The community is welcome to join a party Sunday afternoon for a Coastal Carolina University music professor and saxophonist well known for performing across the Grand Strand in blues and jazz bands.
Friends of Dan O’Reilly have coordinated a benefit to help him raise funds to offset medical expenses as he recovers from chondrosarcoma, a rare cancer of the soft tissue, after surgery earlier this year at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
Everyone is encouraged to stop by 2-5 p.m. at Travinia Italian Kitchen, at The Market Common in Myrtle Beach, across from the Grand 14 Cinema.
Rebecca Walsh has been among the crew helping line up the party the past three weeks. The manager of Realtec Leasing in Myrtle Beach said her supervisor, Jim Parker, who co-owns Commercial Landtec Corp. with John Jobson, has stayed in touch with O’Reilly and his wife of 12 years, Lisa O’Reilly, throughout his medical progress.
Besides the Realtec team’s coordination, Walsh said various businesses from The Market Common and the area have contributed items for the silent auction, including a cruise package for two, gold packages, a brand new saxophone, ballroom dance lessons, artwork and gift certificates. Walsh said she has enjoyed the “footwork” of gathering the gifts from benefactors while office assistant Mari Armstrong has started a Facebook page and website and put together fliers touting the benefit.
Walsh, who first met O’Reilly when he played for the Blues Express at House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach, commended O’Reilly for giving so much of himself in all he does. She said she and her husband-to-be “would have dinner and listen to them play” there. A few years later, the married couple on a Friday night out with Parker and his significant other encountered the U-N-I jazz and blues band (unijazzmusic.com) entertaining at Travinia, Walsh said, remembering thinking, “That guy looks so familiar.”
The connection also extends further, Walsh said, because Lisa O’Reilly, who also sings with U-N-I, once worked for Parker and Jobson.
Walsh said although O’Reilly has lost weight in his rebound, “he’s very positive fighting this,” all the more reason for the community to rally around him.
“We just want to give back to him,” she said, “and let him know how much we appreciate him.”
‘Don’t know what to say’
O’Reilly was so humbled by this outpouring of support and prayers, and he said he imagines he’ll “play a little bit” of music at the party, with two friends he asked to “sit in and jam,” his Blues Express buddies Charlie Snuggs and Butch Bowen.
“I thought it kind of fun to have some blues there,” O’Reilly said, “because everybody likes the blues.”
He said this whole party plan all started from Parker’s idea, “and I don’t know what to say” at all “the hard work” so many people are putting in for this.
“I don’t mind being the center of attention on stage,” O’Reilly said, “but not so much off stage. … This really is just a chance for me to be there with people who have been so supportive and praying for me.”
O’Reilly said he “couldn’t ask for better” medical and surgical results he has gotten since the diagnosis in spring and a miracle, in essence, that has ensued.
“It’s made me more aware of people who have it worse than I do,” he said, “people locally who are struggling with far worse situations than I have.”
He spoke how “we all have to lift each other up” and that “it’s nice to know you’re loved.”
O’Reilly said he has enjoyed playing benefits for other individuals, and “I feel really blessed” to look forward to this Sunday “in this pretty amazing place to call home.”
“I guess it’s coming around my way,” he said Monday afternoon, before welcoming a student for an office visit in campus in Conway, where he joined the faculty in fall 2001.
Colleagues share in their care
Matt White, a trumpeter in his third year teaching at CCU and active with helping coordinate jazz concerts on campus, called O’Reilly “one of the most genuine, sincere and easy-going people” with whom he has ever worked.
“His enthusiasm for life and the joy of music is infectious to his students, colleagues and audiences,” White said. “When Dan was out for his surgery and even when he first found out about the problem, his positive attitude never wavered. His only thought was getting back to making music and teaching as soon as possible.”
White has never forgotten one of O’Reilly’s comments: “I’d much rather be up and playing than sitting around.”
“He’s the type of person,” White said, “who would do anything to help and support someone, no matter who they are, and the least we can do is to honor that spirit and do the same. I’m looking forward to him making a full recovery and having many years of collaboration and friendship in the future.”
Steve Bailey, a Myrtle Beach native and CCU artist in residence who also heads the bass department at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, got lyrical in his own way to applaud O’Reilly, and he wishes his schedule would afford him time to attend the party on Sunday.
“Dan is part of the musical fabric of the Grand Strand,” Bailey said, “and I don't know anyone who puts more emotion into his performances. He has a huge tone, and a huge heart.”