Thursday, June 8th, 2023

John and Nelle O’Neill – A Life of Music for the Children


Photography by John O'Neill - Winter Shadows“Winter Shadows” – John O’Neill, Photographer

John and Nelle O’Neill

A Life of Music for the Children

When I first started talking with John O’Neill via e-mail I got this sense about him that it was important for me to write an article and place it on my website to provide added recognition and exposure for his lifelong work in music. I thought it would be a fairly easy task having written many articles that this site can attest to. What I have learned about John and his wife Nelle, since that first e-mail, was considerably more than I could have imagined during my initial contact with him.

Taking Walks TogetherOur Morning Walks Together

The first of my challenges in writing this article was how was I going to write just about John? Married to Nelle his lovely wife of 55 years is an accomplishment that deserves high honors all by itself. When looking further into their lives, what they have done individually as well as together, aside from building a family with their two children Michael and Kathleen, with a common interest in music and service to their community, is absolutely amazing!

The Composer - O'NeillJohn O’Neill – Composer, Conductor and Music Educator

My second challenge was to select just exactly what type of article I was to write. I could feature John alone, as a successful Conductor, Composer and Music Educator, as there is plenty to write about when you consider that his involvements and contributions to music are after all his lifelong work. In fact, there is more than enough to write about in each category, plenty enough to make three dozen articles! If I included his other “hobby” photography, well there is even more! The two scenic photographs presented in this article, Winter Shadows and Carson Valley Sunset, are a testament to that point.

Photography by John O'Neill - Carson Valley Sunset

Music by Conductor and Composer John O’Neill

Carson Valley Rhapsody


Winter Shadows

Please take a moment to review the three full length mp3’s of John’s music. If you enjoy symphonic music you will enjoy these few pieces from his music library of original musical works.

John’s music is available through the following print music publishers as well as on his official website; J. W. Pepper, TRN Publications, the FJH Music Publishing Company, Luck’s Music Library and LudwigMasters Publications (Kalmus). Also, his music has been performed throughout the United States at various educational institutions.

John states this about his music, “I would hope that my compositions and arrangements will continue to be performed by young musicians forever…”.

Violin and Viola Maker - O'NeillNelle O’Neill – Luthier

While many Luthiers approach their craft from a background of woodworking, Nelle works from the point of view of a performing violinist and she understands the importance of great sound and the ease of use of the instrument.

Dr. Daniel Lu wrote the following about his instrument; “Thank you so much for your fine work!!! Your violin exceeded my highest expectations… I’m not sure if you know, bit I’ve played the “top” modern makers in the past year… and your violin ranks among them”!

To make matters more difficult when writing this article becomes readily apparent when looking at what Nelle has done in her own right. She is an accomplished violinist, award winning violin and viola luthier and like John, she also teaches the violin and viola. As you can tell, there is plenty to write about her too as she has won many awards for the quality and character of the sound that resonates from the instruments she makes. Nelle has also been recognized for the final treatments used on the instruments she produces. Below is a photographic collage of her latest creation “Maggie”, a viola of astounding beauty!

Silver Medals - Luthier O'Neill

Nelle O'Neill Luthier - "Maggie" - Viola

“Maggie” was commissioned by her grand-niece in Denton, Texas . . . she and her parents will be meeting John and Nelle at the VMAAI convention in October (see below) and take it home with her.


What They’ve Done Together


John and Nelle O'Neill - Violin ShopCarson Valley Violins

Aside from raising their children, they have also have founded the Carson Valley Violin School from which they both teach music, Carson Valley Sinfonia, a 30 piece, student/community string ensemble with an age spread of 10 to 87 years and Carson Valley Violins, Nelle’s shop. Each of these also deserves recognition for their contributions to their community and for those who partake of the fruits of their labor, their students, performers and customers.

Violin MakingNelle in her Workshop

The more a person looks into their lives the more challenging the article content selection becomes. Just like composing an excellent symphony, each note is a contributing factor making the symphony an absolutely glorious listening experience. Take away a single note and it is diminished from its original intent. Likewise, with John and Nelle O’Neill, one cannot exclusively write about only one of them as their lives are inextricably woven together, much like the notes of a wonderful and beautiful symphony!


John and Nelle O’Neill – Their Home!

Home in the Snow - O'Neill

John and Nelle live in a beautiful home on a hillside overlooking the Sierra Nevada and the picturesque Carson Valley in Minden Nevada USA.


Oh yeah, don’t forget to say hello to their pets; Antonio Stradivari, their cat and Charlee their dog.


Ladies and Gentlemen – Mr. and Mrs. John O’Neill

A Loving Couple - J and N O'Neill~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To learn more about John and Nelle please visit their websites by following the links below and throughout this article.

Additional Recommended Links

Violin Makers Association of Arizona International

John O’Neill’s American Wildflowers

Ithaca College – John O’Neill Article

Ithaca College Review

Nelle Doak O’Neill, Luthier


Attention Luthiers!!

The Violin Makers Association of Arizona International is the oldest organization of its kind in the United States. It is the only violin making organization holding an annual convention and competition for new instruments.

This year, their annual Convention and Competition is being held at the Randolf Park Hotel (Formerly the Clarion) in Tuscon Arizona on October 12 – 15 2010.

To make your reservations and for more information please contact:

VMAAI- Alan Copeland, President: (925) 443-6165

Hotel Reservations: (520) 795-0330

Hurry! Time is running out for this year’s event!


Article Permissions

All photography and music files used in this article were provided by John O’Neill and they are being used under written permission by the copyright holders, unless otherwise noted.

Additional Credits

“Winter Shadows” – John O’Neill, PhotographerThis is the image that provided the inspiration for John’s composition “Winter Shadows“. The photo was taken a few years ago near Mammoth Lakes, CA on their way to Death Valley.

“Carson Valley Sunset” (2007) – John O’Neill, Photographer

“Carson Valley Rhapsody – John O’Neill, composer – The composition was written using Notion 3 music software. Notion was created by one of John’s long-time friends, Jack Jarrett. They received their M.M. degrees in composition together at Eastman School of Music in 1997 – Recorded by Washington DC Pops.

“Awakenings” – John O’Neill, composer

“Winter Shadows” – John O’Neill, composer – This is a new composition by John and he considers it a work in process at this time so we are getting an exclusive sneak peek at his next masterpiece. The inspiration for Winter Shadows the music comes from the photograph at the top of this article (using the same title).

Special Thanks!

I wish to extend a special thanks to John and Nelle O’Neill for their generous, kind and thoughtful help in creating this article.

John and Nelle O’Neill – A Life of Music for the Children!

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