Iris Oja was born in Tallinn, Estonia, on 19 April 1977.
In 1984 she took up piano at Tallinn Music High School, later changed to choir conducting and graduated in that specialty in 1995. She subsequently attended Georg Ots Tallinn Music School where she studied classical singing (with Tõnu Bachmann); on graduating from music school in 1999 she continued her singing studies at the Estonian Academy of Music (with Prof. Taru Valjakka and Prof. Ivo Kuusk). In 2003 she gained her BA degree and in 2011 her MA. Iris has also participated in master classes conducted by Ellen Hargis and Rudolf Piernay.
From 1998 to 2000 Iris was a member of the Savonlinna Opera Festival Choir; then from 2000 to 2011 she was lead alto soloist in the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, a section leader, and a member of the artistic board. During this period she gave both choir and solo performances in a wide range of programmes worldwide and made a number of recordings for the Harmonia Mundi label.
Iris has been in great demand as an oratorio soloist in Estonia and abroad, performing baroque oratorios, passions and masses, as well as other works by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Pärt, Tulev, and others. She has also been involved in opera and other stage music projects (e.g. "Eugene Onegin" by Tchaikovsky, "Cavalleria rusticana" by Mascagni, "Eesti Ballaadid" by Tormis, "Pleasure of Creation" by Mattiesen, "The Afterlife of Li Jiantong" by Liu Sola) and given solo recitals (Handel and Purcell, Liszt and Strauss, Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, Wolf, Shostakovich, Nordic music, a wide range of Estonian chamber music, and many and varied opera arias).
Iris is a much sought-after performer of contemporary music. A great many new works by Estonian composers have been dedicated to her, which she has also premiered and recorded. She is a member of Resonabilis, a contemporary music ensemble consisting of a unique combination of voice, flute, cello and kannel. Due to its distinctive sound, Resonabilis commissions most of the music it performs and extends its repertoire through close collaboration with composers (Auvinen, Kallastu, Krigul, Lill, Ratniece, Reinvere, Tally, Tulve, amongst others).
In 2012 Iris first collaborated with a unique jazz duo UMA and this has developed into a highly original project: the performance of Russian orthodox liturgical music with jazz improvisation. Their second creative project is in collaboration with the Estonian writer Anzori Barkalaja.
Together with Estonian composer Malle Maltis, Iris has recorded music for several Estonian animated films (e.g. "Brothers Bearhearts", "The Dress", "Lily Marlene").
In 2006 Iris, accompanied by the English pianist Roger Vignoles, recorded her debut solo CD, "Russian Songs" (Harmonia Mundi), a selection of songs by Rachmaninov and Shostakovich. The record was released at the beginning of 2008.
In 2008 Iris’s second solo CD, "Moon Pain", was released; it features the contemporary Danish composer Klaus Ib Jorgensen’s six-part work for voice and chamber ensemble (Iris Oja, Remix Ensemble, conductor Paul Hillier, Dacapo Records).
Then in March 2009 the ensemble Resonabilis released its first CD "Resonabilis", consisting of original music written specifically for them (by Tulve, Auvinen, Kozlova, Kõlar, Hirv, Kõrver, Lill, Krigul).
In 2012 Resonabilis released their second CD "North Wind, South Wind" (ERP), once again consisting entirely of new original music by composers Reinvere, Kozlova, Birman, Aints, Kallastu, Kõrver and Tulve.
In the beginning of 2013 Iris Oja and UMA released the CD "Peidus pool" with songs written for texts by Anzori Barkalaja.
Iris is currently a freelance singer and enjoys collaborating with a variety of ensembles (Resonabilis, UMA, Theatre of Voices, Ars Nova), choirs (the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, the Coro Casa da Musica in Porto), orchestras, musicians, conductors and composers.