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Born and raised in Seattle, O'Connor was always a bit out of sync with his teenage peers. Understandably so, since he was winning fiddle contests and had mapped out a sketchy career path. O'Connor moved to Nashville in 1983, already a former sideman for jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, a job that allowed him to play the stage at Carnegie Hall. At the time O'Connor arrived in Music City (the post-Urban Cowboy era), fiddle was hardly in vogue, and it took a couple of years for him to make his mark. Finally, in 1985 the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band used him in their single "High Horse"; thanks to that work, O'Connor's phone number became a popular one with country record producers. Over the next five years he played on 450 albums, including such stellar projects as Trio by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris; Always & Forever by Randy Travis; Killin' Time by Clint Black; and Loving Proof by Ricky Van Shelton. Despite his success, O'Connor gave up session work to concentrate on his own solo career, increasingly rooted in the classical realm thanks to collaborators including Yo-Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis, and Edgar Meyer.
Mark O'Connor (born August 5, 1961 in Seattle, Washington) is an American Classical, bluegrass, jazz and country violinist, fiddler, composer and music teacher. O'Connor's music is wide-ranging, critically acclaimed, 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 on the fiddle. His mentors include Texas old-time fiddler 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 guitarist Chet Atkins.
O'Connor currently resides in New York City.
Early life 
Mark O'Connor was a child prodigy 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 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. 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.
Musical career 
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.
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."
In 1999, he recorded his "Fanfare For The Volunteer" with the London Philharmonic for Sony Classical, and one of his most critically acclaimed orchestral pieces "Americans 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. 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.
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 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, 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. O'Connor released the recording for both string quartets under the label OMAC in May 2009.
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 
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 rhythm development, ear training, and improvisation. It differs from the European emphasis of the Suzuki method of violin training and its emphasis on "mother tongue" approach.
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.
O'Connor has won two Grammy awards; one for his New Nashville Cats album (1992) and another for his Appalachian Journey album (2001) he did with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer. He was named Musician of the Year by the Country Music Association six years in a row (from 1991 to 1996). 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 & 2001.8 Grammy nominations; 1982–2004.7 CMA awards; 1991–1996.7 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 OrchestraQueen Anne's Revenge - overture for symphony orchestra - 7 minThe Improvised Violin Concerto for violin and orchestra - 40 minOlympic Harvest - overture for symphony orchestra - 6 minAmericana Symphony "Variations on Appalachia Waltz" for symphony orchestra - 34 minTriple Concerto "March of the Gypsy Fiddler" for violin, cello, piano and orchestra - 26 minDouble Concerto "For the Heroes" for violin, cello and symphony orchestra - 35 minConcerto No. 6 "Old Brass" for violin and orchestra - 35 minDouble Violin Concerto for two violins and symphony orchestra - 32 minThree Pieces for Orchestra for symphony orchestra:I. Call of the Mockingbird - 20 minII. Trail of Tears - 16 minIII. Fanfare for the Volunteer - 20 minJohnny Appleseed Suite - 18 minThe Fiddle Concerto for violin and orchestra - 40 min
Orchestral - String OrchestraElevations for string orchestra - 25 minThe Fallen for flute and string orchestra - 20 minHarmony for violin and string orchestra - 11 minAmerican Seasons (Seasons of an American Life) for violin and orchestra - 35 minSurrender The Sword for violin and string orchestra - 10 minSong Of The Liberty Bell for violin and string orchestra - 7 min
String QuartetsString 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 TrioPiano Trio No. 2 "Strange Rims" - 25 minPiano Trio No. 1 "Poets And Prophets" - 35 minFiddle Sonata for Piano Trio - 20 minMiniatures for Piano Trio - 5 min
String TrioIn The Summertime - 7 minMusicopia - 7 minBlackberry Mull - 9 minPoem - 7 minVistas - 10 minCaprice For Three - 4 minButterfly’s Day Out - 5 minMisty Moonlight Waltz - 4 minEmily’s Reel - 5 minOld Country Fairy Tale - 9 min
DuoStrings & Threads Suite for violin and guitar - 18 minWhen Bidden To The Wake Or Fair for violin and cello - 5 minBrave Wolfe for trumpet and violin - 5 minF.C.'s Jig - for violin and cello - 4 min
SoloAppalachia Waltz (violin/cello) - 7 minCaprices No.'s 1 - 6 - 24 minStrings & Threads Suite for violin - 17 minBonaparte's Retreat Variations - 7 min
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.
VocalFolk Mass for choir - 40 minLet Us Move for choir - 15 min
Composing commissioning organizations 
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 
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.