Bill O'Connell Chicago Teacher, Drummer, Band Leader, Father, Hockey and Baseball Coach, Radio Personality, Union Leader


Formative Years

Bill O'Connell was born in Chicago on 4/13/55. In the summer of 1967, Bill's parents brought him to a drum and bugle corps competition in their home town of Des Plaines, IL hosted by the Des Plaines Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps. That fall, Bill joined and was placed in the drum section. This experience exposed him to a variety of musical styles from classical to jazz to show tunes, etc. Drum corps developed his drum chops and his love for music with horns.



While completing an Associate of Arts in Music degree from Oakton College, music professors warned that there was a surplus of music teachers in the market so one should consider a double major. Bill also had an interest in cars encouraged by his father, a mechanic in the Korean War and thereafter. While attending Oakton, Bill also took classes at Triton College in River Grove, IL majoring in Vocational Education. Bill transferred to Northern Illinois University and minored in music, graduating in 1977 with a Bachelors of Science in Vocational Education degree and Masters of Science Degree in 1981.


Big Band Jazz

In the fall of 1973, one of Bill's trumpet player friends Guy Kammerer invited Bill to a Maynard Ferguson concert at Gordon Tech High School in Chicago. Bill was hooked on the big band sounds. While establishing his career as a high school automotive instructor, Bill continued developing his drum chops with the goal of one day leading a jazz big band. All the big bands of the day came through Chicago, Count Basie, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich, and Toshiko Akiyoshi to name a few. After establishing himself as an automotive instructor at Triton College, it was time for Bill to fulfill his dream of forming a world class jazz ensemble. For lack of a better name, The Bill O'Connell Big Band was formed in December of 1988. Ultimately, the bands name evolved into Bill O’Connell’s Chicago Skyliners then finally just the Chicago Skyliners Big Band. The Chicago Skyliners have been a house band at FitzGeralds Night Club in Berwyn, IL since 1992.


Horn Driven Rock

In 1999, Bill began providing pregame entertainment for the NBA Chicago Bulls. Given Bill’s love for horn driven music, he started what would become the band, “One Foot in the Groove.” Eventually, The Groove would be performing all over the Chicagoland area on the festival scene.


Union Leader

Throughout his career as an educator, Bill’s leadership skills had him dabble in union politics. He began in an advisory capacity as an executive committee member at large and eventually the salary and welfare VP of the Triton College Faculty Association. The TCFA is affiliated with the Cook County College Teachers Union Local 1600 where Bill moonlights and a photo journalist for the award winning publication, “The College Union Voice.”


Wife and Children

In 1987, an auto repair shop owner/automobile technician student of Bill’s introduced him to his wife Dawn England. They married in August 1990 and bared son Chase in 1991, Will in 1994 and Kayley in 1996.


Radio Personality

In 1997, Bill approached Chicago’s jazz radio station WDCB about hosting a weekly contemporary big band radio show. Every Sunday at 6pm Chicago time, Bill swings hard at 90.9 FM and streams live on the internet at



Having resided in Elk Grove Village, IL since 1992, Bill has been a volunteer for Elk Grove Youth Baseball and InLine Hockey as a coach, referee and various board positions including League Commissioner.


The American Dream

Though these activities make for a very busy life, Bill states, “I am living the American Dream.”

Feel free to E-MAIL for more information.

© 2024 The Chicago Skyliners Big Band.

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