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John Blake, Jr. Ensemble Joins Grammy Winning Fiddler Mark O'Connor & His Appalachia Waltz Trio

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“Triple-threat O'Connor is a jazz artist, a respected classical/ folk composer and a fiddler who performs chamber-music Americana"
--The Seattle Times

“Mr. Blake rides those vamps like a master. He also knows how to pace a solo so that it builds to crest after crest, with an oratorical sense of timing"
The New York Times

Philadelphia, Pa--Musicopia, formerly known as Strings for Schools, announces an innovative collaboration between the Appalachia Waltz Trio featuring virtuoso fiddler Mark O'Connor and an ensemble led by jazz violinist John Blake, Jr. Through a hands-on workshop with the Philadelphia School District All-City Middle School Chamber Orchestra and Band, these professional musicians from differing backgrounds and styles hope to inspire Philadelphia youth to create and extend their own cultural journeys through music. The project, entitled Fiddlin' Jazz, culminates with a public performance of newly commissioned pieces and standard works at the Independence Seaport Museum on May 12. Tickets are available at www.musicopia.net.

“We are thrilled that such impressive artists are taking time to expose Philadelphia students to a dynamic musical experience," said Denise Kinney, Executive Director of Musicopia, a non-profit organization that brings educational music programs to schools and communities throughout the Delaware Valley. “Over 75% of the kids we work with live in underserved communities. Regardless of their backgrounds, we believe that every child deserves to experience the transformative powers of music. In addition to presenting an incredible night of music to the general public, the Fiddlin' Jazz collaboration expands Musicopia's outreach to nearly 50 Philadelphia schools through one unique project."

Appalachia Waltz, Mark O'Connor's first recording for the Sony Classical record label, was a collaboration with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and double bassist Edgar Meyer. O'Connor's compositions, including its title track, gained worldwide recognition for him as a leading proponent of a new American musical idiom. The tremendously successful follow-up release, Appalachian Journey, received a Grammy Award in February 2001. O'Connor formed a new chamber ensemble in 2002, the Appalachia Waltz Trio, which now features violist Rebecca Albers and cellist Mike Block. Continuing its musical exploration of Americana, the Trio released its first album, Crossing Bridges in 2004.

For this collaboration, John Blake, Jr., an internationally known jazz violinist, performs with pianist Sumi Tonooka and bassist Avery Sharpe. As a leader, Blake has recorded 9 CDs. He is also featured on albums with jazz greats McCoy Tyner, Archie Shepp, Steve Turre and Grover Washington, Jr. As a roster artist and an advisory board member for Musicopia, Blake gives hundreds of educational concerts and workshops each year in Philadelphia and New Jersey.

The project begins on Thursday, May 10 as O'Connor and Blake lead a daytime workshop with the newly-formed All-City Middle School Chamber Orchestra and Band, highlighting the talent of young musicians from schools in Philadelphia. That same evening, the All-City Middle School Chamber Orchestra and Band performs along with their new mentors at 7:00 p.m. at Irvine Auditorium, located on the University of Pennsylvania campus at 3401 Spruce Street, Philadelphia.

On Saturday night, May 12 at 7:30 p.m., the Appalachia Waltz Trio and the John Blake, Jr. Ensemble perform together at the Independence Seaport Museum, located at 211 South Columbus Boulevard on Penn's Landing, Philadelphia. Tickets are $35 for adults and $15 for students. The two ensembles explore the relationship between the many forms of bluegrass, jazz and classical music - what musical elements are alike and what are different, and how these disparate styles relate to the very diverse cultures in America. As O'Connor and Blake step in and out of different genres, they hope to demonstrate how music can offer opportunities to take chances and stretch beyond the familiar.

Founded in 1974, Musicopia (formerly Strings for Schools) presents over 700 programs per year, with a total yearly outreach to over 100,000 students and parents in approximately 200 different schools and communities. Musicopia focuses its outreach to geographical areas that lack adequate music programs or are cut off from the region's rich cultural life. According to the Music Performance Fund (a division of the American Federation of Musicians), Musicopia is “the largest provider of outside music education resources for schools on the East Coast."


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