his centenary at Chicago’s Newberry Library.

Teacher/Artist Guide

In the mid ’90s, Jamie developed classes in career development and “Making a Life in the Arts” workshops for the Columbia College Arts Management Department, and was a teaching artist at the Portfolio Center. Later she taught workshops in business skills for the artist, and singing classes for adults with special needs, at artScape, housed at Gallery 37 in Chicago. The Artscape program was a collaboration between Harold Washington and Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. In 2006, she began providing one-on-one artist development services at her own office, under the auspices of J. O’Reilly Productions.

“Your voice was gifted to you but then your soulful spirit took it deeper. Some sing the notes, some take those notes and it becomes MUSIC. When you sing, your voice is pure, bell-like. You bring your story to your audience, phrasing each lyric with a genuine delivery. “

a fan

© A Cradle in Bethlehem is on WinterSong. More here.