The Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech and the Lyric Theatre are bringing Grammy award-winning violinist Mark O’Connor to the theatre’s stage on Friday, Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. 

The evening will feature music from O’Connor’s latest CD, “American Classics,” as well as some of his most requested compositions, including “Appalachia Waltz,” “Double Violin Concerto,” and “Miniatures.” A solo improvisation will also be part of the evening program.    

O’Connor is known around the world for his musical boundary-crossing performances, which include pieces ranging from old-fashioned fiddle tunes to ragtime, free improvisation, jazz, and blues. Selling over two million CDs as a solo recording artist, winning two Grammy awards, and being named Musician of the Year by the Country Music Association six years in a row (from 1991 to 1996), O’Connor has performed and recorded with some of the most recognizable names in the music world.

O’Connor will be joined on the Lyric stage by violinist Ashley Liberty and pianist Daniel Strange. “American Classics” will be officially released on Feb. 14 on O’Connor’s own label, OMAC Records. This is the first compilation created by O’Connor since he was a teenager that is composed solely of traditional American songs.

Listen to two songs from “American Classics.”

O’Connor regularly gives lectures, demonstrations, and workshops at a variety of music programs around the country, and will be arriving in Blacksburg a day prior to his performance to work with students from Virginia Tech’s Department of Music in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, music teachers from surrounding areas, and elementary school-aged participants in the Virginia Tech String Project to share his insight and techniques. He has created the O'Connor Violin Method, which takes an American Classical approach to modern violin playing, offering a technical foundation using songs from the diverse range of traditional American string playing. It is the first violin method to feature all American music.

A product of America's rich aural folk tradition as well as classical music, O’Connor’s musical roots are traced to a pair of musical giants — folk fiddler and innovator Benny Thomasson, who created the modern era of American fiddling, and French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, known as one of the greatest improvisers in the history of the violin. Through his studies of a wide range of musical styles and genres, O’Connor has melded and shaped these influences, allowing him to compose, arrange, and record a new kind of American classical music.

At the age of 13, he won the Grand Masters Fiddling Championships in Nashville, Tenn., competing against all ages and skill levels. At age 17, O'Connor played guitar in the acoustic string band, the David Grisman Quintet, and at 19 played violin and guitar alongside Steve Morse as a member of the rock-fusion instrumental band The Dregs. By age 19, he had won the contest two more times, won the National Old-Time Fiddlers Contest three times and the National Flatpicking Guitar Championships twice, and became the World Mandolin Champion. This is record of contest wins has never been matched. In his 20s, he was a member of the acoustic band Strength in Numbers, with Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas and Edgar Meyer. He also assembled two country bands — the New Nashville Cats and the house band for the television show “The American Music Shop.” O’Connor has appeared on numerous top 10 hits, recorded more than 500 albums, and collaborated with a long list of musicians and singers, including Yo-Yo Ma, Dolly Parton, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Randy Travis, and The Judds.

Watch a clip of O’Connor performing.

Tickets

Tickets are $40 Gold, $34 Silver, $16 students and children 18 years and  under. Tickets can be purchased online; at The Lyric Theatre box office, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; or by calling 540-951-4771.