Mark's Favorite Quotes

Mark's Favorite Quotes

July 14, 2011

Mark's Favorite Quotes
"One of the most important pieces of American music in many, many years, uniting the strains of classical music with American hill country music, which is an important part of my heritage."
(Remark about Mark O'Connor's composition Appalachia Waltz at the White House Conference on Culture and Diplomacy)
– President William Jefferson Clinton


"Playing the fiddle, that's his way of thinking. He's fiddling, but then, he's listening to whatever else is going on around him at the same time. So he's very aware of what's going on. He can talk and follow a conversation. And yet the fingers are moving, figuring out different permutations and patterns. Usually, you have to go through a certain translation. It's, OK, I want this, therefore I must do that.' Right? So there's something that's in- between. But with Mark, there's so little impedance between what comes out and what he's actually thinking. That's one of the qualities that floors people. It's his pure thinking. It just comes out."
– Yo-Yo Ma (Reported by the Baltimore Sun)

“Your performance was brilliant and most importantly you are a gracious person and generous role model for these extremely talented young children. It is wonderful for them to meet a celebrity and find out that you are a true musician concerned first and foremost with sharing music with as many people as possible. You are an inspiration to us all.”
– Edye Rugolo, executive director, Young Musicians Foundation, Disney's Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra Television Special and Music Camp

"Mark's style is of course informed by the music he studied and absorbed as he grew up. It's a very fresh and invigorating style. And I think that it brings a fascinating perspective the the classical world...People often us the tired term "crossover" to describe Mark's artistry, but I think that what we're seeing is the beginning of a new kind of music. Mark is one of several musicians--Edgar Meyer is another--for whom improvisation is a recaptured art. Improvisation was a normal part of one's musicianship until the early 1800s. So that Mozart and Beethoven, for example, were superb improvisers. It's interesting that it has come back to us through popular music."
– Mark Wait, Dean, Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University

"It was an inspiring class."
On Mark O'Connor's first masterclass at Juilliard School, making his the FIRST non-traditional masterclass on a string instrument in Juilliard's history.
February 2002
– Stephen Clapp, Dean of Juilliard School

"If there's a better violinist out there today, he or she will have to get past O'Connor to claim the crown."
– David Hinckley, New York Daily News

“Just thought I'd let you know that I've been acquainting myself with Mark O'Connor's music/playing lately. What a genius! That boy has fingers and a bow arm to die for. And an endless supply
of musical ideas.”
– Paul Polivnic (conductor)

“It is quite wonderful. This recording brings back a lot of wonderful memories. Mark has selected the perfect musicians to reexamine his remarkable output.”
– Edgar Meyer

“Mark's new retrospective - his masterpiece, a stunning achievement that neatly summarizes everything he's done to date in a beautiful, mesmerizing and understated manner. I think it's one of the most phenomenal instrumental albums ever waxed, a project that showcases Mark's incredible command of the instrument covering a wide range of styles. Mark's decision to record the album live with the likes of Bryan Sutton, Byron House and Chris Thile is nothing short of genius. Less is indeed more. I was completely mesmerized by every track.”
– Dave Higgs, Bluegrass Breakdown/Nashville Public Radio

“Fatuous comparisons with Paganini notwithstanding, Mark is one of those musicians who by sheer talent, will, and determination broke through a high
cultural wall and set a new standard-hell, a musical language-for performance of fiddle music exceeding standards of excellence in any field, arguing by example for the elevation of traditional-based string music out of ethnomusicology into a living, current, deep and coherent music which speaks to everyone, high or low. Mark is not today's Paganini; he is the Mark O'Connor.

Without compromising the strength or character of the music, Mark raised performance standards to a level which brings American traditional based music into parity with any other music and reconnected it in people's minds with the main cultural stream of Western Art Music, from a performer's
perspective. This is important, because it heralds a needed infusion of sinew & muscle into the ongoing flow of new "serious" music, dominated in this century by composers who, looking for novelty disguised as progress, wandered into some very rarefied areas where most of the other half of the equation, the audience, didn't care to follow. Mark has boldly stood in the forefront of a new generation of composer/players.

He's been very much the most visible and popular initiator of a revitalized dialogue in which the listener can participate on the visceral level of melody, harmony, and rhythm, using a musical language which resonates with peoples' real culture, in which the composer is not a ghost in the machine
but a living breathing physical presence bringing complex music into being, in the room, now. And he's broken new ground. He's taken heat. He's stood up and said I'm here, fiddlers are here, we're playing real music that stands up to any musical standard and put himself on the line and delivered the goods.”
– Darol Anger (fiddler/violinist) November 2003

“Hello Mark!
I will not bring my band to Warszaw as we only perform film music. But we'll see what duets or other combinations we can plan there. "Second fiddle in my group....." You're crazy Mark! Gershwin once told Maurice Ravel that his dream was to become a second Ravel....to which Ravel replied that he should instead become the first Gershwin....which he did.....and you are already the first Mark O'Connor!”
– Jean-Luc Ponty

“To release a recording that I am proud of is far more rewarding because it lasts a very long time. If one can imagine this, an important recording could be listened to these days by people nearly 100 years after it was made, while a concert is over so very quickly. There are sometime very good memories of a performance, ones that can be considered for years by those who performed or witnessed the concert. But to be able to have new listeners and even new generations of people enjoy a recording and to study the recording is quite a remarkable objective.”
– Mark O'Connor 6/9/06



“I've been knowin' Mark since he was kid, and now he's become one of the best.  His mother used to bring him around to where we were playing.  Sometimes he couldn't actually get into the place if it was a bar, and I'd go meet him in the kitchen or wherever he could go.  Later, when he moved to Nashville we became great friends. Mark [takes his music] in any direction.  That's what I like about him.  I think it does him good.  All music goes together…and the more you learn you can put it into whatever you're playing: jazz, bluegrass, swing, or whatever.”
– Vassar Clements

“Dear Mark,
I wanted to jot you a quick line to again compliment you on the great job you did for the John Williams project. It is so cool for me (as well as my colleagues to hear someone come in and bring that special voice to some kind of project.  I think that often as players (who beat ourselves up too much) we forget that our individual style is so unique.  As you were playing those melodies with perfect inflections I couldn't help but feel the respect from the violinists who knew and respected you but probably deep down inside thought they could probably play the song well enough.  As you played it the first time there was a quiet sigh in the room that signaled "this guy has something really special going on".  You continued to deliver that throughout the session. Congratulations! ”
– Jim Walker - Flutist from the Columbia Studios session orchestra, recording The Patriot soundtrack by John Williams (2000)

“Best Album: For sheer velocity and beauty, listen to Mark O'Connor's The New Nashville Cats, which joins his incredible fiddle with 53 of Music City's finest players.” – David Zimmerman, USA Today

“Mark and I have become good friends over the past few years. It was great fun to get to play his compositions with the composer himself. I have had the pleasure of teaching at Mark's Fiddle Camp many times, and each time I am around him I learn more about all of the styles in which he has such expertise.”
– Rachel Barton

“He came upon the session scene in Nashville and just knocked everybody over...When you're in the same room with him, his genius is so apparent. And the thing about Mark is, he never stops playing when he has a fiddle in his hands. In the recording studio, you do a take on a song, then you go back to listen. Well, as he walks down the long hall to get to the control room, he's playing the whole time. It's almost like is another part of his body, he's so in tune with it."”
– John Hobbs, a veteran Nashville session musician and producer

“Nashville's foremost instrumental genius.” – Chicago Tribune



“Mark possesses one of those rare gifts in terms of just sheer talent and skill on his instruments.  As an improviser, he can combine incredibly complex melodic ideas with intense rhythmic accuracy and drive, along with precise intonation and tone.  It is incredibly inspiring to be near and, and it was great to have as a part of our earliest development as young people, teenagers really.”
– Mike Marshall

“I'm looking at a photo on the inside of the original PICKIN IN THE WIND album, and it's Byron Berline, Richard Greene, Mark, and myself all sawing away on the stage of a Bluegrass festival somewhere in California in 1975. and now here it is twenty five years later and Mark is a great big tall feller like his daddy and it hasn't been too many years ago that I stood talking with some of the members of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra in a reception after Mark's wildly successful performance of his concerto at TEPAC  and hearing them talk in earnest about how, if Paganinni were alive today, he would be no match for Mark. In the weeks following  I was to hear that this opinion was also shared by some of the big names among our current violin virtuosi. Pretty good for a kid that held the bow like an oldtime fiddler and was schooled by Benny Thommason to play GREY EAGLE and TOM AND JERRY and win fiddle contests. Maybe there's more to old time fiddling than the classical violinists care to admit. Of course I also realize the Mark is the most naturally gifted string musician of our time.
I heard that after the first rehearsal of Mark, Edger Meyer and Yo Yo Ma that Yo Yo was so intrigued with Mark's bow hold that he went back to his hotel room and learned how to do it and came back the next day using it. All during Mark's childhood into young adulthood, Mark not only won every contest he was ever in, with all his own arrangements of all the great old tunes, he literally changed the face of modern contest fiddling. His arrangements are memorized note for note by youngsters who then go out and then win contests with them and I guess the judges haven't figured out a way around that because they are so good. You can run into a young fiddler today who will play you a breath takingly beautiful rendition of Mark's say, COTTON PATCH RAG masterpiece and then you ask him to play SALLY JOHNSON and he never even heard of it.
Mark's arrangements are probably some of the most widely copied in all of string music. Now I'm waiting for them to get to these caprices he's been playing. Good Luck”
– John Hartford - 5/00

“For years, I've heard what I thought were central Asian and Middle Eastern influences in (so called)  "Appalachian" music. What are the sounds
we hear that are so different?  As a self- professed ethnomusicologist, I always searched for a missing link in the evolution of America's music culture.  There is, I now believe, something Asian in Appalachian music...something I could never make sense of before learning of Brent Kennedy's research.

Over the years, I've paid close attention to those academics and musicians who claimed that Irish music (with African influences thrown in) was the forefather to American country music.  But in the music, I heard something far more complicated.  I kept asking myself, "Why do American traditional fiddlers sound so different from those in Europe? How could music that has, most likely, sounded the same for hundreds of years in Ireland hop aboard a boat to arrive on these shores and, within only a couple of generations, produce an entirely unique sound and style of fiddling... a kind of fiddling without a specific influence?"

Now, Brent Kennedy's book has provided me and a growing number of musicians a possible explanation.  I believe it points to a more true identity of America's earliest settlers.”
– Mark O'Connor on Brent Kennedy's book on Melungeons




updated 2 years ago