Jim O'Brien began playing accordion at age 13. Coming from a musical family, he learned to play piano and various brass instruments too. At 16 he had his own teaching studio in Oregon with about 30 students. He studied with Karl Kment and Luigi Rangon in Portland. At 18, however, he virtually abandoned the accordion and went to college where he studied the piano. He then proceeded to finish three degrees in music, including a Ph.D. in music education from Colorado University, as well as an M.B.A. from Arizona State University. Although he was a professor of music at The University of Arizona (since 1975), where he taught music appreciation, world music, music education and music theory, he retired on July 1, 2003 and enjoys being Professor Emeritus who doesn't have to worry about "what do I do Monday morning?"
During his teaching years, he was found and saved by a violin student who asked Jim to do a gig with him. Jim dragged out his box and for 2 to 3 years they did the strolling thing, accordion and violin, at resorts and hotels. A few years ago he purchased a Petosa with MIDI and sealed his fate. He joined accordion clubs around the country, attended the Galla-Rini camp and Cotati Festival. He also presented at showcase concert at A.L.S.I., the San Diego accordion club. He is the founder and first Musical Director of the Accordion Club of Tucson.
Using his Petosa, he has completed three CDs: Accordion Accord; Reason for Squeezin'; and No Joke, Mostly Folk. He has participated in numerous musical presentations, including works by Williams, Shostakovich and Weill at the UA as well. Shirley O'Brien, his spouse, and he enjoy traveling in their motorhome around the country, performing in informal concerts wherever they find a willing audience.
Nonetheless, his ultimate goal is to join the circus and perform in center ring, playing Magnante's arrangement of "Dark Eyes" while roller blading.