Ian Ritchie was born in London in 1953. Early on, he decided to pursue a career in music and was already active as a solo singer and an organiser of concerts during his schooldays. He was pre-elected to a choral exhibition at Trinity College, Cambridge, and meanwhile entered the Royal College of Music where he won the Mario Grisi Prize for first-year singers. After graduating from Cambridge in Law and Music, he studied singing at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. His planning and organisational leanings overtook his singing ambitions and in 1976 he was appointed Promotion Manager at Universal Edition, the renowned publishers of 20th century music.
In 1979 Ian Ritchie was appointed General Manager of the Richard Hickox Singers & Orchestra, soon afterwards rebranding the latter as City of London Sinfonia. In 1983 he took on the additional post of Artistic Director of the City of London Festival, performing the roles simultaneously until 1984, and also joined the Music Panel of the Arts Council of Great Britain. He spent the following nine years in Edinburgh as Managing Director of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, winning the ABSA/BP Arts Award for making the most imaginative use of sponsorship in 1990 and the Prudential Awards for Music and for the Arts in 1991. During this time he was Artistic Co-director of the St Magnus Festival, Orkney, for five years and Chairman of the Association of British Orchestras for two years until leaving Scotland in 1993 to become General Director of Opera North.
From 1994 Ian Ritchie took on a variety of freelance and pro bono roles, mainly in England, Scotland and Bosnia-Herzegovina, specialising in artistic direction and assessment, project design, leadership recruitment and organisational development in the fields of musical composition, performance, education, therapy, integration (for the disabled) and humanitarian aid (in areas of conflict). During this period, as the director of a new Festival in the Highlands (1994-6), he worked with John Kenny and the carnyx on a project which led to their setting up of Carnyx & Co. Meanwhile he has worked in advisory capacities for all the UK Arts Councils, the British Council, NESTA and a number of music charities including Society for the Promotion of New Music (now part of Sound and Music), Opera Circus, Tenebrae Choir and Musicians without Borders.
Ian Ritchie spent a year in Orkney directing the 2005 St Magnus Festival, during which Clarence Adoo made his first appearance on a concert platform with professional colleagues since his accident ten years earlier, performing a new work by John Kenny on his specially developed Headspace instrument. Ian returned to the City of London Festival as its Director in 2005 after a gap of 21 years: in 2011 his Festival made a special feature of new instruments and opportunities for disabled musicians, building on the Headspace and Skoog initiatives (the latter developed more recently in Scottish schools, with funding from NESTA); in 2013 he will step down from the City of London Festival.
Since 2010, Ian Ritchie has assumed the Artistic Director roles for both The Musical Brain (exploring frontiers of music, science and medicine) and the Setúbal Music Festival (Portugal). He has also found time to chair the editorial board and the steering committee for the Choirbook for The Queen, a collection of 45 new anthems which was presented to Her Majesty in 2012. He has been a visiting lecturer in arts management at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama since 1999, is a Visiting Professor in cultural management at the London Metropolitan Business School and has recently been appointed to an Associate Fellowship of the Institute of Musical Research at the University of London.