Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music



Major Professor

Dr. Leslie C. Gay, Jr.

Committee Members

Dr. Wesley Baldwin, Dr. Rachel Golden Carlson


The purpose of this thesis is to examine the effect that the crossover music of Mark O’Connor, Edgar Meyer, and Béla Fleck has on current societal perceptions of classical music. In the past, society has seen classical music as a highbrow cultural activity, inaccessible to the majority of American people. In the course of this research, I explore the music of these artists from several perspectives.

Through a technocultural examination of the violin, fiddle, double bass, and banjo, I determine that these instruments are used prominently in many styles of music and therefore facilitate crossover. I identify how different musical domains come together as crossover in the music and recordings of these performers. I discover that the music of O’Connor, Meyer, and Fleck draws from classical music, as well as musical domains specific to the United States, including jazz, bluegrass, and old-time country.

In addition, I attended concerts and conducted interviews with audience members. I also spoke with administrators at several symphony orchestras in the United States. After Clifford Geertz, I developed a “thick description” of a particular Mark O’Connor concert, in which I analyzed the audience behavior and relationship to the musicians (1973). In interviews with audience members, I asked them about the concert experience and explored reasons for attendance at the performance. I asked symphony administrators about their reasons for including these crossover artists in their concert season, as well as their views on changing trends in classical audiences. This research led me to apply Holt’s interpretation of Bourdieu’s theory of taste to the formation of crossover audiences.

My application of Bourdieu’s theory to crossover audiences reveals the broad base of audience participation for these composer/performers and demonstrates the potency of American musical styles for contemporary American audiences. Finally, I conclude that O’Connor, Meyer, and Fleck combine classical music and musical idioms of the United States to create a newly accessible crossover music that extends the boundaries of classical music consumption.

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