July 6, 2003 by

Norman O’Connor


Categories: Religious Leaders

Rev. Norman James O’Connor, the jazz priest, died June 29 of a heart attack. He was 81.
O’Connor never had a problem mixing his work with his passion for music. Although he played piano with local jazz bands in his youth, O’Connor gave up his dreams of becoming a musician when he enrolled at Catholic University in Washington. Instead, he was ordained as a Paulist priest in 1948 and included jazz in his services.
During his decade as the chaplain at Boston University, O’Connor was named to the board of the first Newport Jazz Festival. Each year he’d appear at the event in his priest collar, and serve as the master of ceremonies. He wrote a weekly jazz column for The Boston Globe and freelanced for music magazines.
In the 1960s, O’Connor worked as the director of radio and television for the Paulist Fathers in New York. He also hosted a syndicated radio show and the local TV show, “Dial M for Music.”

5 Responses to Norman O’Connor

  1. Bob L

    Father Norman J. O’Conner hosted “DIAL M FOR MUSIC” in the 1965-1967 timeframe. This was a Sunday afternoon “public service” (non-commercial) show on WCBS TV – New York. The show – 30 minutes long – featured one or two jazz greats, performing LIVE, to an audience of roughly ten clean-cut jacket-and-tied local high school seniors. I was often one of those. At that time I had little notion how rich, wonderful and unique this experience was – featuring the likes of Maynard Ferguson, Peggy Lee, Mongo Santamaria, The New Christy Minstrels, Gene Krupa, and many, many more I just can’t remember and didn’t fathom at the time. Could have been Monk, or Dizzy, or Miles, for all I can remember now that I’m a senior (citizen). Searching the internet provides a scant few references to Dial M for Music. I miss and mourn for my Jazz Priest – Paulist Father Norman J. O’Connor. – Bob Leipow

    • Rolfe Auerbach


      I was also one of the kids often in the audience of Dial M for Music – in our sport jackets, white shirts and ties. I recall Father O’Conner instructing us to clap very very fast to make it appear that there were more than 10 of us in the audience. Under the watchful eye of Producer Ethel Burns, we experienced the best of Jazz Music of the day. I am greatful for all of those moments and memories!

      Rolfe Auerbach

  2. Hal Fleming

    I worked with Father O’Connor in Paterson, NJ. He was in charge of a Drug and Alcohol program called Straight and Narrow. He always took a direct personal interest in all the staff and residents. I remember him musing that the purpose of the program seemed to be tied to getting a new set of teeth for one of the residents. He spoke of the great and humble with warmth.

  3. Roy Basil

    Yes his his tv show came at a time when jazz was
    not doing well in clubs in the usa.
    I saw Chris Connor at least two different times,
    as well as Morgana King, MJQ, some great latin
    groups even Carmen McRae and maybe Irene Kral.
    Wonder if anyone will get this show out there
    either on cd or dvd format. Maybe Mosiac Records?
    He was great to jazz musicians, singers and at
    promoting this style in the 1960s-70s.
    Does anyone know if he had a radio show in
    boston or elsewhere that promoted jazz?
    I will surely miss his greatness and holiness.

  4. Rousseau, Collector

    Father Norman O’Connor did have a radio show, and I listened avidly to hear his educated insights about the older jazz and the musicians. In the Washington DC area, there were few knowledgeable jazz voices. After Father O’Connor, there were: Les Sand, WOL; Felix Grant, WMAL; Hazen Shumacher, WAMU, Beale Riddle; George Mercer, and the present day Guru of “The Jazz Decades”, Ray Smith, WGBH.

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