Mark O'Connor

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For other people named Mark O'Connor, see Mark O'Connor (disambiguation).
Mark O'Connor
Born (1961-08-05) August 5, 1961 (age 54)
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 classical[citation needed], bluegrass, jazz and country violinist, fiddler, composer and music teacher. O'Connor's music is wide-ranging and critically acclaimed[citation needed], and he 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]

O'Connor currently resides in New York City.

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 "Americans 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.

All Awards/Honors:

  • 2 Grammy awards; 1992 & 2001.[16]
  • 8 Grammy nominations; 1982–2004.
  • 7 CMA awards; 1991–1996.[17]
  • 7 National & Grand Master fiddling championships; 1975–1984.
  • 2 National Guitar championships; 1975 & 1977.
  • World mandolin championship; 1982.
  • Frets Magazine Readers Poll Musician of the year; 1983–1987.
  • Irish-American Top 100; 2005.
  • Hundreds of regional, state and local awards; 1972–present.


Orchestral - Full Orchestra

  • Queen Anne's Revenge - overture for symphony orchestra - 7 min
  • The Improvised Violin Concerto for violin and orchestra - 40 min
  • Olympic Harvest - overture for symphony orchestra - 6 min
  • Americana Symphony "Variations on Appalachia Waltz" for symphony orchestra - 34 min
  • Triple Concerto "March of the Gypsy Fiddler" for violin, cello, piano and orchestra - 26 min
  • Double Concerto "For the Heroes" for violin, cello and symphony orchestra - 35 min
  • Concerto No. 6 "Old Brass" for violin and orchestra - 35 min
  • Double Violin Concerto for two violins and symphony orchestra - 32 min
  • Three Pieces for Orchestra for symphony orchestra:
I. Call of the Mockingbird - 20 min
II. Trail of Tears - 16 min
III. Fanfare for the Volunteer - 20 min
  • Johnny Appleseed Suite - 18 min
  • The Fiddle Concerto for violin and orchestra - 40 min

Orchestral - String Orchestra

  • Elevations for string orchestra - 25 min
  • The Fallen for flute and string orchestra - 20 min
  • Harmony for violin and string orchestra - 11 min
  • American Seasons (Seasons of an American Life) for violin and orchestra - 35 min
  • Surrender The Sword for violin and string orchestra - 10 min
  • Song Of The Liberty Bell for violin and string orchestra - 7 min

String Quartets

  • String Quartet No. 3 "Old-Time" - 25 min (2007)
  • String Quartet No. 2 "Bluegrass" - 36 min (2005)
  • String Quartet No. 1 (with double bass) - 30 min (1990; revised in 2006 for 2 violins, viola and cello)

Piano Trio

  • Piano Trio No. 2 "Strange Rims" - 25 min
  • Piano Trio No. 1 "Poets And Prophets" - 35 min
  • Fiddle Sonata for Piano Trio - 20 min
  • Miniatures for Piano Trio - 5 min

String Trio

  • In The Summertime - 7 min
  • Musicopia - 7 min
  • Blackberry Mull - 9 min
  • Poem - 7 min
  • Vistas - 10 min
  • Caprice For Three - 4 min
  • Butterfly’s Day Out - 5 min
  • Misty Moonlight Waltz - 4 min
  • Emily’s Reel - 5 min
  • Old Country Fairy Tale - 9 min


  • Strings & Threads Suite for violin and guitar - 18 min
  • When Bidden To The Wake Or Fair for violin and cello - 5 min
  • Brave Wolfe for trumpet and violin - 5 min
  • F.C.'s Jig - for violin and cello - 4 min

For Two Violins:

  • Gold Rush - 2 min
  • Ashokan Farewell - 5 min
  • Jole Blon - 3 min
  • St. Louis Blues - 4 min
  • Emily's Reel - 3 min
  • Faded Love - 3 min
  • Swing Low, Sweet Chariot - 3 min
  • F. C.'s Jig - 4 min
  • Jerusalem's Ridge - 3 min
  • Libertango - 3 min
  • Appalachia Waltz - 7 min
  • College Hornpipe - 2 min
  • Fiddlin' Around - 4 min
  • Tiger Rag - 2 min


  • Appalachia Waltz (violin/cello) - 7 min
  • Caprices No.'s 1 - 6 - 24 min
  • Strings & Threads Suite for violin - 17 min
  • Bonaparte's Retreat Variations - 7 min

Jazz Ensemble

Anniversary, M&W Rag, Stephane and Django, Fiddler Going Home, Gypsy Fantastic, Funky Swing, In The Cluster Blues, Pickles On The Elbow, Swingin’ On The Ville, Sweet Suzanne, In Full Swing.

Miscellaneous Instrumentals (Fiddle/Bluegrass/Newgrass/Contemporary)

A Bowl of Bula, Across the Ohio Frontier, Beserkley, Bow Tie, Captain's Jig, Cat in the Bag, Changing the Guard, Come Ride With Me, Conversation with a Friend, Cool Winds, Cotton Pickin' Blues, Court Suite, Dance of the Ol' Swamp Rat, Disco Fiddle, Rampsody, Druid Fluid, Ease with the Breeze, Fair Dancer Reel, False Dawn, Fancy Stops and Goes, Flailing, Flight Home, Floating Bridge of Dreams, Fluid Drive, Folktunes, Follow the Scout, From Panama to El Pichincha, Future Man, Get Set, Go, Granny White Special, Hear the Sun Shadows Dance, Hot Tamale, Idle Rain, Improvisations Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, Inns of Granny White, Inside the Stillness, Into the Walls of Mandoness, Irish Maiden, Johnny's Apple Pie, Light the Fire, Macedonia, March of the Pharaohs, Markology, Mark's Ark, Mark's Waltz, Midnight Interlude, My Celebration, Nashville Shuffle Boogie, New Lifetimes, October Impressions, Off to Sea Olympic Reel, On a June Day, One Winter's Night, Pacific Expectations, Pick it Apart, Pickin Parlor Rag, Pickin' in the Wind, Pilgrim's Waltz, Point of Crossing, Queen of the Cumberland, Rampology, Remember Ireland, River Out Back, Road to Appalachia, Rose Among Thorns, Sailor's Jig, Send Rainbows, Shine On, Slopes, Soft Gyrations, Stone from Which the Arch Was Made, Swept Away by Tides, Swing 11:11, Texas Dance Hall Blues, Thai Wat Sai, Thanks and Goodbyes, The Cricket Dance, The Dark Rain, The Emperor's Komponist, The Life and Times of Johnny Appleseed, The Robotic Muso, Three Angel Brides, Through the Lives, Outside the Landscape, Traveler's Ridge, Tubular Explosions, We're Surrounded, When We Talk.


  • Folk Mass for choir - 40 min
  • Let Us Move for choir - 15 min

Books - O'Connor Method™ A comprehensive string method based on music, style and technique developed in the Americas. Classic repertoire, exercises, and historical/educational text authored, composed and arranged by Mark O'Connor.

Book I Boil 'em Cabbage Down, Beautiful Skies, Oh! Susanna, Buffalo Gals, Amazing Grace, Westward Journey, Bonaparte's Retreat, Old Joe Clark, Climbing the Mountain, Appalachia Waltz, Boogie Woogie, Golden Slippers, Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier, Sweet Betsy from Pike, Soldier's Joy, The World Turned Upside Down,

Book II Boil 'em Cabbage Down, In the Summertime, Red Wing, Molto Perpetual, Fiddler's Dream, Arkansas Traveler, Peek-a-Boo Waltz, Off She Goes, Over the Hills and Far Away, Rock 'n' Roll, Cielito Lindo, Gypsy Fantastic, Bunker Hill, Dill Pickle Rag, Shenandoah, Fiddle Boy, El Rancho Grande, From the New World, Step Down Hoedown, Florida Blues, Song of the Liberty Bell.

Book III Rubber Dolly Rag, Over the Waves, Rippling Water Jig, Hava Nagila, Herman's Hornpipe, Lazy River, Rain Clouds, Congress Hoedown, Deep River, Liberty, In the Cluster Blues, Jessie Polka, Boil 'em Cabbage Down, The Entertainer, Grey Eagle, March of the Pharaohs, Daphne, Old Folks at Home, We Shall Overcome, Simple Gifts.

Book IV Life Let Us Cherish, Hornpipes (Tin Wedding, Golden Eagle, Ostinelli's), Faded Love, Clarinet Polka, I'll Fly Away, Jole Blon, Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars, Minor Swing, Take Five, St. Louis Blues, Mark's Waltz, Canadian Tunes (McNabbs/Fourth Floor), San Antonio Rose, Gold Rush, Beaumont Rag, Dawn Waltz, Tico-Tico no Fubá, It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing), Ashokan Farewell, Bach Partita No. 2 (Allemande), Emily's Reel, La Bamba.

Book V Jerusalem's Ridge, Take the "A" Train , Canadian Strathspeys , La Golondrina, College Hornpipe, Madame Neruda, Fascinating Rhythm , F.C.’s Jig, Amazing Grace, 12th Street Rag, Fiddlin’ Around, Both Sides Now, Vistas, Sallie Gooden, Appalachia Waltz, The Cricket Dance, Anniversary Blues, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Bach Sonata No. 1 in G Minor (Presto), Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Libertango.

Composing commissioning organizations[edit]

Academy of Saint Martin-In-the-Fields - Library of Congress - Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Commissioning Program - Santa Fe Music Festival - La Jolla Music Festival - Hudson River Quadricentennial Music Project - Gloriae Dei Cantores - Kathryn Gould and Montalvo - Blueridge Parkway 75th Anniversary Appalachian State University - Bridgehampton Chamber Music Associates - Musicians for Harmony (NY) - Troy Savings Bank Hall 2000 Celebration - Tennessee Bicentennial Committee - Cabrillo Music Festival - Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra - Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra - San Diego Symphony Orchestra - East Texas Symphony Orchestra - Nashville Symphony Orchestra - Colorado Symphony Orchestra - Dubuque Symphony Orchestra - Fargo Moorhead Symphony Orchestra - Fox Valley - Symphony Orchestra - Greater Anderson Musical Arts Consortium - Tennessee Dance Theater - Imperial Symphony Orchestra - Garrett Lakes Arts Festival - Musicopia/Strings in the Schools (Philadelphia)

Education, training and research[edit]

Graduated from Mountlake Terrace High School in Mountlake Terrace, Washington.

Violin Apprenticed under jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli; 1979–1980. Apprenticed under folk fiddler Benny Thomasson; 1974–1977. Apprenticed under Barbara Lamb, John Burke; 1973–1974.

Independent Research and Training - Various musical styles and composition including Classical, Flamenco, Bluegrass, Jazz, Western Swing, Appalachian, Cajun, Country, Texas fiddling, Gospel/Spiritual, Blues, Rock, Fusion; 1974–present.

Guitar Edmonds Community College, WA, Calvin Christ, Normando Brenez, Dudley Hill; 1966–1975.

Vocal Instruction and Theory Edmonds Community College, Frank DeMiero; 1976–1977.

Recording Engineering Training Seattle, WA - certificate of completion; 1981.

Keyboard, Theory, Bass and Percussion private teachers, secondary school, WA; 1978-79.

Ensembles - Member and Apprenticed under: Composer and Bandleader David Grisman of the David Grisman Quintet; 1979–1981. Composer and Bandleader Steve Morse of The Dregs; 1981–1982.

Post-Doctoral Training Honorary Doctorate, Sage Colleges, NY, Public Service Degree; 2002.

In 2008/2009 O'Connor was Artist-in-Residence at UCLA and in 2009/2010 he was Artist-in-Residence at the University of Miami.[18]



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.


Year Song Chart positions Album
US Country[19] 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"[20] 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]

American fiddle


  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". 
  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. ^ a b "Past Winners: Grammys". Grammy. 
  17. ^ a b "CMA Musician of the Year Past Winners". Country Music. 
  18. ^ "Artist in Residence Profiles". University of Miami. 
  19. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 304. ISBN 0-89820-177-2. 
  20. ^ "CMT : Videos : Mark O'Connor : Bowtie". Country Music Television. Retrieved September 29, 2011. 

External links[edit]