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Mark O'Connor, genre fiddler

March 13, 2009 |  3:15 pm

Mark O'Connor
sat in the small theater at UCLA as three earnest young music students -- a violinist, a cellist and a pianist -- determinedly worked through one movement of his Piano Trio No. 1, a piece commissioned and recorded by the Eroica Trio, one of chamber music's stellar ensembles. Once they finished, O'Connor walked onstage, complimented their performance and picked up his violin to demonstrate a few pointers on tempo, technique and playing style.

"At letter G," the violinist-composer said, as his charges quickly flipped pages to find that spot in the score, "this section emulates the Johnny Cash guitar strum where he goes up the neck." He mimicked the Man in Black's signature chick-chicka-chick strumming style and then mentioned how Cash's late-career performance of the Nine Inch Nails song "Hurt" had introduced the veteran artist to a new generation of fans shortly before his death in 2003.

"Go to YouTube," he suggested, "and watch the video of him singing it. It's a very effective performance. Hearing and seeing him play that song will help you play this part."

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