As a teenager he won national string instrument championships for his virtuoso playing of the fiddle, guitar, and mandolin.
O'Connor composes, arranges, and records American music across genres including folk, classical, and jazz. His works include concertos, and compositions for string trios, string quartets, string orchestra, choral music, and solo unaccompanied pieces.
He has won two Grammy awards; one for his New Nashville Cats album (1992) and another for Appalachian Journey album (2001) with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer. He was named Musician of the Year by the Country Music Association six years in a row (from 1991 to 1996).
Sophia and Olivia listened to six of O'Connor's compositions on different CDs:
Appalachia Waltz (4.25) on Yo-Yo Ma Solo
Sophia thought: It sounds sad - like something you'd hear at a funeral. It sounds like it could be a tribute to someone's life. It's pretty, but it could be a little more upbeat.
Olivia thought: It sounds like something you'd hear on a sad, gloomy day at church. If his songs are supposed to be upbeat, then this one too sad.
Anniversary (11:16) on Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio - Live in New York
Sophia thought: It's all over the place. It goes high and low. It's definitely country. I wouldn't have listened to this if you didn't say I had to. I don't like the ending...it was slow and I don't like slow endings.
Olivia thought: This definitely sounds like a country song. It's not my favorite. This is not something I'd pick to listen to. I didn't like this song - it was sad and not upbeat at all.
M&W Rag (5:11) on Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio - Live in New York
Sophia thought: This is definitely rag. It's something that they'd play during a Tom & Jerry cartoon - like when people are dancing...like background music at a party. I like the bass and piano.
Olivia thought: This would be something you'd hear at an old party like out in the west. I like this song!
Fiddler Going Home (4:24) on Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio - Live in New York
Sophia thought: I like this one because it's quiet and gentle; and it's good for someone trying to fall asleep. It was a little long for me, but I liked it.
Olivia thought: It's not very jazzy. It sounds kind of sad because it's very quiet and slow.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*In Full Swing (3:55) on Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio - In Full Swing
Sophia thought: I don't like this one. It's too choppy. There's a lot of dynamic changes.
Olivia thought: It sounds like someone is being chased. It's fast. I like this one because it's very quick.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*Stephane and Django (5:50) on Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio - In Full Swing
Sophia thought: It's okay. I just don't really care for the sound of it.
Olivia thought: I think it's something you'd hear on Tom & Jerry when they're at a party and Jerry left to go to New York City. He hitched a ride on someone's dress and went over a grate and went bump-bump-bump. This part that I just listened to sounded like that.