Brian O’Connell is a master teacher. I have been privileged to work with him for many years at the Sarteano Chamber Choral Conducting workshops in Italy and also with his wonderful choirs at Lexington High School, Massachusetts. He possesses all the qualities I admire in a choral conductor, dedicated to bringing out the best in everyone, demanding and challenging but not intimidating or overbearing. He is a superb musician with a sure sense of style in all periods and he knows instinctively how to draw the best sound from a choir while quietly and effectively showing less experienced conductors how to do the same.
Simon Carrington, Yale University Emeritus
Founder of Yale Schola Cantorum
Director of Norfolk Chamber Music Summer Festival of Yale University
Founding Member of The King’s Singers
Brian O'Connell is one of the reasons I am a musician and professor at Berklee College of Music. He was my teacher, my choral conductor and, finally, my very best friend on this huge planet. I learned more from Brian about choral music, conducting and the way to approach a new piece of music than from anyone else in life. Brian is a master conductor and I have been very pleased and honored that he has performed 3 or 4 of my pieces over the last 30 years. There is no over-elaboration of conducting technique, as is in evidence by so many other choral conductors. Brian lets the music speak for itself (with some gentle prodding and nudging here and there). His groups at Lexington High School and Berklee College of Music were always the best trained and most talented that I have heard. Brian's conducting is sensitive and concise at the same time. He is my favorite choral conductor, bar none. I most highly recommend Brian's music consultancy, clinics, festivals and performances.
Stephen H. Prosser, Ph.D., J.D.,
Chair of Ear Training Department (former)
Berklee College of Music
Brian O’Connell is a master at his craft. Mr. O’Connell has the ability to inspire choral artists to achieve superior levels of artistry and musicianship through his passion, grace, and innovative techniques. I have had the distinct pleasure of working with Mr. O’Connell in several different settings. As a Masters in Music Education candidate at The Boston Conservatory (2006), I had the honor to have Mr. O’Connell as my professor for Choral Repertoire and Methods course. It was in this course that I was first introduced to his innovative techniques on how to explore choral music and inspire choral artists of any age through experimentation and movement. Mr. O’Connell’s techniques work. This is evident to any audience member who has had the joy of hearing the choirs with which he has directed over the years. Not only is the choral music Brian is able to evoke from his choirs sublime; but the passion, sincerity, and the breadth of musical understanding that each of the singers express are stirring. Brian’s work, abilities, and techniques inspired me to participate in his Sarteano Chamber Choir Conducting Workshop as a Full Conductor. This intense workshop taught me new ways on how to solve musical performance problems, how to build a choral ensemble’s tone through exploratory techniques, and further developed my choral leadership abilities all under the exceptional mentoring abilities of Brian O’Connell. The artistry, passion, musicianship, innovative approaches, and brilliance of Brian O’Connell are a rare and needed gift in the world of choral arts.
Alyson L. Greer-Espinosa
Director of Choral Music at Westborough High School
Conductor of the Handel & Haydn Society Chorus of Sopranos and Altos
Brian O'Connell led a fantastic half-day choral workshop for my singers from the 90-voice Heritage Chorale. In a short amount of time, he was able to impart an enormous amount of information, including techniques for achieving and maintaining good posture and relaxation while singing. His style of leadership was always encouraging, yet challenging, and he was able to adapt his physical and vocal exercises for the singers of our chorus. The entire chorus quickly made marked improvement in tonal production, accuracy of intonation, and breath control. John Finney
Heritage Chorale, Conductor Boston College, Conductor of Chorale and Orchestra
Handel & Haydn Society, Chorus Master (former)
Brian O'Connell is a musician's musician and a teacher's teacher. He has the very rarely seen combined qualities of highly artistic musician, sensitive and effective teacher and wonderful person that makes anyone who spends time with him, in class or otherwise, a better student, musician and person. His approach to music making is often highly influential in the musical lives of his students; whether they be high school age, college age or adults. He demonstrates the philosophy that the music must always come first and that we all have a responsibility to own the music we perform. Conductors are taught to be confident enough to let go of control and encourage the choir to take ownership of the music and performance. This results in transformative performances, for audiences and performers alike.
Boston Conservatory at Berklee
Lexington Public Schools, Coordinator, K-12 Performing Arts Department (former)
Brian has the ability to make instant connections to people both personally and musically because he genuinely cares about getting to know others. His knowledge of music, vocal technique and effective conducting is outstanding. It’s a powerful combination of skills which creates an atmosphere of trust that allows the work to flow quickly and well. I am amazed at how much he helps us accomplish in a short period of time. I have had the good fortune to work with Brian for several summers in his Sarteano Chamber Choral Conducting Workshop. It has been the ideal setting for my overall growth as a choral singer, conductor and teacher.
Brian also came to my high school this year and last to work with my students. They love working with him as much as I do. He manages to raise their expectations of what they can do and get them to take more responsibility for their musicianship. The evidence is in seeing the joy in their faces and hearing the change in their tone. He also gives me invaluable feedback on my teaching along with suggestions on how to get the students to be more involved in their music making. I highly recommend him as a choral consultant. We look forward to his return next year.
Choral Director Pelham Memorial High School
Pelham, New York
Brian O’Connell is a master conductor. He possesses great depth of knowledge of choral literature across the centuries. He has a highly developed knowledge of vocal technique and pedagogy. He has a gentle, yet passionate, manner with which he can inspire, cajole, educate, convince, and elicit the most musical and moving choral performance from a choral ensemble. I was lucky enough to have been his private voice student while at Berklee College of Music in Boston, learning vocal technique and pedagogy. I was privileged to be the accompanist for his Berklee Concert Choir for nine years, gleaning his techniques at very close range. I was honored to have attended his very first Sarteano Choral Conducting Workshop, sharing in the knowledge imparted there and the sheer joy of singing under his tutelage once again. For over thirty years, working in professional and academic arenas, on a daily basis I have utilized the knowledge and skills that I learned under his guidance. Without reservation I very highly recommend that individuals and ensembles take advantage of any opportunity to experience Brian’s knowledge, style, technique, commitment, humor, passion and joy in the choral art.
Thomas R. Martin, Choral Director/Musical Director
Keene High School
Keene, New Hampshire
As a public high school choral director I have always had great admiration for Brian O'Connell's work with student and adult choirs. Having known him and his work since college, we recently invited him to conduct the M.M.E.A. Southeastern District Senior Chorus. During this two day festival Brian had 200 kids in the palm of his hand! His rehearsal technique is both demanding and laid back, and he was always concerned for the vocal health of the singers. But what was most interesting is how he made such a phenomenal product out of a two day voice lesson on how to sing beautifully and with a healthy tone. He communicates clearly what he wants, and his knowledge of the appropriate repertoire for young singers is excellent. His gestures are clear, his ear is keen, his love of the art is obvious, his personality is engaging and his smile is genuine.
William B. Richter
Choral Director/Program Specialist for Music, K-12, Scituate (MA) Public Schools Music Director, Pilgrim Festival Chorus, Plymouth, MA Music Director, First Trinitarian Congregational Church (UCC), Scituate, MA
Brian O'Connell possesses all the traits one would expect of a master choral teacher; fluent command of repertoire across centuries and styles, highly substantive musicianship, a powerful ear for nuance, and the ability to effectively communicate all of the above to students of vastly different levels and backgrounds. But what makes Brian a step beyond, is his ability to bring all of this to his students with warmth and humility, always putting the music and the students first. He has the ability to bring the students to the ownership of their own performances, adding a level of engagement and depth of presentation I have very rarely had the privilege to hear in a high school ensemble.
Robert F. Ponte
Director of Bands and Jazz Ensembles (former)
Cambridge Rindge & Latin School
I had the privilege of student teaching with Brian and it was his musical guidance, knowledge, and character that gave me a solid foundation in choral music education. Brian lovingly challenges all of his students to learn and perform as true artists while providing superior instruction in vocal pedagogy. His extensive understanding of choral music and his kindhearted personality allows him to achieve exceptional musical results and inspire both singers and conductors that work with him.
Jennifer Moss, Director of Choral Activities
Acton-Boxborough Regional High School
Brian O'Connell is a choral artist of highest integrity. In the Spring of 2010, the Jazz Choir and Women's A Cappella Group, two choral ensembles I direct at Stoughton High School, had the greatest privilege of being adjudicated by Mr. O'Connell at the Massachusetts Instrumental and Choral Conductor's Association Solo and Small Ensemble Festival. After each choir performed, they received a clinic with Brian. During these clinics, he addressed all of the issues we strive to teach to nascent choral musicians: phrasing, musicality, dynamics, uniformity of vowels, syllabic stress, relating notes with lyric. He commended the ensembles on their musicality, and then spent a generous amount of time expanding on their strengths during the clinic. The students could not stop talking about how pleased they were with the clinic, and remarked multiple times that he was the best clinician with whom they had ever gotten the privilege to work. One student was elated that "he actually talked about the really important things that [you] teach us everyday in choir: musical things!" He focuses on the strengths of each ensemble, and works to reinforce those strengths. When the choirs performed in MICCA the following year, the students were extraordinarily disappointed to have been assigned a clinician different than Mr. O'Connell. He is a brilliant musician and a talented educator, and we were so fortunate to have benefited from his highest level of musical integrity and educational expertise.
Dr. Ianthe Marini, Director of Choral Activities
Schwob School of Music at Columbia State University (GA)
Stoughton High School (former)
Brian O'Connell worked with my high school choral ensemble during a trip to Boston, MA, in 2011. He was wonderful! Mr. O'Connell is very personable and had new and fun ideas to share. He is easy to work with and his warmth and humor instantly made the students feel at ease. My students had a fun time working with him and came away from our clinic better musicians. It was a great clinic experience!
Kate MacRae, Vocal Music Director
Oostburg High School
Brian O' Connell is master conductor, teacher, and clinician. We were very fortunate to have him work with our ensemble during a 2 hour masterclass session while touring Boston. In a short amount of time, he was able to transform our sound to that of a collegiate level by way of his highly innovative and fun rehearsal techniques. Brian's rehearsal techniques free not only free the voice, but also the spirit, enabling singers express the true meaning of the music. Needless to say, we are looking forward to working with him again in the very near future.
Jason Bizich, Choral Director
Harriton High School
I first saw one of Brian O'Connell's high school ensembles perform in 2003. I was impressed with the fine vocal technique of the singers and the musical excellence of their performance. However, what struck me the most was the engagement of the students and their ability to communicate the text to the audience members.
Dr. Michael Driscoll
Chorus Director, Brookline High School
I deeply appreciate your continued support and encouragement. I loved watching you work with District Chorus two years back. Beyond being an exceptional musician, I think the genuine way in which you interact with high school students is simply captivating. I would never pass up the chance to have my students work with you.
Choral Director, Peabody High School
Mr. O'Connell's one hour workshop with my students was a fantastic experience for the students and for the adults watching! With his trademark jokes he won over my middle schoolers immediately, then impressed them with his thoughtful encouragement. He got them dancing, listening to each other, and engaging with the music in new ways. Twelve hours later, one baritone told me "I'm still thinking about what that guy said!" From a 14-year old, there is no higher praise. If you haven't hired Brian O'Connell yet, what are you waiting for?
Jaime Alberts, Bigelow Middle School
Congratulations to you and the members of the Lexington High School Madrigal Singers for the exquisite performance they gave during the afternoon Concert Hour at the MMEA All-State Conference on Friday, March 27, 2009. The musicianship demonstrated throughout their performance was stunning and reflected a high degree of professionalism. As is the hallmark of the ensemble, their response to the nuances of intonation, tone color, balance and style along with their mature concept of sound was superb! The repertoire selected for the performance was musically stimulating and appropriately challenged the musical and technical skills of the performers. Without question your achievements are truly to be celebrated by Lexington High School and the Lexington community at large.
Dr. Walter Pavasaris
The Boston Conservatory at Berklee
Brian O’Connell is an outstanding colleague and teacher. His tremendous knowledge base and his remarkable experiences are a treasure trove for our graduate Music Education students. His generosity and willingness to collaborate make him a treasured member of our faculty team. We are truly privileged to have Brian O’Connell as a member of our Music Education faculty.
Dr. Rhoda Bernard, Chair (former)
Music Education Department
The Boston Conservatory at Berklee