Saxophonist Mark O’Connor, an Austin, Texas native, has been part of the Chicago and Milwaukee music scenes since 1996 as a performer, composer and educator. His current CD, Suspended Reality, has been receiving airplay throughout the U.S. and Europe and has garnered such praise as: “O’Connor’s tenor is meaty enough to channel the jazz tradition, but modern enough to capture the yearning vulnerabilities of his own time. On his second disc, he’s gathered a top-notch Chicago band and supplied them with flavorful original compositions.” – Neil Tesser, Chicago Jazz Music Examiner, Examiner.com and “Mark O’Connor’s CD, Suspended Reality, is a swinging collection of straight ahead jazz. Top-notch musicianship, intriguing solos and quality original compositions make this a must-have CD for any fan of today’s modern post bop jazz.” – Dr. Sushi, Host of Free Jazz BBQ, WMSE Radio, Milwaukee. O’Connor’s quintet, formed in 2001, has performed throughout the Midwest at such venues as the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Jazz Educator Network National conference, The Jazz Showcase, The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts, and The Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts.
O’Connor has presented workshops throughout the United States and has served as guest artist and clinician for the jazz programs at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Eastern Illinois University, University of Northern Iowa, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Kansas City Kansas Community College, and Moraine Valley Community College. He currently directs the Jazz Combo and Jazz Orchestra at South Suburban College, teaches Jazz History and Rock and Roll History at Governor’s State University, and teaches American Music, Music Theory, and Music Appreciation at Prairie State College. O’Connor also continues to teach private saxophone and jazz improvisation lessons which he has done since his arrival in Chicago in 1996. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Jazz Performance from the University of North Texas where he studied with well known jazz educators Dan Haerle and Fred Hamilton, and a Master’s degree in Saxophone Performance from Eastern Illinois University where he studied with New Orleans piano luminary Henry Butler, Chicago pianist and producer of Suspended Reality Mark Maegdlin, and EIU’s Director of Jazz Studies Sam Fagaly.
O’Connor recently completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Jazz Performance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While at Illinois, O’Connor studied with jazz saxophonist and Chair of the Jazz Studies division Charles “Chip” McNeill, jazz pianist and Associate Professor of Jazz Studies John “Chip” Stephens, and world-renowned classical saxophonist and professor of Saxophone Debra Richtmeyer. O’Connor’s doctoral thesis documents the musical language of saxophonist and Chicago Heights native Joe Farrell, and its evolution beyond hard bop.