Trans-Siberian Orchestra was founded in 1996 by rock producer and composer Paul O'Neil. The band, which also features Jon Oliva, Robert Kinkel, and Al Pitrellii, blends heavy metal and progressive rock with classical music. TSO is famous for its unique brand of Christmas music and for performing around the winter holidays. Their popular and extravagant live shows feature pyrotechnics, lasers, and dozens of talented performers.
TSO released its first album in 1996 but didn't start performing live until 1999. That's when they played a series of shows in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit. The following year the band split in two to take advantage of the holiday season. Currently the bands are on the road from early November till the first week of January.
The band's first album, Christmas Eve and Other Stories, was released in 1996 and it eventually reached double-platinum status. Their next two albums, Christmas Attic (1998) and The Lost Christmas Eve (2004), have both been certified platinum. As of 2010, TSO has released two non-Christmas albums, Beethoven's Last Night (2000) and Night Castle (2009), but neither has sold as well as their Christmas offerings.
New York native O'Neil has a diverse and interesting resume. He was once the guitarist for the touring productions of Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair. After working for legendary manager David Krebs, O'Neil went on to become one of the biggest rock promoters in Japan. He's also produced albums for Aerosmith and Savatage.
As a composer O'Neil gradually evolved into writing rock operas. His first two, Streets: A Rock Opera and Dead Winter Dead, received favorable reviews. It was at this time that he also became the principal songwriter for Savatage. Needing a larger platform for his ambitious compositions, O'Neil created Trans-Siberian Orchestra.