Mark O'Connor
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Mark O'Connor
Mark O'Connor
Mark O'Connor, bluegrass musician on stage at Cambridge Folk Festival, 1985.jpg
Mark O'Connor performs on stage at the 1985 Cambridge Folk Festival.
Background information
Born (1961-08-05) August 5, 1961 (age 56)[1]
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Genres Country, bluegrass, jazz, classical
Musician, composer, author, teacher
Instruments Violin, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, mandola
Labels Rounder, Warner Bros., Sony Classical
Strength in Numbers

Mark O'Connor (born August 5, 1961) is an American violinist whose music combines bluegrass, country, jazz and classical music.

As a teenager he won national string instrument championships on guitar, mandolin, and fiddle. His mentors Benny Thomasson[2] who taught O'Connor to fiddle as a teenager, French jazz violinist Ste;phane Grappelli[3] with whom O'Connor toured as a teenager, and guitarist Chet Atkins.[4]

Early life

O'Connor won national titles on the fiddle, guitar, and mandolin as a teenager. In 1975, at 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 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

O'Connor composes, arranges, and records American music in genres that include folk, classical, and jazz. His works include concertos, and compositions for string orchestra, string quartets, string trios, choral music, solo unaccompanied pieces, and a 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 1996, O'Connor composed The Olympic Reel for the closing ceremonies of the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, GA.[9] It premiered in front of 100,000 people in the Olympic Stadium, as well as 3.5 billion people from the television viewing audience.[10]

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.[11]

In 1999, he recorded his Fanfare For The Volunteer with the London Philharmonic for Sony Classical,[12] and one of his most critically acclaimed orchestral pieces American Seasons, which alludes to The Four Seasons (Vivaldi), for Sony Classical[13] 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." [14] 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 Thirty-Year Retrospectivewith the mandolinist Chris Thile, guitarist Bryan Sutton, and bassist Byron House.[15] 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.

His composition, 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[]. 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 in January 2007.

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.[16] O'Connor released the recording for both string quartets under the label OMAC in May 2009.[17]

Some of his more recent albums are or contain tributes to his musical mentors and inspirations, including Niccol Paganini, Benny Thomasson, and Grappelli. He has recorded solo albums for Rounder, Warner Bros. Records, and Sony.[]

The O'Connor Method

O'Connor has developed a string instrument technique for music teachers and students, The O'Connor Method - A New American School of String Playing.[18] 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 that also contains short essays about famous American who played fiddle, such as Thomas Jefferson and Davy Crockett, and the history of Gypsy, 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

O'Connor won a Grammy Award three times: in 1991 for Best Country Instrumental Performance, The New Nashville Cats; in 2000 for Best Classical Crossover Album, Appalachian Journey with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer; and in 2016 for Best Bluegrass Album, Coming Home by the O'Connor Band With Mark O'Connor. [19][20][21] He was named Musician of the Year by the Country Music Association six years in a row (from 1991 to 1996).[22] His collaborative single "Restless" (with Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs and Steve Wariner) won the 1991 CMA Vocal Event of the Year award.



Year Album Peak chart positions Label
Classical Crossover

US Jazz




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) 1 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) 1
2001 The American Seasons 6
Hot Swing! OMAC
2003 Thirty-Year Retrospective
Hot Swing Trio: In Full Swing 7 Sony
2004 Crossing Bridges 19 OMAC
2005 Hot Swing Trio: Live in New York 22
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.
2016 Coming Home 1 New Rounder


Year Song Chart positions Album
US Country
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

Year Video Director
1990 "Bowtie"[36] 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


  1. ^ "Mark O'Connor biography". CMT. Retrieved 2017. 
  2. ^ "Mark O'Connor: On Learning, Playing, and Teaching Strings, American-style by Peter Anick". Fiddle Magazine. August 21, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Mark O'Connor Hot Swing on Mountain Stage". NPR. April 5, 2010. 
  4. ^ Tod Redmond (January 28, 2017). "Chet Atkins and Mark O'Connor". Mister Guitar. 
  5. ^ "Grand Master Fiddler Championship Past Winners". Grand Master Fiddler. Archived from the original on 2012-03-28. 
  6. ^ "National Guitar Flat Pick Champion Archive". Walnut Valley Festival. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. 
  7. ^ "National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest Past Winners". Fiddle Contest. 
  8. ^ "ShoreFire Media Official Bio for Mark O'Connor". ShoreFire Media. Retrieved 2017. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "LIBERTY! The American Revolution, Series: The Music of Liberty". PBS. Retrieved 2017. 
  12. ^ "Fanfare for the Volunteer [sound recording]". Chicago Public Library. 
  13. ^ "American Seasons: Review". Retrieved 2017. 
  14. ^ "MUSIC REVIEW; Vivaldi and a Touch of Twang From Some Flexible Fiddlers". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017. 
  15. ^ "Thirty Year Retrospective" liner notes
  16. ^ 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 2012. 
  17. ^ "Mark O'Connor String Quartets No. 2 & 3". Amazon. Retrieved 2017. 
  18. ^ "O'Connor Violin Method". Mark O'Connor Musik International. Archived from the original on 2011-07-14. 
  19. ^ "Past Winners: Grammys". Grammy. 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ "CMA Musician of the Year Past Winners". Country Music. 
  23. ^ "Mark O'Connor > Classical Albums". Billboard. 
  24. ^ "Top Classical Albums". Billboard. January 11, 1997. 
  25. ^ "Top Classical Albums". Billboard. September 9, 2000. 
  26. ^ "Top Classical Albums". Billboard. October 20, 2001. 
  27. ^ "Top Classical Albums". Billboard. June 3, 2006. 
  28. ^ "Mark O'Connor > Jazz Albums". Billboard. 
  29. ^ "Top Jazz Albums". Billboard. December 12, 2006. 
  30. ^ "Mark O'Connor > Top Country Albums". Billboard. 
  31. ^ "Mark O'Connor > Heatseekers Albums". Billboard. 
  32. ^ "Mark O'Connor > Bluegrass Albums". Billboard. 
  33. ^ "O'Connor Band". Billboard. 
  34. ^ "Mark O'Connor > Independent Albums". Billboard. 
  35. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 304. ISBN 0-89820-177-2. 
  36. ^ "CMT : Videos : Mark O'Connor : Bowtie". Country Music Television. Retrieved 2011. 

External links

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