Mark O'Connor String Camp Comes to Berklee

  From the left: Mark O'Connor, Sarah Chaffee, Keizo Yoshioka, Nathaniel Smith, and Associate Professor Eugene Friesen. During a BPC concert July 1, Yoshioka was given the Daniel Pearl Memorial Cello. Each year the cello is loaned to a student of the Mark O'Connor string camps to honor the memory of the late Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Chaffee was the recipient of the cello last year.
  Phil Farnsworth

Multiple Grammy Award-winning violinist Mark O'Connor teamed up with Berklee to offer the Mark O'Connor-Berklee String Program that ran June 27 through July 1. For years, O'Connor has hosted summer camps in Tennessee. And at the invitation of Matt Glaser, the artistic director of Berklee's American Roots Music Program, and some behind the scenes work by Melissa Howe, Rob Rose, and others, arrangements were made to offer the camp on the Berklee campus.

The weeklong event had something for everyone: instruction for players of all levels - from beginners to advanced - and classes for professional musicians and training for teachers. O'Connor hosted a concluding concert in the Berklee Performance Center on July 1 that featured faculty as well as student performers.

String Department Chair Melissa Howe served as the director for the program. "This was a great match," Howe says. "The philosophy of Mark's camp is very similar to what we do in Berklee's String Department. We offer top-quality string instruction in many styles without the walls that have divided these styles in the past."

A range of instructors, including Berklee string faculty members Eugene Friesen, Matt Glaser, Melissa Howe, Mimi Rabson, David Hollender, and Rob Thomas, offered tutelage in a variety of styles. Guest instructors included Rachel Barton (classical violin), Daniel Carwile (Texas fiddler), Tracy Silverman (electric-rock violin), Daniel Bernard Roumain (hip-hop violin), Nat Smith (cello), and more.

From the left: Matt Glaser, Mark O'Connor, and Melissa Howe  
Adam Renn Olenn  

The program attracted string players from 30 states and 13 foreign countries. "They all came for different reasons," Howe says. "Teenagers came to try playing something different. Some classical players attended to stretch beyond what they normally play."

Glaser has fostered past collaboration between Berklee and O'Connor; he has known O'Connor since both were teenagers. "When I was 17, I played at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival and heard about this amazing 13-year-old fiddler living in Mountainlake Terrace, Washington," Glaser says. "I called his mother, and she invited me for a visit. Mark took out his fiddle and played variations on [the folk song] 'The Cuckoo's Nest' for a half-hour. I'll never forget that." The two have known each other for 42 years, and Glaser has taught at all of Mark's summer camps over the past 18 years.

"Mark was very pleased with how the program went," Howe says. Plans are under way to make this a permanent summer event at Berklee."