Paul O'Neill, the producer, songwriter and recording artist best-known to mainstream audiences for his work as the founder of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, has passed away at the age of 61.

News of O'Neill's death comes courtesy of the TSO social media feed, which has posted a note describing the band's team as "heartbroken" over the loss. Attributing his passing to "chronic illness," the announcement adds, "He was our friend and our leader — a truly creative spirit and an altruistic soul. This is a profound and indescribable loss for us all. We ask that you respect Paul’s family’s privacy now."

Born in New York City on Feb. 23, 1956, O'Neill worked his way through the record industry ranks from a variety of angles. After the demise of an early band project, he moved into management and tour promotion as well as production — the latter career putting him behind the boards for an assortment of rock and metal acts that included Aerosmith and Savatage. Along the way, he developed the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concept — a blend of rock opera and classical, with a flashy stage show and a huge roster of musicians. It was an idea that would prove consistently commercially successful while affording O'Neill the opportunity to affect a broad array of artists.

"Paul was a super kind and generous man," wrote radio personality Eddie Trunk. "This is a massive loss. Paul supported so many great musicians through TSO over the years."

Trans-Siberian Orchestra released six albums and an EP between 1996 and 2015, each of which were certified at least gold; the band's debut release, Christmas Eve and Other Stories, became its most successful, selling more than three million copies. The group built a steady following through its live performances, known for their elaborate audiovisual setup, and toured heavily with a long list of players — all of whom O'Neill professed to consider of equal importance.

"We’re just really lucky — we’re the first band to have over 80 members, but in reality we have over 400 members, because there’s over 340 people in the crew. A lot of people don’t appreciate how key they are to us," O'Neill pointed out in 2013. "When kids come on, I always give them the TSO rules — the fans own the band and it’s our job to spare no expense, time or money to make the best albums and concerts and charge the lowest possible price. The fans own the band. The minute we forget that is the minute we start to decline. The same is true for corporations, governments or whatever. Just always be on top of our game and not take it for granted."

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