Mark O’Connor is bringing a new type of blue to Augustana.
World-renowned blues violinist Mark O’Connor will take the stage with the Augustana Orchestra on April 4 at the Sioux Falls Orpheum Theater.
Executive Director of the Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Society (SFJB), Augustana graduate and current teacher, Rob Joyce, has worked with O’Connor in the past and assisted in bringing the ensemble together.
“The collaborative nature of this project is great – two fine organizations working together with a real ‘star’ is simply invigorating,” said Brad Heegel, administrative director of the performing and visual arts at Augustana.
O’Connor will be on a three-day residency with the SFJB, ending with his final performance with the Augustana Orchestra. The performance will serve as a conclusion for the SFJB’s 2013-2014 concert series, “Let the Good Times Roll.”
Influenced greatly by American folk fiddler and innovator Benny Thomasson and French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, O’Connor has studied a wide range of musical genres. His work has garnered worldwide recognition, and he has performed with the likes of Yo-Yo Ma and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
“Any time our students have the opportunity to be in the presence of an internationally-known artist of this caliber, let alone perform with him or her, can be life changing for them,” Heegel said.
Junior orchestra officer and violinist Yolanda Clark sees the opportunity in it as well.
“I’m really excited to hear his compositions come together with his solo part,” Clark said. “Without the solo violin, the music sounds empty,”
According to Augustana director of orchestra Christopher Stanichar, the orchestra has been preparing and practicing for this event for a month. In order to perform with someone they have never played with before, the orchestra studies recordings of his music.
“We are playing The Improvised Violin Concerto, so knowing what to expect when he plays will be very difficult since he will be playing off of chords and the key that the piece is in,” Clark said. “It will be interesting to hear what he does with this piece.”
According to Heegel, the performing arts department works to offer numerous outside opportunities for growth to their students.
“When we bring experts in from outside our world, it only serves to enhance what is already a remarkable experience,” Heegel said.
While it is not unusual for Augustana and the Sioux Falls community in general to bring in performers of great talent and distinction, the opportunity to work with an artist as widely renowned as O’Connor is unique.
“It’s pretty rare,” Stanichar said, “He’s probably one of the biggest names I’ve seen since I’ve lived here. It’s a great honor to get to work with him.”
Mark O’Connor and the Augustana Orchestra will perform their concert 8 p.m. April 4 at the Orpheum Theater. Student rush tickets are $12 with ID cards.