John O'Connor

Photography by Laurel Trumble

John O’Connor, Bartlesville, OK, is the band percussionist and a charter member of Kilkenny Road. He plays the bodhran (also known as the Irish drum). John’s bodhran provides the “heartbeat”of the music and is responsible for adding just the right amount of rhythmic lift that the group needs. The bodhran is typically constructed of a cylindrical wood frame fit with an animal hide (preferably goatskin), and is played obliquely with a wooden “stick” or “tipper”. It is recognized as one of the oldest traditional instruments used in Irish music, and is believed to have evolved from an early drum brought to Ireland by the Romans during their early occupation of that area.

John's O'Connor's bodhran was custom made for him by Albert Alfonso

O’Connor has Irish heritage from his father’s side of his family, and has enjoyed listening to Irish music for many years. His desire to participate as an instrumentalist began in 1998 after hearing a music group at church performing Celtic music, led by Glen Schmidt. With Glen’s encouragement, John taught himself to play the bodhran, and then began playing frequently at informal music jams in Bartlesville. John met Wayne Kahre (fiddle) at a Bartlesville jam, and the two men began playing together regularly at an Irish music jam at Arnie’s Pub in Tulsa. In 2000, John & Wayne invited two other instrumentalists to join them in forming a group. They named the music group Kilkenny Road, and the band has been playing traditional Irish music in the Bartlesville – Tulsa area ever since then.