Mark O'Connor Fosters the American School of String Playing

By Williams, Rory | Strings, July 2011 | Go to article overview

Mark O'Connor Fosters the American School of String Playing


Williams, Rory, Strings


Fiddler, violinist, composer, and educator promotes heritage music in camps, premieres new music, and readies a holiday album

A CADRE OF STRING TEACHERS will be versed in the new American school of string playing just in time for Independence Day. Fiddler, violinist, composer, educator, and author Mark O'Connor has added a teacher-training seminar to his popular summer camps to spread the word on his recently released O'Connor Violin Method. It's just one of many initiatives supporting O'Connor's mission of pushing American traditional music to the front of public consciousness. And it's a footnote to what has become a banner year in his career.

Amateur and professional fiddlers, violists, and cellists are drawn to O'Connor's camps at East Tennessee State University (June 20-24) and the Berklee College of Music (June 27-July 1) by the performance opportunities and rosters of instructors. This year, these will include Western swing and country fiddler Buddy Spicher and Appalachian old-time fiddler Bruce Molksy, among many others. Others might be drawn to the 2011 Teacher's Training Course, which covers the O'Conner Violin Method Books 1 , 2, and 3, the last of which will be released in the fall through Shar Music.

The books teach the fundamentals of the violin through such fiddle tunes as "Boil 'Em Cabbage Down," "Arkansas Traveler," and "Fiddler's Dream," as well as O'Connor's own "Appalachia Waltz" and "The Fiddler Concerto." An advantage of American music is that it can be a great vehicle for expression on an individual and ensemble basis, O'Connor says. That includes improvisation, which is at the root of American folk music and is a recurring theme in his books.

The Third Street Music School Settlement in New York City has incorporated the method into its string instruction, as have several other community music schools and programs at El Sistema-New York City and the Harmony Project in Los Angeles. "Suzuki teachers that were teaching back in the late 1960s that have come around to this method are all saying that the momentum and speed at which my method is being accepted dwarfs that of what happened with Suzuki 50 years ago," O'Connor says. …

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