Groundbreaking ‘Trans-Siberian Orchestra’ Founder Paul O’Neill Found Dead

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The music world has suffered another loss as the unexpected passing of Trans Siberian Orchestra (TSO) founder Paul O’Neill was announced Wednesday.


The Los Angeles Times reported:

Paul O’Neill, who founded the progressive metal band Trans-Siberian Orchestra that was known for its spectacular holiday concerts filled with theatrics, lasers and pyrotechnics, has died at the age of 61.

O’Neill was found dead in his room by hotel staff at a Tampa Embassy Suites late Wednesday afternoon, University of South Florida police spokeswoman Renna Reddick said. There were no obvious signs of foul play, and a medical examiner is working to determine an official cause, she said.

TSO burst onto the music scene shortly after their founding in 1996 with their unique re-imagining Christmas carols an original holiday-themed tunes – but many will remember their first time hearing the band with this classic viral video from 2005:


Selling more that 12,000,000 albums and selling out the largest arenas, TSO defied the struggles many music acts face in today’s marketplace.


O’Neill was a rock producer and manager who began putting together the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in 1996, blending heavy metal with classical music and creating a unique brand of rock theater. He tapped three members of the Florida-based band Savatage to be part of TSO and intended for it to be a “supergroup,” similar to popular bands like Electric Light Orchestra, Pink Floyd and Yes.

“The best description of a TSO show I ever saw came from a reporter who said the only way to describe TSO is ‘The Who meets Phantom of the Opera with Pink Floyd’s light show,'” O’Neill told the Tampa Bay Times in an email interview in 2012. “I would take any one of those alone as a compliment.”

The band is best known for its hard rock takes on Christmas staples like “Carol of the Bells,” but also more experimental, arena-rock songs such as “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24),” which described a lone cello player playing a forgotten holiday song in war-torn Sarajevo. That song was on the band’s 1996 album, “Christmas Eve and Other Stories,” which went triple platinum.







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One Thought to “Groundbreaking ‘Trans-Siberian Orchestra’ Founder Paul O’Neill Found Dead”

  1. Franklin Samel

    I knew Paul and it is true. He was a legend of his own making and his own time. Shalom, Paul