NIU Steelband fall concert is a tribute to Al O’Connor

DEKALB – The NIU Steelband will present its fall 2019 concert on Sunday, Nov. 17 at 3 p.m. at the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall in the Music Building on Northern Illinois University’s main campus in DeKalb. The program will also feature the NIU Steelpan Studio, All University Steelband and Community School for the Arts (CSA) Steelband.

The event will be dedicated to the memory of G. Allan (“Al”) O’Connor, the founder of the NIU Steelband program, former Associate Dean of Music, and Head of Percussion Studies who passed away in June.

Al O’Connor was at the forefront of the development of the steelband art form in North America, and his pioneering work influenced the formation of steelband orchestras at educational institutions throughout the USA and Asia.

In 1973, O’Connor established the first actively performing steelband at an American university. Under the director of O’Connor and the late Clifford Alexis, the band made many significant and memorable appearances including its performances at Yankee Stadium; PASIC (Percussive Arts Society International Convention), where they were the first steelband to perform at the convention; World of Drumming Festival in Seoul (2002), and two tours of Taiwan.

As an administrator and educator, one of O’Connor’s major accomplishments was the establishment of the first steelpan major at any university in the world. This bold move has had a profound impact upon many students, including a host of steelpan majors who have hailed from around the world.

Because of Al O’Connor’s vision and pioneering work, many graduates of NIU have gone on to teach at institutions around the world; establish their own steelband ensembles; create new music for the relatively new instrument and further highlight its versatility, uniqueness and profundity.

A wonderful percussion soloist and conductor, O’Connor premiered more than 25 compositions for percussion solo or ensemble and wrote more than 75 arrangements for steelband. He spent a semester teaching and implementing a steelband program at the National Institute of the Arts in Taipei, Taiwan and was also an invited guest to the Taipei International Percussion Convention and 20th anniversary of Ju Percussion Group of Taipei. While there, O’Connor participated in a 100-piece marimba orchestra concert, which was the first ever in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Tickets for the concert are $5 and can be purchased online at