James Galway studied at the Royal College of Music under John Francis and then at the Guildhall School of Music under Geoffrey Gilbert. He then studied at the Paris Conservatoire under Gaston Crunelle and Jean-Pierre Rampal and also privately with Marcel Moyse.
He then played with Sadler's Wells Opera, Covent Garden Opera, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He auditioned for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Herbert von Karajan, and was principal flute of that orchestra from 1969 to 1975. To Karajan's surprise and dismay, after a period of some disagreement, "Jimmy" Galway decided that he would leave to pursue a solo career, which he succeeded in doing admirably.
In addition to his performances of the standard classical repertoire, he features contemporary music in his programs, including new flute works commissioned by and for him by composers including David Amram, Malcolm Arnold, William Bolcom, John Corigliano, Dave Heath, and Lowell Liebermann. The album "In Ireland" by "James Galway and the Chieftains" reached number 32 in the UK album charts in 1987.
He still performs regularly and is one of the world's most well-known flute players.
He currently performs on Nagahara flutes, as well as some Muramatsu Flutes.
In the 1970s James Galway moved from Berlin to Lucerne, Switzerland, the home town of his second wife, Anna (Annie) Renggli, one of the daughters of a well-known local architect. They had twins and a son. In 1978 he recorded for her the famous instrumental version of John Denver's "Annie's Song". After their divorce he moved to Meggen, Switzerland, a posh village next to Lucerne, where he resides now with his third wife, U.S.-born Jeanne (nee Cinante). They often tour together playing duets, accompanied by Phillip Moll on piano. In addition, they give masterclasses for flutists of all levels.
Sir James is also president of a global organization called Flutewise, a charitable organisation which donates flutes to low-income students and people with disabilities, run by Liz Goodwin.
In 2003 he formed the Music Education Consortium together with Julian Lloyd Webber, Evelyn Glennie and the late Michael Kamen to pressure the British Government into providing better music education in schools.
Arts: Interview James Galway - Raising the Roof Once More; James Galway Talks to Christopher Morley as He Prepares for a 60th Birthday Concert in Birmingham
May 15, 1999; Ask James Galway what Birmingham means to him and his response is: "A new roof for my house". The background to this bizarre...