Sean O’Neill is the Conductor of The City of Newport Symphony Orchestra, Freelance Music Consultant, Educator and Tuba Tutor at Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and University of Cardiff.
Sean began playing the Tuba in the Scottish Border town of Selkirk at School and his local Town Brass Band. He was soon winning solo prizes throughout Scotland and was Junior Tuba Champion of Great Britain before going on to study at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.
Whilst still only 20, he was appointed as Principal Tuba with the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera in 1977, a position he held for 25 years. During this period, he has performed much of the major operatic repertoire including live broadcasts of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the complete cycle of Janacek’s Operas, the major operas of Richard Strauss, Benjamin Britten, Giacomo Puccini and Giuseppe Verdi.
Major recordings include Wagner’s ‘Tristan & Isolde’ and ‘Parsifal’ with Reginald Goodall, Cilea’s ‘Adriana Lecouvreur’ ‘I Masnadieri’ and ‘Ernani’ by Guiseppe Verdi, ‘Hamlet’ by Ambroise Thomas all conducted by Richard Bonynge, ‘Gloriana by Benjamin Britten and conducted by Charles Mackerras, Richard Strauss ‘Four Last Songs’ and Benjamin Britten’s ‘Our Hunting Fathers’ both with Richard Armstrong, ‘The Vigil of Venus’ composed and conducted by George Lloyd, ‘Hiawatha’ by Coleridge-Taylor and conducted by Kenneth Alwyn amongst several others.
These recordings include some of the world’s most famous and distinctive classical voices including Joan Sutherland, Monserrat Caballé, Elisabeth Söderström, Josephine Barstow, Luciano Pavarotti, José Carreras, Carlo Bergonzi, Samuel Ramey, Bryn Terfel and Willard White to name but a few.
Sean was the first Tuba player to successfully integrate the “Cimbasso”, a brass instrument specific to the Italian composer, Guiseppe Verdi into UK orchestras in 1985.
Sean went on to enjoy a very successful freelance career from 2001-2006 working with many of the UK’s major orchestras both at home and abroad including, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC Concert Orchestra, Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Scottish Opera, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and RTÉ Concert Orchestra.
During his 30-year professional playing career, Sean has worked with many outstanding conductors such as Pierre Boulez, Nello Santi, Reginald Goodall, Leif Segerstam, Marin Alsop, James Loughran, Charles Mackerras, Richard Bonynge, Franz Gruber, Mariss Jansons, Richard Armstrong, Carlo Rizzi, Stanislaw Skrowaczewsk and Tadaki Otaka.
In parallel with his professional playing career, Sean developed a passion for teaching and was brass tutor at Monmouth School for over 20 years from 1978 – 2002.
Whilst there he formed several musical ensembles, most notably the Haberdashers’ Monmouth Symphonic Winds, a multi award winning concert band which represented both the Haberdashers’ Monmouth Schools at national music festivals and competitions throughout the UK.
He was low brass tutor at Wells Cathedral School 2001-2006 and has been a guest tutor to the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain on many occasions from 1992-2006.
In 2001, Sean was invited to direct the Cardiff County & Vale of Glamorgan Youth Wind Band, the next decade saw many musical highlights and inspirational experiences. The Wind Band were regular award winners at the National Concert Band Festival and having been invited to represent Wales at the London International Wind Band Festival in 2004, were the only Gold Award Winners with competitors from both throughout Europe and America.
In 2006 the Wind Band were the first participants from the UK to compete in the New York Wind Band Festival, held in Carnegie Hall and again were Gold Award Winners. Sean returned again with the Wind Band to the New York Wind Band Festival in 2010, this time to perform in the Festival’s Gala Concert with International Euphonium Virtuoso, David Childs as their guest soloist.
During his freelance career Sean was involved as a part time tutor with Gwent Music Service from 2001, however in 2006 he was appointed to a full time Senior Brass Tutor post with the Service and took this opportunity after 30 years of professional playing to concentrate wholly on teaching and inspiring future generations of young brass players. In 2013, Sean became Head of Brass for the Service and in 2014 was appointed Head Brass & Wind Departments. Given his background and professional experience, all genres of brass, wind and orchestral students gained from his experience and inspiration. He directed performances of Gwent Schools Orchestra at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Gwent Youth Wind Orchestra at MFY Schools Proms at Royal Albert Hall, London, Gwent Youth Brass Band at Kneller Hall, the home of British Army Music and several other groups at St David’s Hall, Cardiff.
In 2017 Sean retired from his post with Gwent Music Service but only after directing Gwent Youth Wind Orchestra at the Gala Concert of the New York International Music Festival, in Carnegie Hall, once again joined by David Childs as their guest soloist.
Sean has directed and been responsible for many school, county and higher educational ensembles throughout his career. In 2012 he was invited to direct the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Wales for their annual course. He directed Abergavenny Borough Brass Band to be Welsh Regional Second Section Champions in 2017.
Currently teaching low brass at Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, University of Wales, Guest Tutor to National Children’s Orchestra. Sean was appointed Musical Director of The City of Newport Orchestra in 2019.