- D.M.A., Doctor of Musical Arts, Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Institute of Music, 1983
- M.M., Master of Music, University of Nebraska, 1969
- B.M., Bachelor of Music, University of Nebraska, 1967
Eugene O’Brien is professor emeritus of music in composition at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.
He is the recipient of the Academy Award in Music of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Rome Prize of the American Academy in Rome as well as awards from BMI, ASCAP, the League of Composers, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. He has received fellowships from Guggenheim, Rockefeller, Fulbright, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. He has been commissioned by the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, Serge Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, Meet-the-Composer/Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Fund, and many American and European performers and ensembles.
O’Brien’s music has been heard in concerts by the Cleveland Orchestra, Italian Radio (RAI) Orchestras of Rome and Turin, the Omaha Symphony, and as part of the Saint Louis Symphony Discovery series and the Louisville Orchestra New Dimensions series as well as in numerous other concerts and festivals throughout this country and abroad. He has recorded on the CRI, Golden Crest, Crystal, Capstone, and Indiana University labels, and his works are published by Codex Nuovo, G. Schirmer, and Boosey & Hawkes. Biographies and descriptions of his work are included in The New Groves Dictionary of American Music, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, and The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music.
Also active in the performance of new music, O’Brien co-founded the Cleveland new music ensemble Reconnaissance in 1978 and was associated with the group until 1984. From 1985 to 1987, he served on the production board of the Contemporary Music Forum in Washington, D.C., and directed the Indiana University New Music Ensemble from 1991 to 1993.
O’Brien studied composition with Robert Beadell, Bernd Alois Zimmermann, John Eaton, Iannis Xenakis, and Donald Erb. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Nebraska, undertook post-graduate studies at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Köln, Germany, as a Fulbright scholar, and earned a D.M.A. degree from Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Institute of Music. He has been a member of the faculty at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music since 1987, was chair of the Jacobs Composition Department from 1994 to 1999, and was the school’s executive associate dean from 1999 to 2016. He previously served as composer-in-residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music and as chair of the composition and theory departments in the School of Music of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.