Ben Oâ€™Connor is a web design instructor at CSU, as well as a contract web designer and developer.
But when heâ€™s not writing HTML code and teaching students how to make their own websites, he performs in three different bands, including Halden Wofford and the Hi*Beams, Glove Trucker/Power Trucker and Whisky Trip.
Although his current bands categorize their music as â€œhonky-tonkâ€ and â€œoutlaw country,â€ Oâ€™Connor has played other styles of music, including bluegrass and rock and roll, with over 10 other bands throughout the past decade.
What is it like being an instructor at CSU and being in three bands? How do you juggle that?
Oâ€™Connor: Right now Iâ€™m down to two bands, but I will occasionally get a call to substitute in another band. Itâ€™s generally not too tough to manage. Most of the winter, I just do weekend shows on the Front Range.
The big exception is summer school, when I sometimes get back from long weekend trips just in time to teach my Monday morning class.
What role do you play in each band youâ€™re involved in?
O: My main band is Halden Wofford & the Hi*Beams. We play all around the Western U.S. For that band. I do the web site, some print design, management and some of the booking.
For my other band, Hwy 287, I just depend on someone to tell me when to show up and play.
How often and where do you perform with your bands?
O: In a typical year, I do between 125 and 150 dates. This year I played in seven states as far away as Willits, Calif. These shows range from tiny clubs (Bar SS in Laporte is a particular favorite) to big theaters and festivals all around the west.
Highlights this year included the Hickenlooper Inauguration, The Cheyenne Frontier Days Train, the Dead on the Creek Festival, the Downtown Bozeman Concert Series and the Boulder Theater (opening for the legendary Wanda Jackson).
How do your students usually react when you tell them youâ€™re in a band?
O: The best reaction is when a student says that she used to listen music like us with her grandpa.
Have you ever seen any of your students at any of your concerts?
O: Now and then. Iâ€™ve had students listen to me all night and never notice I was in the band. I think I look different in dim light.What do you think of the Fort Collins music scene?
O: Iâ€™ve played a lot of places, and I think that Fort Collins is as good a music town as anywhere. The FoCoMX event has grown every year, and itâ€™s a big statement about what we have going on musically in our town.
Any town that has cool bands like Fierce Bad Rabbit, the Patti Fiasco and Mama Lenny and the Remedy is doing something right.
What makes you passionate about music and performing?
O: Iâ€™ve always had music in my life, starting with my motherâ€™s record collection. When we play, it makes people happy, and I like that. Itâ€™s been a big adventure so far, and every year gets better.
What is your favorite type of music and why?
O: I love most kinds of music, from the punk and metal I listened to in college to all the American roots styles I usually listen to now. If I had to pick one type, I suppose it would be the tough, raw, emotional honky-tonk music of the 1960s, made by folks like Merle Haggard.
What makes you passionate about teaching?
O: I have had some great talent in my classroom through the years. Some of them have become entrepreneurs, and others are doing great work in design firms. Itâ€™s very meaningful to me when I hear from students who have pursued web development professionally after taking my class.
How did you get involved in the music scene?
O: I started playing for tips in some long-gone coffee houses around Fort Collins 12 years ago, and Iâ€™ve never stopped.
What was the name of your first band, and how old were you when you created it?
O: I used to play the Surfside 7 with a band called the Horsetooth Playboys. I was in my mid-30s.
What has been one of your favorite experiences being in a band?
O: Playing on A Prairie Home Companion. For the kind of music I play, it doesnâ€™t really get much bigger than that.
When you were younger, did you always have the dream of becoming a famous musician?
O: Not really, and I still donâ€™t. Mostly Iâ€™d like to someday get really, really good at playing bass.