Mark O'Connor

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For other people named Mark O'Connor, see Mark O'Connor (disambiguation).
Mark O'Connor
Mark O'Connor, bluegrass musician on stage at Cambridge Folk Festival, 1985.jpg
Mark O'Connor on stage at the 1985 Cambridge Folk Festival
Background information
Born (1961-08-05) August 5, 1961 (age 55)
Origin Seattle, Washington, USA
Genres Classical music, folk music, jazz, fiddling, country, pop, bluegrass,
Occupation(s) Violinist, composer, pedagogue
Instruments Violin, fiddle, mandolin, mandola, guitar
Years active 1974–present
Labels Rounder, Warner Bros., Sony Classical, OMAC
Associated acts The New Nashville Cats, Hot Swing, Appalachia Waltz, Strength in Numbers, Dregs, Stephane Grappelli, American String Celebration, Yo-Yo Ma, James Taylor

Mark O'Connor (born August 5, 1961 in Seattle, Washington) [1] is an American bluegrass, jazz and country violinist, fiddler, composer and music teacher. O'Connor has received numerous awards for both his playing and his composition. As a teenager he won national string instrument championships for his virtuoso playing of the guitar and mandolin as well as the fiddle. His mentors include Texas fiddler Benny Thomasson[2] who taught O'Connor to fiddle as a teenager, French jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli[3] with whom O'Connor toured as a teenager, and guitarist Chet Atkins.[4]

Early life[edit]

Mark O'Connor was a child prodigy[citation needed] who won national titles on the fiddle, guitar and mandolin as a teenager. In 1975 at age thirteen, O'Connor won the WSM (AM), Tennessee, and Grand Ole Opry sponsored Grand Masters Fiddle Championships[5] in Nashville against amateur and professional competitors of all ages. That same year he won another national championship, this time on acoustic guitar, at the National Flat Pick Guitar Championship in Winfield, Kansas.[6] At age 19, O'Connor won the Buck White International Mandolin Championship in Kerrville, Texas. He is a four-time grand champion (1979, 1980, 1981 and 1984) at the National Oldtime Fiddler's Contest in Weiser, Idaho.[7]

Musical career[edit]

O'Connor composes, arranges, and records American music across genres including folk, classical and jazz. His works include concertos, and compositions for string orchestra, string quartets, string trios, choral music, solo unaccompanied pieces and a new symphony (see Compositions). His "Fiddle Concerto (1992)", a violin concerto in American fiddle style commission by the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, has been performed over 200 times, making it one of the most performed concertos written in the last 40 years.[8]

In 1997, O'Connor and others composed and performed music based on folk melodies as arrangements in an original score by American modern classical composer Richard Einhorn for the American Revolutionary War-era Public Broadcasting Service documentary miniseries, Liberty! The American Revolution (the companion album is Liberty!). The theme music for the miniseries is O'Connor's "Song of the Liberty Bell."[9]

In 1999, he recorded his "Fanfare For The Volunteer" with the London Philharmonic for Sony Classical,[10] and one of his most critically acclaimed orchestral pieces "American Seasons", which alludes to The Four Seasons (Vivaldi), for Sony Classical[11] as well. "American Seasons", and his "Strings & Threads" Suite (1986) was performed by The Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra in 2001 at the Great Performers concert at Lincoln Center. In a review by the New York Times, "if Dvorak had spent his American leisure time in Nashville instead of Spillville, Iowa, his New World Symphony might have sounded like this." [12] Both "Strings & Threads" Suite and "American Seasons" were recorded for the album The American Seasons, released in 2001 on the label OMAC.

O'Connor recorded with the mandolinist Chris Thile entitled Thirty-Year Retrospective. It celebrates his thirty years as a recording artist on his own OMAC label. He also provided the soundtrack to a 30-minute animated film on the story of Johnny Appleseed (and released the music on his 1992 album Johnny Appleseed), narrated by Garrison Keillor. He contributed four tracks to a 1993 album on the theme of The Night Before Christmas narrated by Meryl Streep. One of his most popular compositions, Appalachia Waltz (appearing on the album of the same title), has been adopted by Yo-Yo Ma as part of his live performance repertoire, and used frequently as music for weddings including two of former Vice President Al Gore's daughters[citation needed]. One of his recent efforts is his piano trio entitled Poets and Prophets which is inspired by his boyhood hero Johnny Cash. Currently O'Connor and Rosanne Cash have teamed up for concert dates premiering their collaboration in New York at Merkin Hall, January 2007. He plays on Ken Burns' The War. On April 28, 2009, O'Connor teamed with chamber musicians Ida Kavafian, Paul Neubauer and Matt Haimovitz to present his second and third string quartets, amalgamating bluegrass with classical styles, at Merkin Concert Hall in New York.[13] O'Connor released the recording for both string quartets under the label OMAC in May 2009.[14]

O'Connor has worked and recorded with a wide variety of artists, such as Chet Atkins, James Taylor, Michelle Shocked, Alison Krauss, David Grisman, Tony Rice, Bela Fleck, Renée Fleming, Pinchas Zukerman, Stéphane Grappelli, Patty Loveless, The Dixie Dregs, John Hartford and Wynton Marsalis. Some of his more recent albums are or contain tributes to his musical mentors and inspirations, including Niccolò Paganini, Benny Thomasson, and Grappelli. He has recorded solo albums for Rounder, Warner Bros. Records, Sony, and his own CD line OMAC Records.

The O'Connor Method[edit]

O'Connor has developed a string instrument technique for music teachers and students, The O'Connor Method - A New American School of String Playing.[15] The method places an emphasis on music and playing techniques from North America, in addition to focusing on rhythmic development, ear training, and improvisation.

The method is published as a series of books and also contains short essays about famous American fiddlers such as Thomas Jefferson and Davy Crockett, the history of Gypsy and Mariachi music, and various dances. Teacher training sessions based on the method take place around the United States and in other countries.

Awards and honors[edit]

O'Connor has won two Grammy awards; one for his New Nashville Cats album (1992) and another for Appalachian Journey album (2001) with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer.[16] He was named Musician of the Year by the Country Music Association six years in a row (from 1991 to 1996).[17] His collaborative single Restless (with Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs and Steve Wariner) won the 1991 CMA Vocal Event of the Year award.

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Year Album Peak chart positions Label
US Classical Crossover US Classical US Jazz US Country US Heat US Bluegrass US Indie
1974 National Junior Fiddling Champion Rounder
1976 Pickin' in the Wind
1978 Markology
1979 On the Rampage
Soppin' the Gravy
1982 False Dawn
1982 Industry Standard (with Dixie Dregs) Arista
1985 Meanings Of Warner
1986 Stone from Which the Arch Was Made
1988 Elysian Forest
1989 The Championship Years CMF
On the Mark Warner
1990 Retrospective Rounder
1991 The New Nashville Cats 44 14 Warner
1992 Johnny Appleseed Rabbit Ears
1993 Heroes 46 14 Warner
The Night Before Christmas Rabbit Ears
1994 The Fiddle Concerto 6 Warner
1996 Appalachia Waltz (with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer) Sony
1997 Liberty! 8
1998 Midnight on the Water 5
1999 Fanfare for the Volunteer
2000 Appalachian Journey (with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer)
2001 The American Seasons
Hot Swing! OMAC
2003 Thirty-Year Retrospective
Hot Swing Trio: In Full Swing 4 Sony
2004 Crossing Bridges 19 OMAC
2005 Hot Swing Trio: Live in New York
Double Violin Concerto
2006 Folk Mass
2007 The Essential Mark O'Connor Sony
2008 Americana Symphony OMAC
2009 String Quartets No. 2 & 3
2010 Jam Session
2011 An Appalachian Christmas 9 5 3 39
2012 American Classics
2012 America On Strings
2013 The Improvised Violin Concerto CD/DVD
2014 MOC4
2014 Mark O'Connor Christmas Tour Live DVD
2015 Duo.

Singles[edit]

Year Song Chart positions Album
US Country[18] CAN Country
1991 "Restless"
(w/ Vince Gill, Steve Wariner and Ricky Skaggs)
25 19 The New Nashville Cats
1992 "Now It Belongs to You" (w/ Steve Wariner) 71 62
1994 "The Devil Comes Back to Georgia"
(w/ Charlie Daniels, Travis Tritt, Marty Stuart and Johnny Cash)
54 Heroes

Music videos[edit]

Year Video Director
1990 "Bowtie"[19] Gustavo Garzon
1991 "Restless" (with Steve Wariner, Ricky Skaggs and Vince Gill)
"Now It Belongs to You" (with Steve Wariner) Gustavo Garzon
1993 "The Devil Comes Back to Georgia" (with Charlie Daniels, Johnny Cash, Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart)
1997 "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" (with James Taylor)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Mark O'Connor Biography". CMT. 
  2. ^ "Mark O'Connor: On Learning, Playing, and Teaching Strings, American-style by Peter Anick". Fiddle Magazine, Aug 21, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Mark O'Connor Hot Swing on Mountain Stage". NPR. 
  4. ^ "Chet Atkins and Mark O'Connor by Tod Redmond". Mister Guitar. 
  5. ^ "Grand Master Fiddler Championship Past Winners". Grand Master Fiddler. 
  6. ^ "National Guitar Flat Pick Champion Archive". Walnut Valley Festival. 
  7. ^ "National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest Past Winners". Fiddle Contest. 
  8. ^ "ShoreFire Media Official Bio for Mark O'Connor". ShoreFire Media. 
  9. ^ "LIBERTY! The American Revolution, Series: The Music of Liberty". PBS. 
  10. ^ "Fanfare for the Volunteer [sound recording]". Chicago Public Library. 
  11. ^ "American Seasons: Review". AllMusic.com. 
  12. ^ "MUSIC REVIEW; Vivaldi and a Touch of Twang From Some Flexible Fiddlers". The New York Times. 
  13. ^ O'Connor, Karafian, Neubauer, Haimovitz, Mark, Ida, Paul Matt. "Mark O'Connor's String Quartet No. 3 (2nd Mvmt) w. Kavafian/Neubauer/Haimovitz". String Quartet No. 3. YouTube. Retrieved 24 September 2012. 
  14. ^ "Mark O'Connor String Quartets No. 2 & 3". Amazon. 
  15. ^ "O'Connor Violin Method". Mark O'Connor Musik International. 
  16. ^ "Past Winners: Grammys". Grammy. 
  17. ^ "CMA Musician of the Year Past Winners". Country Music. 
  18. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 304. ISBN 0-89820-177-2. 
  19. ^ "CMT : Videos : Mark O'Connor : Bowtie". Country Music Television. Retrieved September 29, 2011. 

External links[edit]