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 49, he has melded and shaped these influences into a new American Classical music, and a vision of entirely American school of string playing. As The Los Angeles Times recently noted, he has “crossed over so many boundaries, that is style is purely personal.
O’Connor’s first recording for the Sony Classical record label, “Appalachia Waltz’, was a collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer. The works Mr. O’Connor composed for the disc, including its title track, gained him worldwide recognition as a leading proponent of a new American musical idiom. The tremendously successful follow-up release, ‘Appalahian Journey’, received a Grammy Award in February 2001.
With more than 200 performances, his first full length orchestral score “Fiddle Concerto” has become the most-performed modern violin concerto composed in the last 40 years. It was recorded for the Warner Bros label in 1995. Mr. O’Connor’s 2nd concerto “Fanfare for the Volunteer” was recorded with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Steven Mercurio, released by Sony Classical in October 1999. The Neward Star Ledger notes: “As a composer, he understands the power of a thematic transfiguration and development throughout a 40-minute work.” Mark O’Connor’s most recent recording, ‘Jam Session’, offers “dazzling” (Wall Street Journal) live acoustic recordings that combine bluegrass and gypsy jazz.
The Augustana Orchestra is a student ensemble of approximately sixty musicians. Their repertoire consists of major works and overtures, as well as traditional, contemporary, and popular literature for the orchestra. Talented music majors and non-majors alike play an active role in the orchestra program while pursuing music as a major or in other academic disciplines. The orchestra is often featured in Recital Hour, Chapel Services, and to promote interest in Augustana’s music program by playing with high school orchestras throughout the region. In October of 2011, the Orchestra partnered with legendary rock band KANSAS as part of the band’s 2011 Collegiate Symphony Tour to raise money for music tour programs. This sold out event took place in the Mary Sommervold Hall at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls.
This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Art Works.
Video: Jazz and Hot Swing With Mark O’Connor – Stephane and Django
Video: In the Cluster Blues
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