George Allen O'Connor
1944 - 2019
Anderson Funeral Home
2011 S. Fourth St.
Dekalb, IL
George Allan O'Connor

Born: March 5, 1944; in Brooklyn, NY

Died: June 9, 2019; in Dekalb, IL

George Allan "Al" O'Connor, 75, of DeKalb, IL, passed away on June 9, 2019, at the DeKalb County Rehab and Nursing Center. Al was born in Brooklyn, NY, on March 5, 1944, to George and Ruth (Nielsen) O'Connor. He lived in Brooklyn, Levittown, and Central Islip, NY, during his early years. He married Judith Ellen "Judy" Brown on June 17, 1967, in Babylon, NY.

Al earned a Bachelor's Degree in Music and a Performer's Certificate from SUNY Fredonia in 1965 and a Master's Degree in Percussion Performance from the University of Illinois in 1967. He took his first position at Northern Illinois University as percussion professor in the School of Music in 1968. He would later become the Assistant Chair of the School of Music and the Associate Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts before retiring in 2003.

During his time at NIU, Al founded the world class Steelband program in 1973 which was the first of its kind at an American university. The ensemble performed all over the U.S., plus Trinidad and Tobago, South Korea, and Taiwan. In 2000, under Al's direction, the NIU Steelband took second place at the World Steelband Festival in Trinidad. He was also responsible for NIU becoming the first American university to offer degree programs in Steelpan.

In the summer of 1982 Al augmented his career when he started a Steelband program at Birch Creek Music Performance Center in Door County, WI, which he directed every summer thereafter until 2012.

In addition to receiving several awards during his career, Al was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Percussive Arts Society in 2014.

Al is survived by his wife Judy; daughter, Kristin Taylor (Dave Elliott) of DeKalb; sons, Sean (Christina) O'Connor of Little River, SC, and Ethan (Amanda) O'Connor of Murfreesboro, TN; grandchildren, Drew Taylor (fianc Jackie Irving), Hillary (Ethan) Rutten, Evan and Cameron Taylor; Lindsey, Nathan, and Caitlin O'Connor; Cole, Kelly, and Kristofer O'Connor; brother, Robert (Catherine) O'Connor of East Lyme, CT; nephews, David (Karyn Lyman) O'Connor of Philadelphia, PA, and Kevin (Fredilyn Lipata) O'Connor of Newport News, VA; grandnephew and niece, Zachary and Madelyn O'Connor; sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Linda and Dave Nickerson and their sons, Adam, Ryan, and Tim.

Al was predeceased by his father, George, on May 22, 1996; his mother, Ruth, on January 7, 2019; his parents-in-law, Richard and Dorothy Brown; and several aunts and uncles.

The family would like to express their thanks to Dr. Shakeel Ahmad, Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital, DeKalb Rehab and Nursing Center, and Journey Care Hospice for their outstanding care of Al.

There will be a memorial visitation on Friday, August 2nd, at First Lutheran Church in DeKalb from 4-6pm, and a musical celebration of Al's life on Saturday, August 3rd, in the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall, NIU School of Music, at 3:00pm with Rev. Dr. Janet Hunt of First Lutheran Church officiating. Interment of cremated remains will be at a later date at Fairview Park Cemetery in DeKalb.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the G. Allan O'Connor Memorial Fund, for the NIU Steelband addressed to the O'Connor Family in care of Anderson Funeral Home, P.O. Box 605, 2011 South Fourth Street, DeKalb, IL 60115.

For information, visit or call 815-756-1022.

Published by Daily-Chronicle on Jun. 15, 2019.
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4:00p.m. - 6:00p.m.
First Lutheran Church
DeKalb, IL
Celebration of Life
Boutell Memorial Concert Hall, NIU School of Music
Funeral services provided by:
Anderson Funeral Home
Sponsored by Anderson Funeral Home.
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6 Entries
Al was a great addition to our faculty in the late sixties and raised our reputation as a School of Music throughout the state, the country, and the world. Not content simply to teach and perform standard percussion instruments, he encouraged the composition and performance of new music, co-founded the Electric Stereopticon, and founded the NIU Steelband Ensemble along with the first degree in steepan in America. His administrative skills qualified him into the exercise of new and welcome duties at the school and college level. His loss to the School will be felt for many years to come.
Jan Bach
July 16, 2019
So sorry for your loss. Prayers.
Dave & Carol Merrifield
June 18, 2019
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
Michael Granieri
June 15, 2019
Al was the best brother you could have. He was 5 years older than me but always treated me with respect and was always there to lend me a helping hand. I was really happy when Al joined our Cape Cod Golf Group were we shared many good times and fond memories. He was an extremely talented musician with great teaching skills and a visionary in the musical world. I feel he was always be with me and I will miss him dearly.
Love you Al,
Bob O'Connor
June 15, 2019
Al was one of the best teachers I could have, or that anyone could have. His compassion for what he did was undeniable. I was so fortunate to be one of his students for four years. He will be missed. Best wishes to Judy and the family.
Ken White
June 15, 2019
Al was such a great person, great family man, great musician, and great neighbor. The NIU Steelband is such a wonderful legacy and gift to the NIU community. Prayers to Judy and the rest of the family.
Julie Hapeman
June 14, 2019
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