Trial Balloon

Trial Balloon: August 5, 2009 Archive


Posted at 5:25 AM on August 5, 2009 by Dale Connelly (15 Comments)

Big Birthday Week continues with Mark O'Connor, born on August 5th, 1961.

He doesn't have the same legendary reputation as Tony Bennett and Louis Armstrong, but just wait. As a violinist, fiddler and composer, Mark O'Connor is building up a body of work that will last for a long time. He wins accolades from the hard-to-impress in every area he enters, whether it's classical music or bluegrass or country or jazz or swing.
And this has been happening to him for a long time. Here's a quote that would probably turn your head if somebody said this about you:

They say he's a genius. And I would have to use the same expression. The word "genius" is about the only way that I know that could fit a person 12 years old that can play a fiddle as this boy can play it. You know, Joe Edwards, back here - Joe plays a fine guitar and fiddle - he expressed it about as good as anybody could, I guess. He said: 'You know, seeing and hearing him play makes me believe more in reincarnation than anything.' He said: 'He'd have had to have been here some time before.' The reason he said that - now let me explain this - he's only been playing, so his mother and they all say, a year and a half! Maybe Joe's right. Maybe he has been here before and come back! "I have to say that for 12 years old I don't believe I've ever heard anything that can equal him in any way."

Then consider that this was Mark O'Connor's introduction for his first appearance on the Grand Ol' Opry, and the speaker was Roy Acuff, who was the "King of Country Music" and also the son of a Baptist preacher in the conservative Christian south, so getting him to accept the idea of reincarnation was an impressive achievement in itself.

There's no doubt Mark O'Connor was a prodigy, and he continues to amaze as an adult.

Of course, many very young people are incredibly talented.

Years ago, my son was North America's best 3 year old spice rack contents identifier. We cherish the video of him sitting in his high chair, improbably pointing to the proper container, saying "Pah-PREEEEEE-ka!" Perhaps we were overbearing parents. Our constant pressure for him to expand his repetoire to include "Turmeric" and "Foenugreek Seed" may have poisoned the well. He has other interests now.

As an infant, my prodigal talent was stuffing dirt in my mouth. I was the mud eating champion of Yonkers, New York. People couldn't believe how I packed away the soil.
But even though I had great prospects and could have opened new frontiers in this field, I gave it up.

Did you have a talent as a youth that caused people to be amazed? Dumbfounded? Thunderstruck? What happened?

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