About THe Band
Mark O’Connor Band’s very first performance took place at the legendary Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival in Winfield, Kansas in 2015, the same event where Mark won national competitions on three instruments as a young teenager. In 2017 – less than a year and a half later – the new band took home the GRAMMY Award for Best Bluegrass Album for their debut recording, Coming Home.
In a whirlwind four years, the band has also performed at the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony, received standing ovations at the Grand Ole Opry, spent several weeks at the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Top Bluegrass Albums chart, headlined at The Ryman, and opened for the Zac Brown Band that included two nights at Fenway Park. They have put together shows unlike any other, blending singer-songwriter sensibilities with bluegrass instruments, and Americana rawness with chamber music sophistication. They have wowed audiences at bluegrass festivals like like GreyFox, Grand Targhee and Wintergrass, and received outstanding reviews at the world’s premier Performing Arts Centers like Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
His new band is the product of Mark O’Connor’s imagination – one that has served him well over the course of his four-decade professional career. Well-known for his own successful projects New Nashville Cats, Strength in Numbers, Heroes, American Music Shop, Appalachia Waltz, Hot Swing Trio, The Fiddle Concerto, his revolutionary O’Connor Method for string education, Mark has won 3 GRAMMYs and 7 CMA Awards, appeared on 450 country albums, collaborated with the likes of Johnny Cash, Wynton Marsalis, John Williams, Dolly Parton, and Yo-Yo Ma, and performed everything from original violin concertos at Carnegie Hall to swing at Jazz at Lincoln Center. But until recently, he had not worked on a project quite like this.
Their recently released Mark O’Connor Band Live!, is a stunning showcase of their most exciting concert and festival material to date. Recorded live in concert, the album captures the band on the heels of a packed first couple of years on the road, during which they had honed their sound and risen to an even higher level of cohesion and expressiveness.
“It’s been one of the most surprising and rewarding experiences to perform with my family members on stage,” says Mark. “It’s really exciting to bend these American genres in new ways, combining accessibility with audiences with our own musicianship and writing.”
In addition to Mark, the band features his son Forrest, (Harvard graduate and former Tennessee State Mandolin Champion), daughter-in-law Kate (frequent performer on the CMA Awards and CMA Country Christmas shows), and wife Maggie (graduate of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University). The band is rounded out by Joe Smart (national flatpick champion on guitar) and Geoff Saunders (bassist/banjoist extraordinaire and recent graduate of the University of Miami’s DMA program).
The six band members play together as though they have been sharing the stage a lot longer than the last 4 years – and in some ways, they have.
“We all grew up listening to my dad’s music,” says Forrest, “so in a sense, we’ve been preparing for this band for a majority of our lives.”