SLICES OF LIFE WITH SEPTEMBER: Mark O’Connor: professionalism in the face of adversity



Minutes before guest artist Mark O’Connor was supposed to perform onstage with the Augustana Orchestra last weekend, his violin fell from a table and split in half.

For a professional musician, having your instrument, the physical embodiment of your livelihood, break is probably among the worst things that could happen moments before a performance. After all, what good is a fiddler without a fiddle?

During an earlier-than-scheduled intermission, the Augie violinists were told about the incident, and we learned that O’Connor was willing to play the rest of the concert—he just needed to borrow a student’s violin.

He had been telling us at the previous night’s dress rehearsal how much he loved his own violin’s sound, so we knew he was probably already shaken by the loss.

Ultimately, though, he liked the violin belonging to our concertmaster, Gabe. So, he took the stage with an unfamiliar instrument moments after trying it out (and without telling the general audience what had happened).

O’Connor proceeded to play his two pieces with more passion (and speed) than we’d heard during the rehearsals, and the orchestra adapted well to the changes.

Since Gabe’s violin was not equipped with the same electronic capabilities, O’Connor had to sacrifice the use of his sound effects.  As a result his Improvised Violin Concerto was even more impromptu than usual, but the lack of the electronic sound also unveiled his true mastery of the violin.

O’Connor could’ve easily declined to appear—after all, playing someone else’s instrument could be risky, and he probably didn’t need a gig in Sioux Falls, S.D. to boost his career.

Instead of simply quitting, though, he impressed the orchestra with his professionalism and with his “the show must go on” attitude.

He was able to regain enough composure to perform flawlessly for 500 people after a crisis.

O’Connor’s professional attitude and ability to remain calm in the face of disaster were nothing short of inspirational.

I, for one, will not soon forget how Mark O’Connor and the Augustana orchestra managed to create something beautiful despite the evening’s chaotic events. By choosing to perform last weekend, O’Connor reminded us all that, no matter what, the show must always go on.


September Symens is a junior English and journalism major from Omaha, Neb. and is a violinist in the Augustana orchestra.