Jan Raes studied at the Antwerp Conservatory and the University of Ghent. His musical career as a flutist included solo performances, chamber music concerts and recordings. In addition, he has played in various orchestras.
In 1984, he began teaching at the Royal Flemish Conservatory Antwerp. Since 1997 he has been artistic director there. He has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the Hogeschool Antwerp. He is co-founder of the Flanders Operastudio and director of the KBC AQUARIUS Project, an artistic-pedagogical project for young people.
In 2000, he became crisis manager and subsequently intendant of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Flanders. During that period, he took the initiative to renew the Koningin Elisabethzaal in Antwerp. From 2004 to the end of 2008, he was managing director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the Gergiev Festival. During that period he appointed the Canadian Yannick Nézet-Séguin as chief conductor.
In December 2008, he became managing director of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. To mark its 125th anniversary in 2013, this ensemble embarked on a world tour which took it to six continents, as the first orchestra to do so.
To celebrate Europe’s polyphony through shared experience, between 2016 and 2018, the Concertgebouw Orchestra undertook the RCO Meets Europe tour, performing in all 28 European Member States side by side with local youth orchestras. Subsequently, in the summer of 2019, RCO Young was started, an international youth orchestra for hidden talents between the ages of 14 and 17, who deserve a helping hand. At the beginning of 2019, the renovation and new construction of the RCO House with private funding was successfully completed.
At the end of May 2019, he announced his departure as managing director of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra as from the start of 2020.
Jan Raes has worked for decades in interdisciplinary collaboration with countless international artists and has several publications to his name. He is also a member of the advisory board of the Nexus Institute, the Amsterdam Conservatory and the Platform for Ambassadors in Music Education. He has recently become chairman of the Festival of Flanders, Brussels International and the Klara Festival.
In 2014 Jan Raes was made a member of the Belgian nobility with the personal title of baron.