20 QUESTIONS WITH: Composer and Violinist Mark O'Connor

Classic Arts Features   20 QUESTIONS WITH: Composer and Violinist Mark O'Connor
Composer and violinist Mark O'Connor contributes to the latest installment of our Q&A series. He will next perform his solo unaccompanied violin composition Nov. 18 at Philly's Curtis Institute.

Mark O'Connor is a composer and violinist whose fluency with both classical and American traditions has made him one of the most acclaimed figures in contemporary music.

In October 2008, O'Connor began a year as the first Artist in Residence at the Herb Alpert School of Music at UCLA, and in November, gave a two-day residency at Philadelphia's Curtis School of Music. O'Connor takes educating the next generation of musicians seriously _ his annual String Camps provide hundreds of students with intensive training from O'Connor and some of the world's finest performers and teachers.

His Americana Symphony, "Variations on Appalachia Waltz," was recently recorded by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop conducting, and will be released March 10, 2009 by OMAC Records.


1. A few works of classical music that you adore:

Copland's 3rd Symphony. Beethoven's "Rasumovsky" string quartets.

2. Classical music recordings that you treasure:

Heifetz: Beethoven & Brahms Concertos (Beethoven: Concerto for violin in D; Brahms: Violin Concerto in D Op77)

John Elliot Gardiner - 9 Symphonies by Ludwig Van Beethoven

3. Favorite non-classical musicians and/or recordings:

French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli and Texas fiddling master Benny Thomasson _ my mentors.

4. Music that makes you cry - any genre:

A very interesting recording of Barber's Adagio by the New Zealand Symphony for its poignant vulnerability.

5. Definitely underrated work(s) or composer(s):

Jennifer Higdon, Ken Fuchs and Kenji Bunch

6. Possibly overrated work(s) or composer (s):

Elliot Carter, Philip Glass

7. Live music performance (s) you attended - any genre - that you'll never forget:

Berlin Philharmonic playing Mahler at Carnegie. The first time I saw Stephane Grappelli play at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Vancouver, Canada

8. A few relatively recent films you love:

The Great Debaters; the French film, Manon

9. A few films you consider classics:

American Beauty, because it depicts dysfunctional American families in suburbia.

Music Of The Heart featuring Meryl Streep captures the importance of music and music teachers in public school. I also like this movie because I did a cameo.

What the heck, The Patriot with Mel Gibson, mainly because I played the violin solo over the closing credits!

10. A few books that are important to you (and why):

Disruptive Divas: Feminism, Identity and Popular Music. It clarified for me how to bring back emotional content in analyzing music.

The Melungeons - The Resurrection of a Proud People, because it helped me discover the possible missing link to the development of American fiddle music.

The Unanswered Question _ Leonard Bernstein

11. Thing(s) about yourself that you're most proud of:

Never listening to the people who told me "No, you can't do it."

12. Thing(s) about yourself that you're embarrassed by:

I had an odd condition in my childhood, a phobia of buttons.

13. Three things you can't live without:

Music, Mexican food and Sadie

14. When I want to get away from it all I...

Visit 2,000-year-old Native American mineral springs.

15. People are surprised to find out that:

I broke the world record in the skateboard high jump as a teenager.

16. My favorite cities are:

New York City, Savannah, Santa Fe and Seattle.

17. I have a secret crush on:

Tina Fey

18. My most obvious guilty pleasure is:

The Starbucks Soy Green Tea Latte

19. I'd really love to meet:

Barack Obama

20. I never understood why...

Dvorak came to America and exclaimed that we have some great musical material here, but not very many classical composers in the U.S. got the memo. But with my hopes for an American Classical music movement, that could change perhaps!


Mark O'Connor's Upcoming Engagements

Nov. 18 at 8 PM- Philadelphia, PA (Curtis Institute)
Solo Unaccompanied Violin Recital

Nov. 21 at 8 PM- Philadelphia, PA (Library of Congress, Coolidge Auditorium)
"Poets & Prophets"

Jan. 23, 2009, at 8 PM- New York, NY (Symphony Space, Peter Jay Sharp Theatre)
"Mark O'Connor Performs with Sharon Isbin"

Jan. 25, 2009, at 3 PM- Reston, VA (Reston Community Center)
Solo Unaccompanied Violin Recital

Feb. 8, 2009, at 2:30 PM- Evanston, IL (Northwestern University, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall)
"Mark O'Connor Performs with the Evanston Symphony Orchestra"

Feb. 14, 2009, at 7:30 PM- Grand Junction, CO (Grand Junction High School Auditorium)
"Mark O'Connor Performs with the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra"

Feb. 28, 2009, at 11 AM- New York, NY (Avery Fisher Hall)
"Mark O'Connor Performs with the Little Orchestra Society for Honest Abe: Four Scores and More"

For more about the composer, visit www.markoconnor.com

Past installments of 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS:

Composer Jake Heggie

Composer Ricky Ian Gordon

Pianist David Greilsammer


Albert Imperato, a music promoter who co-founded 21C Media Group in January 2000, writes frequently about the arts for various publications and blogs.

His new series, 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS, is his take on (and nod to) Vanity Fair's "Proust Questionnaire."

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