The O’Connor Band featuring Mark O’Connor will kick off the new Blue Ridge and Beyond Series at the historic Earle Theatre next weekend.
“The opportunity to hear bands of this caliber in such a small venue is a rare treat,” the Surry Arts Council said in announcing the concert for Saturday night.
Mark O’Connor, a national champion on the fiddle, guitar, and mandolin, has won numerous awards including two Grammys, Country Music Association’s Vocal Event of the Year, and Musician of the Year by CMA an unprecedented six years in a row (1990-1996).
Over the course of his career, O’Connor has collaborated with iconic artists including Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, George Jones, Randy Travis, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis and Yo-Yo Ma. O’Connor is also a celebrated American violinist and composer who wrote numerous violin concertos, which he has performed with multiple major symphony orchestras around the world.
In addition to performing, he authored a revolutionary and now best-selling instructional method for strings, The O’Connor Method.
“I’ve recorded on at least 500 albums,” says O’Connor, “but I have to say, there are very few, if any, that I’ve been as proud of as our new O’Connor Band album.”
O’Conner’s wife, Maggie, who sings both lead and background vocals in addition to playing violin, received a master of music in violin performance from the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. After growing up playing and singing country, bluegrass, and jazz with her own family band in a small town outside Atlanta, Georgia, she spent years in intense Russian School classical violin training, but she never lost her yearning to play American styles.
Forrest O’Connor waited a long time before deciding to follow his father’s footsteps. While attending Harvard University he managed to squeeze in time to practice mandolin late nights in the basement of his dorm building. After graduating summa cum laude and foregoing an invitation to attend Harvard Business School, Forrest co-founded and worked at a video tech startup, Concert Window, before deciding to pursue music as a career in early 2014. Within two months of moving from Boston back to his hometown of Nashville, Forrest won the Tennessee State Mandolin Championship and began touring full-time with the O’Connor Band as co-lead singer with fiancée, Kate Lee.
Lee, born and raised in Rochester, New York, became the leader of her own band, Kate Lee & No Strings Attached, at age 12 and won several state and regional songwriting contests in the following years.
Soon after moving to Nashville to study commercial violin performance at Belmont University, Lee began performing behind a number of the biggest names in country music, including Martina McBride, Lady Antebellum, Vince Gill, Jennifer Nettles, and Rascal Flatts. She also formed an unlikely but highly productive songwriting partnership with Pat Alger (Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Nanci Griffith). A couple of their songs appear on the O’Connor Band album.
Rounding out the band are Joe Smart, a former National Flatpick Guitar Champion, and Geoff Saunders, a DMA candidate in Bass Performance from the University of Miami. Both grew up listening to Mark O’Conner’s music, so perhaps the good fit and chemistry they have should come as no surprise.
Other bands included in the upcoming Blue Ridge and Beyond Series are Del McCoury who will be playing on Dec. 19, Shadowgrass, Jerry Douglas & The Earls of Leicester, Bryan Sutton Band, Lonesome River Band, Carson Peters and Iron Mountain, The Seldom Scene, Will Jones Band, Bellamy Brothers, Balsam Range, and Dailey & Vincent.
Saturday night’s concert will begin at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $25 for balcony seating, $30 for orchestra reserved, and $35 for preferred.
Call the Surry Arts Council at 336-786-7998 for tickets. For more information, contact the Surry Arts Council at 336-786-7998, www.surryarts.org, or firstname.lastname@example.org.