Music Series at Berklee: Mark O'Connor

By
Joyce Linehan
November 18, 2009
Mark O'Connor blends American music genres at the Berklee Performance Center on December 10.
Matt Glaser celebrates the college's new American Roots Music Program with help from Mark O'Connor.

The 2009/2010 Music Series at Berklee continues with master fiddler and American roots music icon Mark O'Connor, along with Berklee faculty members Matt Glaser and John McGann, student bluegrass groups, the Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra, and the Berklee Jazz/World String Orchestra. American Roots: Mark O'Connor at Berklee takes place on Thursday, Dec. 10, at 8:15 p.m., at the Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Ave., Boston. General admission tickets are $20–$25, and available at the Berklee Performance Center box office, at Ticketmaster.com or by calling 617 931-2000. For concert information, call 617 747-2261 or visit berkleebpc.com.

Like other Music Series artists, O'Connor will spend a week as an artist-in-residence at Berklee. He'll teach master classes during the day. In the evening, he and Glaser will rehearse top student musicians who will perform in the concert. 

O'Connor's concert introduces Berklee's new American Roots Music Program, directed by Glaser. Reflecting violinist Glaser's own eclectic tastes and journeys, the American Roots Music Program explores America's musical and cultural heritage, and creates a focus on the styles from which contemporary sounds originate. Students will delve into blues, gospel, folk, country, bluegrass, Cajun, Western swing, polka, Tex-Mex, and other sounds. Glaser will design the curriculum, promote nontraditional improvisation, develop faculty programs, and host visiting artists, concerts, and symposiums. Top contemporary performers, writers, and producers who are carrying on the American roots traditions constitute the board of advisors to the Roots Music Program: Ricky Skaggs, Bela Fleck, Leo Kottke, Charlie Haden, Edgar Meyer, David Grisman, Andy Statman,Don Rigsby, Lloyd Maines, Liz Carroll, John Blake, Geoff Muldaur, Bruce Molsky, Ted Gioia, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, Darol Anger, Ray Benson, Doug Wamble, John Lawless, Fletcher Bright,  Sara and Sean Watkins, and Micheal Doucet. 

Called by the Los Angeles Times "one of the most talented and imaginative artists working in music-any music-today," O'Connor is a product of America's rich aural folk tradition as well as classical and flamenco music. Between these musical extremes, O'Connor has shaped these and other influences into a new American classical music, and an entirely American school of string playing. A recording for Sony Classical, Appalachia Waltz, was a collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer. The follow-up, Appalachian Journey, won a Grammy in 2001. His orchestral score, Fiddle Concerto, has become the most-performed modern violin concerto. O'Connor also has a piano trio to perform his Johnny Cash-inspired "Poets and Prophets" composition, often including Cash's daughter, Rosanne. Another ensemble is a string quartet with chamber music legends Ida Kavafian, Paul Neubauer, and Matt Haimovitz. He recently revived his one-man violin concert with six caprices and three improvisations as the centerpieces of the tour de force
performance. 

Glaser is a nationally recognized educator and musician. He founded Berklee's String Department more than two decades ago. He performs with his group the Wayfaring Strangers and has appeared as a guest with a range of musicians from Yo-Yo Ma and Stephane Grappelli to Bob Dylan and Ralph Stanley, among many others. Filmmaker Ken Burns has had Glaser on many of his soundtracks from his Brooklyn Bridge debut in 1981, to the recent National Parks.