August 5, 1961 -
born in Seattle, WA, composed during the Contemporary period
Mark O'Connor is an astonishingly versatile American violinist and composer who has had exceptional success in country and bluegrass music, jazz, classical, and crossover projects.
He began to win fiddling competitions when he was a teenager and intended to pursue a career in this music. He closely studied the playing of popular violinists such as European jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli and Texas fiddler Benny Thomasson, leading to playing as a sideman with Grappelli, including a performance at Carnegie Hall, before he was 21. He moved to Nashville, TN, in 1983, but it took two years for him to be widely noticed, which happened after the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band engaged him to play on its hit single, "High Horse."
O'Connor immediately became in demand as a session artist, participating in over 450 albums by artists like Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Clint Black, Jimmy Buffett, and Randy Travis. He was a member of the groups Strength in Numbers, the Dixie Dregs, and the Dregs, and began to make his own albums. Around 1990, he gave up session work as a regular occupation to concentrate on his own playing and composition.
The music he wrote became increasingly sophisticated and tended to use more elements from music other than country, bluegrass, and folk, and to take on classical formal and harmonic practices. His first album on Sony Classical, Appalachia Waltz -- with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and versatile, jazz-oriented bassist Edgar Meyer -- was a large crossover hit that impressed classical critics with its craft, attractiveness, and originality. Since then, O'Connor's abilities as a composer have grown stronger and earned him respect from many different audiences, plus a few Grammy awards. His concertos and orchestral works are regularly programmed by orchestras throughout the country, while his smaller chamber music oeuvre is also building an audience. His own string playing method, first published in 2009, has become one of the most popular music-educational series available. O'Connor performs with his own ensembles, as well as with friends, on-stage and albums, as with 2004's Crossing Bridges with his Appalachian Waltz Trio; 2005's Double Concerto with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg; and 2009's Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio Live in New York. ~ Rovi Staff, Rovi