|Born||August 5, 1961|
Mountlake Terrace, Washington, U.S.
|Genres||Country, bluegrass, jazz, classical|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, composer, teacher, author|
|Instruments||Violin, fiddle, guitar, mandolin|
|Labels||Rounder, Warner Bros., Sony Classical Records|
|Associated acts||Strength in Numbers, The Dregs|
O'Connor has released 45 albums, of mostly original music, over a 45-year career. He has recorded and performed mostly his original American Classical music for decades. He is also an expert at traditionally-based fiddle and bluegrass music. He has appeared on 450 albums, composed nine concertos and has put together groundbreaking ensembles. His mentors have included Benny Thomasson who taught O'Connor to fiddle as a teenager, French jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli with whom O'Connor toured as a teenager, and guitarists Chet Atkins, Doc Watson and Steve Morse.
O'Connor was born and raised in the Seattle suburb of Mountlake Terrace, Washington, and graduated from the local high school in 1979. He won national titles on the fiddle, guitar, and mandolin as a teenager. He made his Grand Ole Opry debut, introduced by Roy Acuff, and became the youngest musician to sign a recording contract with Rounder Records. In 1975, at thirteen, O'Connor won the WSM (AM), Tennessee, and Grand Ole Opry sponsored Grand Masters Fiddle Championships in Nashville, Tennessee 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.
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 Fiddlers' Contest in Weiser, Idaho. Several of his teenage albums are noteworthy and inspired a generation of young acoustic musicians, such as "Pickin' In The Wind", "A Texas Jam Session", "Markology" and "False Dawn". As a teenager he was in two seminal instrumental groups, the David Grisman Quintet and The Dregs, previously known as Dixie Dregs.
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O'Connor composes, arranges, and records American music in genres that include folk, classical, and jazz. His works include concertos, and compositions for orchestra, string quartets, string trios, choral music, solo unaccompanied pieces, folk and bluegrass ensemble and a symphony (see Compositions). After releasing six albums as a teen on Rounder Records, O'Connor signed a long term record deal with Warner Bros. Records in Nashville. He released a series of instrumental albums such as "Elysian Forest" and "On The Mark" as well as teaming up with Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas and Edgar Meyer for "Strength In Numbers". His first award winning albums that catapulted him into the international stage include "New Nashville Cats" and "Heroes" both released on Warner Bros.
O'Connor's "Fiddle Concerto (1992)", a violin concerto in American fiddle style commission by the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, has been performed over 250 times, making it one of the most performed concertos written in the last 50 years. The recording of the concerto was conducted by Marin Alsop and "Concordia Orchestra".
In 1993, O'Connor teamed up with Charlie Daniels to record a sequel to Daniels' 1979 single "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" entitled "The Devil Comes Back To Georgia". O'Connor and Daniels recorded the song alongside Johnny Cash, Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt. The song was on O'Connor's album, Heroes. Between 1995 and 2000, O'Connor teamed up with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer to release "Appalachia Waltz" and "Appalachian Journey" spending nearly 2 years at the top of the classical music Billboard charts.
In 1996, O'Connor composed The Olympic Reel for the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. It premiered in front of 100,000 people at Centennial Olympic Stadium, as well as 3.5 billion people from the television viewing audience.
In 1997, O'Connor and others composed and performed music based on folk melodies as arrangements 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.
In 1999, he recorded his Fanfare For The Volunteer with the London Philharmonic Orchestra for Sony Classical, and one of his most critically acclaimed orchestral pieces American Seasons, which alludes to The Four Seasons (Vivaldi), for Sony Classical 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 for the Performing Arts.
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." Both "Strings & Threads" Suite and "American Seasons" were recorded for the album The American Seasons, released in 2001 on the label OMAC Records. In 2008 O'Connor paired up with violinist Nadja Sallerno-Sonnenberg to record his "Double Violin Concerto" with Marin Alsop and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra for OMAC Records.
Over a period of five years, O'Connor teamed up with jazz musicians Frank Vignola and Jon Burr for a trilogy of "Hot Swing Trio" albums dedicated to his mentor Stephane Grappelli. O'Connor recorded Thirty-Year Retrospective in 2003 with the mandolinist Chris Thile, guitarist Bryan Sutton, and bassist Byron House. 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 chamber music efforts is his piano trio entitled Poets and Prophets which is inspired by his boyhood hero Johnny Cash. O'Connor and Rosanne Cash united in double bill concerts for premiering their collaboration. The piece was recorded by the Eroica Trio.
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. O'Connor released the recording for both string quartets under the label OMAC in May 2009.
In 2010, O'Connor released his "Americana Symphony" recorded by the Baltimore Symphony as well as his "Concerto No. 6 (Old Brass) and released on OMAC Records. In 2011, he released his unique "The Improvised Violin Concerto" on CD and DVD with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras. Partnering with his wife Maggie (age 29 as of 2021), his son Forrest and his daughter-in-law, they recorded two band albums "Coming Home" for Rounder Records and "A Musical Legacy" for OMAC Records. He also recorded a duets album with Maggie featuring music from the O'Connor Method. Some of O'Connor's albums are or contain tributes to his musical mentors and inspirations, including Niccolò Paganini, Benny Thomasson, and Grappelli. He has recorded solo albums for OMAC Records, Rounder and SONY Classical Records.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (March 2017)
O'Connor has developed a string instrument technique for music teachers and students, The O'Connor Method — A New American School of String Playing. 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 Americans who played fiddle, such as Johnny Gimble, Ray Nance, Byron Berline, Pinchas Zukerman, Eddie South, Kenny Baker, Benny Thomasson, Scott Joplin, Thomas Jefferson and Davy Crockett, and the history of a wide variety of music including jazz, bluegrass, Romani, western swing, cajun, blues, African American Spirituals, ragtime and Mariachi. Teacher training sessions based on the Method take place around the United States and in other countries including at O'Connor Method String Camps. The physical ion which includes violin, viola, cello and orchestra method books was released in 2010. In 2020, the books were released as a digital ion for download.
In 2010, around the time of the release of his method books, O'Connor made a number of startling public allegations against Shinichi Suzuki, violinist and founder of the International Suzuki Method of music education, which began as a violin teaching method, and has been expanded to be used in teaching other instruments. O'Connor suggested that Suzuki 'was one of the biggest frauds in music history.' O'Connor claimed that certain details of Suzuki's biography were not accurate and that Suzuki had misled others in the interest of promoting his method. An examination by the New York Times found that evidence did not support O'Connor's claims. Many have suggested that the claims were generated by O'Connor in an effort to erode Suzuki's reputation as one of the foremost violin teaching methods worldwide, and to promote O'Connor's own teaching method, which was released around the same time as the allegations were made.
O'Connor's claims did not address any actual elements of the philosophy, pedagogy, or musical content of Suzuki Method. Nor did his accusations have much impact on the Suzuki community; according to the Suzuki Association of the Americas, there are currently more than 250,000 Suzuki students begin taught by 8,000 teachers worldwide; and, many of today's top soloists and orchestral musicians began their training with Suzuki Method, including virtuosi Sarah Chang, Leila Josefowicz, Stefan Jackiw, Hilary Hahn, Ray Chen, and Julia Fischer. Figures from the string teaching community, including Charles Avsharian, a retailer who sells both Suzuki and O'Connor teaching materials, encouraged O'Connor to 'bring an end to the hostilities.'
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. 
He was named Musician of the Year by the Country Music Association six years in a row (from 1991–96). His collaborative single "Restless" (with Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs and Steve Wariner) won the 1991 CMA Vocal Event of the Year award. O'Connor is 4-time National Old-Time Fiddler Champion, 3-time Grand Master Fiddler Champion, 2-time national guitar flatpick champion, and world mandolin champion, all achieved in his teens.
|Year||Album||Peak United States Chart Positions||Label|
|1974||National Junior Fiddling Champion||Rounder|
|1976||Pickin' in the Wind|
|1979||On the Rampage|
|Soppin' the Gravy|
|1982||Industry Standard (with The Dregs)||Arista|
|1986||Stone from Which the Arch Was Made|
|1989||The Championship Years||CMF|
|On the Mark||Warner|
|1991||The New Nashville Cats||44||14||Warner|
|1992||Johnny Appleseed||Rabbit Ears|
|The Night Before Christmas||Rabbit Ears|
|1994||The Fiddle Concerto||6||Warner|
|1996||Appalachia Waltz (with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer)||1||Sony|
|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|
|2003||Thirty-Year Retrospective (with Chris Thile, Bryon Sutton)|
|Hot Swing Trio: In Full Swing||7||Sony|
|2005||Hot Swing Trio: Live in New York||22|
|Double Violin Concerto (with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg)|
|2006||Folk Mass (with Gloriae Dei Cantores)|
|2007||The Essential Mark O'Connor||Sony|
|2008||Americana Symphony (Baltimore Symphony, Marin Alsop)||OMAC|
|2009||String Quartets No. 2 & 3|
|2011||An Appalachian Christmas||9||5||3||39|
|2012||America On Strings|
|2013||The Improvised Violin Concerto CD/DVD|
|2014||Mark O'Connor Christmas Tour Live DVD|
|2015||Duo. (with Maggie O'Connor)|
|2016||Coming Home||1||New Rounder|
|2017||O'Connor Band – Live!||OMAC - 22|
|2019||A Musical Legacy||5||OMAC - 23|
(Mark O'Connor and the New Nashville Cats[a])
|25||19||The New Nashville Cats|
|1992||"Now It Belongs to You" (with Steve Wariner)||71||62|
|1994||"The Devil Comes Back to Georgia"
(with Charlie Daniels, Travis Tritt, Marty Stuart, and Johnny Cash)
|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)|