Having received a bachelorís degree and performerís certificate from SUNY-Fredonia and a masterís in percussion performance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Alan O'Connor was the first to establish an actively performing steel band in an American university.
Alan O'Connor was appointed Head of Percussion Studies at Northern Illinois University in 1968, and in 1987 he established a steel pan major field of study within the NIU music department. He served as associate dean of NIUís College of Visual and Performing Arts from 1989 to 2000 and retired from the school in 2002.
Alan O'Connor's expertise in the steel drum goes back to when he was a graduate student at the University of Illinois, when one of the composers on the faculty wrote a piece for four very large percussion setups that included steel drums.
Over the course of his professional career, OíConnor has received seven grants from the National Endowment for the Arts to support his artistic endeavors and was nominated twice for Fulbright fellowships.
Over his career, OíConnor has premiered over 25 of his own compositions and has more than 70 arrangements for steel band to his credit.