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Winner will perform at WestConn on Friday, May 18: Connecticut native wins WCSU Featured Artist Competition

Image of Dan O'Brien
Featured Artist Competition Winner Dan O’Brien

DANBURY, CONN. — The Western Connecticut State University School of Visual and Performing Arts has announced the winner of its inaugural Featured Artist Competition, which solicited applications nationwide from artists of all disciplines (theatre, dance, art, music and film) for the opportunity to exhibit or perform their work on campus. Connecticut native Daniel O’Brien, an improviser, composer and woodwind player, was selected by a panel of professional artists and educators who comprise the Visual Performing Arts Commission. O’Brien and his large ensemble project, Ensemble Cordyceps, will perform at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 18, 2018, in the Veronica Hagman Concert Hall in the Visual and Performing Arts Center (VPAC) on the university’s Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury.

Ensemble Cordyceps, founded by O’Brien and Grant Beale (both WCSU music alumni), is comprised of Boston- and Connecticut-based musicians who bring a wide variety of musical traditions and approaches into play — including improvised music, Western art music, world music and jazz.

The ensemble will have open rehearsals, workshops and a question-and-answer session with invited high school groups from Staples High School in Westport, Canton High School, the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and Simsbury High School during the day on May 18, and will present a concert that night. The public is invited to all events throughout the day. The evening concert will open with a performance by the students who participated in the daytime session, followed by a music set featuring “Subversion Tactics,” an open-form piece composed by O’Brien that utilizes four improvisational frameworks and conduction symbols so the musicians can cue each other. Tickets are available at

O’Brien, who plays saxophone, clarinet and flute, grew up in Canton. As a high school student, he spent several summers at the music camps run by the WCSU Department of Music. His interactions with the former dean of the School of Visual and Performing Arts Dr. Dan Goble, a saxophone player, and Jazz Studies Coordinator Jamie Begian, a jazz guitarist and big band leader, led O’Brien to enroll at WestConn. He received his music education degree in 2012.

Following graduation, O’Brien obtained a Master of Music in Jazz Composition and Arranging at the University of North Texas. He currently is pursuing a Doctorate in Contemporary Improvisation at the New England Conservatory in Boston. In addition to his academic pursuits, O’Brien estimates he performs about 75 gigs a year featuring big band, jazz, original and improvisational music throughout New England and in New York City.

When WestConn’s Visual and Performing Arts Center broke ground in 2011, a piece for jazz orchestra composed by O’Brien was performed during the ground-breaking ceremony. The building was not completed until after his graduation, but as a student, O’Brien saw the architectural plans and experienced the anticipation of the building’s completion in then-Dean Goble’s office. O’Brien has been on the concert hall’s stage a few times since his graduation as a guest performer.

O’Brien said his selection as the winner of the Featured Artist Competition is exciting on many levels.

“Having the opportunity to be able to showcase my music in a place where I have strong, grounded musical roots is important to me,” he said. “And I get to demonstrate what I’ve been doing these past six years since I graduated. This kind of music can sometimes tend to be isolating, and here’s a platform where I can present something and maybe people will be into it.”

For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.



Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.