From Noise to Music

** An Affiliated Event
January 30, 2015 - 3:30pm
UVA Music Library

The University of Virginia Music Library "Making Noise" Serieis presents Blue O'Connell.
Blue O'Connell will share her cochlear implant experience and her story of learning to hear again, and will play some of her own compositions. 

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Blue O’Connell biography from

Blue O’Connell is a Certified Music Practitioner, singer/songwriter and guitarist who happens to be profoundly deaf. (refer to her article in The Hearing Journal for this story here.)  Her debut CD, "Choose the Sky” is part miracle, part hard work and an inspiring achievement.

Blue was raised in inner city Chicago where she began cultivating her passion for the arts at an early age. Her first performances took place at a neighborhood community recreation center. There she expressed herself in a wide variety of ways – tap dancing in variety shows, acting in dramatic plays and performing trampoline routines.

After a failed attempt at clarinet lessons, she was given a pair of drumsticks from her art teacher.  From there, she quickly learned every beat to  “Hawaii Five-O” and “Mission Impossible” theme songs. She then gained some notoriety being the only girl drummer in her high school band. She dreamed of forming a band becoming a rock and roll star.  But all of this changed after seeing a folksinger friend singing one of her own songs. Inspired by her example, she went home and dug out her mothers’ old Harmony guitar, a leftover relic of the 60’s folk boom. That was how it all began.

O'Connell got her start as a professional musician over 30 years ago accompanying jazz and wedding singers in Chicago. Since relocating to Charlottesville, Virginia in 1989, she immersed herself in the local music scene. In addition to performing in the acoustic music venues, she was a folk radio announcer at WTJU for 20 years. In the summer of 2011, she released her first CD, “Choose the Sky”. Music critics from all over the US, UK and Canada have praised O'Connell's music as: “inventive”, “creative”, “haunting”, “profoundly moving", “full of grace and inspiration. "

Her guitar work exemplifies the influence of some interesting guitarists she has studied with, most notably Robert Fripp & Ralph Towner. Her lyrics show a unique perspective gained from working with writers as diverse and visionary as Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and cartoonist Lynda Barry. Her voice has been described as a cross between Nanci Griffith and Billie Holiday.

In addition to performing in acoustic music venues along the East coast, she is employed at the University of Virginia hospital playing therapuetic music for patients. In addition, she works for VSA Arts in Charlottesville which is a non profit organization  that promote experiences in the arts for individuals with disabilities. She is an Artist- in - Residence at Albemarle County Schools.
In May 2014, she was awarded the Mildred W. Spicer Arts Fund Award created to recognize a local person for outstanding service improving artistic opportunities for people with disabilities.

[The story of her hearing loss journey can be found on this page under the cochlear implant presentation topic.]


UVA Department of Music
112 Old Cabell Hall
P.O. Box 400176 Charlottesville, VA 22904-4176