Mark O'Connor

Guest Artist

Mark O’Connor is a multi-Grammy winning American jazz, folk, classical violinist/composer and author. His orchestral concertos and symphonies have received over 500 performances around the country, and his million-seller Appalachia Waltz is one of the most loved string pieces since Barber's Adagio.

A product of America’s rich aural folk tradition as well as classical music, Mark O’Connor’s creative journey began at the feet of a pair of musical giants. The first was the folk fiddler and innovator who created the modern era of American fiddling, Benny Thomasson; the second, French jazz violinist, considered one of the greatest improvisers in the history of the violin, Stephane Grappelli. Along the way, between these marvelous musical extremes, Mark O’Connor absorbed knowledge and influence from the multitude of musical styles and genres he studied.

Now, at age 52, he has melded and shaped these influences into a new American Classical music, and a vision of an entirely American school of string playing. As The Los Angeles Times recently noted, he has “crossed over so many boundaries, that his style is purely personal.”

With more than 200 performances, Mark O’Connor’s first full length orchestral score, Fiddle Concerto, has become the most-performed modern violin concerto composed in the last 40 years. His musical works have been embraced by a variety of performers, including Yo-Yo Ma and Renee Fleming. “Strings and Threads Suite” a duet for violin and guitar that O’Conner composed for guitarist Sharon Isbin, was on her Grammy Award-winning album for Best Classical Instrumental Performance in 2010. His music has been commissioned by The Eroica Trio, and performed by dance troupes such a Alvin Ailey, the New York City Ballet and Twyla Tharp Dance Co. He frequently collaborates with director Ken Burns for the sound tracks of Burns’ documentary films.

O’Connor is also an eloquent spokesman for the role of the arts in society and a keen observer of the evolution of American music. The O’Connor Method:  A New American School of String Playing has joined the Suzuki method as the most popular method to learn from as students around the country respond to the cultural proximity of the American musical material featured in the O’Connor Method. This groundbreaking violin method is the first to feature all American music and has been hailed by teachers from across the country as filling a significant gap in classical music education. It was inspired by the thousands of students O’Connor has taught at his string camps and at universities and conservatories, and by his belief that the modern classical violin student who develops a working knowledge of folk fiddling, jazz music and world music styles can enjoy a lifetime of music-making, and be more successful in the new music environment.