Mentoring Program

The National Fiddler Hall of Fame


Connecting Strings

Kathy Rad and the National Fiddler Hall of Fame

By: Beth Clary

Kathy Rad is a cellist with the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, as well as the orchestra’s Education/Community Engagement Director. She is as passionate about music education in general and strings in particular as she is about her own playing. She built up the strings program when she worked at Tulsa Public Schools as the Music Coordinator and continues to find ways to bring strings to students of all ages and abilities.

MarkOConnorKathyRadWhen Shelby Eicher, Director of Education for the National Fiddler Hall of Fame, was helping to plan the 2009 Third Annual Gala, he turned to Kathy for help. Could she find a quartet to play for a V.I.P. Pre-Gala Reception? She played herself with some colleagues and the strands of her musical life intertwined.

While the preparations for the Gala were going on, Kathy and her colleagues were backstage warming up and meeting the 2009 inductees (see Inductees – link). One of the inductees, and National Fiddler Hall of Fame Advisory Board member, was Mark O’Connor – a musician that Kathy greatly admired. She introduced herself to Mr. O’Connor and visited with him over the course of the evening.

“One of my dreams,” Rad offered months later, “was to get a ‘c’mere’ card to attend O’Connor’s camp. I did! By the end of the evening, he offered me, tuition free, an opportunity to attend his New York City Strings Camp!”

2009 was the first year that Mr. O’Connor offered a strings camp in NYC. The camp first began 16 years ago in Tennessee. Then it expanded to another camp in California. With the NYC program, and the encouragement to add cello to the violin and viola instruction, over 450 string players. The camp is also remarkable in that it is open to any string player at the intermediate or advanced level who is 10 years of age or older. So classes and performances are composed of young people as well as long-time professionals and music teachers. The faculty of string instructors includes some of the best players in Classical, Jazz, Folk Fiddling and World Music, including the National Fiddler Hall of Fame’s Advisory Board Member, Byron Berline.

“It was amazing, overwhelming really,” Rad remarked. “I played with some of the cellists I admire most.” In addition to classes and performances during the 5-day camp, Rad received 45 professional development hours and certification as an instructor in the O’Connor Method. “Mark researched authentic American melodies extensively and, because these songs are culturally relevant, it is a familiar and fun way to learn. I’ve tried every method of instruction and experimented with these different styles, and with this method students seem to learn quicker. The books come with CDs. Mark is playing all the songs and helping students appreciate the importance of listening to music. It gives students a chance to really grow and share the joy of music.”DarrellAnger

With her certification and all of her Tulsa area connections, Rad has begun to introduce the O’Connor method to students at schools throughout the city. “We, TSO and the area public schools, have programs in every grade level whether it’s an afterschool program in Jenks or a 50 student ensemble at Madison Middle School in Tulsa.”

So, if casual backstage conversation helped Kathy Rad realize one of her dreams, what does she dream about now?

“Maybe a strings education week with Mark O’Connor, Yo-Yo Ma and Maya Beiser here in Tulsa with a public concert as the capstone event?”

For now, she is working on expanding the Tulsa Symphony Education programs further and developing ideas for a TSO Summer Fiddling Camp, with the cooperation and support of Shelby Eicher and the National Fiddler Hall of Fame, and other area arts organizations such as the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. “The summers are a problem for kids. They aren’t in school. They have given their instrument back to the school for the summer and don’t have a chance to play regularly. We’re developing a plan for a summer program where the kids could keep their instruments over the summer and attend classes that incorporate the O’Connor Method and play in jam sessions to not only retain what they learned during the school year but ideally become more advanced.”