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Appalachia Waltz Trio to Perform Friday, Jan. 18

January 14, 2008 Mark O'Connor –– On Friday, January 18, 2008 at 7:30 p.m. the Phillips Academy Music Department will present the Mark O'Connor Appalachia Waltz Trio featuring violinist Mark O'Connor, violist Rebecca Albers, and cellist Mike Block. This concert is a free but ticketed event. Please call 978-749-4260 or 978-749-4263 for more information, or e-mail to music@andover.edu. The concert will take place in the Cochran Chapel on the Phillips Academy campus, 180 Main Street, Andover.

Violinist and composer Mark O'Connor is widely recognized as one of the most gifted contemporary composers in America and surely one of the brightest talents of his generation. A product of America's rich aural folk tradition, O'Connor's journey began at the feet of violin masters Texas fiddler Benny Thomasson and French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli. Along the way, between these two marvelous musical extremes, O'Connor absorbed knowledge and influence from a multitude of musical styles and genres. Now, at age 44, he has melded and shaped these influences into a new American classical music. The Los Angeles Times warmly noted he has "crossed over so many boundaries, that his style is purely personal."

His first recording for the Sony Classical record label, Appalachia Waltz, was a collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma and double bassist Edgar Meyer. The works O'Connor composed for the disc, including its title track, gained worldwide recognition for him as a leading proponent of a new American musical idiom. The tremendously successful follow-up release, Appalachian Journey, received a Grammy Award in February 2001.

In 2000, composer John Williams also called on his expertise and knowledge of the period to contribute solo instrumentalist talents to the Oscar-nominated score of The Patriot. Mr. O'Connor also was invited to contribute to the soundtrack of the upcoming Ron Maxwell film, Gods and Generals. With more than 150 performances, his "Fiddle Concerto No. 1" has become the most-performed modern violin concerto.

In 2002, Mr. O'Connor formed a new chamber ensemble, the Appalachia Waltz Trio. The trio performs repertoire that O'Connor created for his Appalachia Waltz and Appalachian Journey recording projects. The Appalachia Waltz Trio released its first album, Crossing Bridges, in 2004 on O'Connor's OMAC recording label.

In recent years, as word of his considerable writing talents have spread, O'Connor's compositions have been embraced by a variety of performers. Yo-Yo Ma has recorded the solo cello version of Appalachia Waltz and frequently performs it in recital. Dance troupes, including Twyla Tharp, the New York City Ballet, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, are constantly discovering O'Connor's expressive American music.

O'Connor has appeared at The White House, the Presidential Inauguration Celebration and the ceremonies of Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Games, for which he composed "Olympic Reel." He is often featured on major network television shows, and past appearances include CBS Sunday Morning, Great Performances on PBS, The Kennedy Center Honors, and America's Celebration of Israel's 50th Birthday televised on CBS.

O'Connor regularly teaches master classes and has conducted symposia at many schools of music including The Juilliard School of Music, Tanglewood, Aspen, the Berklee College of Music, UCLA, the Eastman School of Music and the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University. Mark generously donates his time in support of a number of organizations that promote music education and outreach, including Opus 118, Midori and Friends, Sphinx, and the Music For Life Alliance. He serves on the advisory panel for the selection of the Kennedy Center Honors and is affiliated with Arts4All, a nationally recognized provider of cultural web content. He is founder of the internationally recognized Mark O'Connor Fiddle Camp and Strings Conference. At the Mark O'Connor Fiddle Camp near Nashville, Tennessee and the Mark O'Connor Strings Conference near San Diego, California, O'Connor assembles a world-class faculty to teach in a number of musical styles. These gatherings routinely draw participants from across the U.S. and Canada, as well as from Europe, South America and Asia.

Violist Rebecca Albers, was the 2002/03 winner of the Juilliard School's viola competition and made her New York debut with the Juilliard Orchestra performing the New York premiere of Samuel Adler's Viola Concerto in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. In the summer of 2004, Albers was a winner of the Music Academy of the West's Concerto Competition with Gerard Schwartz conducting.

An experienced chamber musician, she has performed across the United States, France, Switzerland and England, including performances with such artists as Richard Good, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and members of the Guarneri, Juilliard and St. Lawrence String Quartets. In September of 2003, she performed in the inaugural concert in Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall. She is currently active with the Albers Trio, a string trio formed with her sisters, Laura and Julie Albers. Albers is a graduate student and teaching assistant of Heidi Castleman and Hsin-Yun Huang at the Juilliard School.

Cellist Mike Block is a regular performer with Yo-Yo Ma as 2nd cellist in his Silk Road Ensemble, having performed with them at Carnegie Hall, Hollywood Bowl, and Tanglewood, as well as in various cities including San Diego and Chicago, and in Japan. He also is a member of the Knights Chamber Ensemble, the Absolute Ensemble, Argento New Music Ensemble, and the Lyric Chamber Music Society of New York.

A graduate of the Juilliard School and the Cleveland Institute of Music, Mr. Block has studied cello with Richard Aaron, Joel Krosnick, and Darrett Adkins. Block is a regular instructor at the Kansas City Cello Clinic, and also taught at Mark O'Connor's String Conference in San Diego in July.

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