Mark Mitchell's Bio
Just imagine a musical career that begins with a five-year-old kindergartner playing drums as the chorus sings "The Little Drummer Boy" at his school's Christmas pageant. And then, imagine that drummer learning to play the violin for the next few years before beginning to play the trumpet. Now, imagine also that while all of this is going on, this budding musician begins receiving piano lessons from one of the great musicians produced in his home city of Philadelphia.
Continue imagining. This trumpet player incorporates the alto saxophone into his list of instruments--a saxophone given to him by a fraternity brother of his father. He practices on both the trumpet and the saxophone until his instructor at the Settlement Music School advises him to choose between the two because of the difference in the embouchure when playing the two instruments. The saxophone is chosen. He continues to study at the Settlement Music School.
In addition to these formal lessons, he enrolls at Ada Lewis Middle School and has the awesome opportunity to be taught by one of the most prolific, world-renowned, and beloved saxophone players of all time. This musician, an administrator at the school, works with aspiring musicians after school hours. So, just imagine this young man learning not only the alto saxophone, but also the soprano saxophone, the tenor saxophone, the baritone saxophone, and the flute for good measure. Now, given all that, is it difficult to imagine that this young man has become one of the most recognizable, most in-demand saxophone players who has merged with "the sound of Philadelphia" as he has performed in Philadelphia, Delaware, and other areas through the years?
Meet Mark Mitchell. This story is not just imagination. It all really happened. And his extraordinary devotion to and love for music is still happening. His piano teacher during those years was the late Gerald Price. The person who introduced him to the saxophone is the great Philadelphia Jazz saxophonist, Tony Williams. Early on, under Tony's tutelage, Mark and fellow peers James Lloyd, Curtis Harmon, Cedric Napolean (Pieces of a Dream) and Pamela Williams were exposed to numerous Philadelphia region Jazz musicians. Other artists with whom Mark interacted include the likes of Tommy Grice, Odean Pope, Bootsy Barnes, Eddie Green, Sonny Hoxter, and Al Jackson, to name a few. Many of these musicians donated their time, talent and services to educate young people about Jazz, and to give pointers on playing and performing.
Mark continued to perform as he moved through high school, playing with the award-winning Martin Luther King High School Jazz Band. This band made many appearances around the city, the state, and the country. They also participated in national competitions in several states, once winning first place in a competition in Florida. The next year, they competed in an international festival in Mexico City, where they won second place. Always, the instructions and practices of these young people included being kind and helpful to aspiring young musicians who were encountered, always giving them a few minutes to discuss aspects of the performances that they had questions about. One special thing that happened while he was part of the Martin Luther King High School Jazz Band, was that Mark had the opportunity to share the stage and perform with Dizzy Gillespie and his band.
Following college at Delaware State University and a stint in the US Navy, Mark returned to his music. He played at various family and charity affairs and then moved into the professional arena. One of the musical programs in which he participated became known as the Mount Airy Cultural Center. The center provided an opportunity for young musicians to interact with and learn from the professionals. Lessons were given and live performances were held, much to the delight of families, friends, supporters, and Jazz lovers in general. During this time period, Mark instructed and managed a young group of musicians known as "The Best Yet Quintet." The group made many appearances in Philadelphia and surrounding areas and disbanded only when they finished school and began to move on to college.
Through the years, as Mark has performed at venues throughout the Philadelphia region, he has, in all probability, entertained a number of fans ranging from 16,000 to 17,000. While the following is not the entire listing of venues where he has performed, he has appeared at Zanzibar Blue, Warmdaddy's, The Grand Opera House, The Baby Grand, The World Café, Celebrations, Ubon Thai, Delaware Art Museum, Delaware Theater, Delaware State Hospital, Delaware State Prisons, many restaurants, various churches, public schools, and innumerable social events. Additionally, he had the opportunity to open for, or share the stage with, artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Grover Washington, Jr., Al Turner, Brian Culbertson, Rance Allen, LaShun Pace, Kim Burrell, the Pace Sisters, Twinkie Clark, James Moore, Bubby Fann, Timothy Wright, and Richard Smallwood.
Mark's first cd was a solo project, produced in 2003. He has co-written several recorded songs and has recorded on eleven other cd projects, the most recent being an Al Turner cd. Early on, he was interviewed on WRTI 90.1, and more recently on WVUD 93.1 several times. Internet radio appearances have included appearances with Aniya, a group with which he has played, and Al Turner. He recently won an all-expense paid trip to the UK as a result of his musical efforts and service to the community.
Mark admires the sounds and styles of the saxophonists with whom he has had the opportunity to appear. While not exactly sure which artist he sounds most like, others have suggested Grover Washington, Wilton Felder of the Jazz Crusaders, and Najee. He considers himself to be somewhat unique in that he plays all saxophones, and he is often told that his playing is recognizable. When individuals indicate that, and he asks them why they are saying it, they say it is hard for them to explain. Usually, he is told, "It just sounds like you. It's that sound you have--the seemingly effortless energy you put into your playing, your extraordinary breathing, your ability to play whichever sax is required at the moment, your ability to cover if someone else makes a mistake, and the absolutely extraordinary melodies you produce."
Though he attributes his foundation, as well as his love of music to the Jazz idiom, he also loves Gospel/Inspirational music. He intends to continue developing his talents, including composing, arranging, recording, and producing. Currently, he devotes as much time as possible toward accomplishing these ends. He is presently working on several items as he prepares to speak to various groups around the country. He intends to see these projects through to fruition. He realizes that he has come a long way from that little drummer and he feels that the sky is the limit.
It is Mark's continuing wish to help young people achieve happiness and go on to lead successful and meaningful lives whether they continue with careers in music or choose other options. Actually, he sees music as a gateway to a bright and productive future regardless of the option chosen. He is a proven, yet realistic professional, who will help those with whom he engages learn to make choices, focus on those choices and work consistently regardless of problems or difficulties encountered along the way. One of his creeds is "keep on keeping on." It is his belief that, for the most part, achievements that require a bit of a struggle are those that are ultimately best remembered and most inspiring and satisfying.
As Mark continues to interact with various individuals and groups of which you may be a part, he will encourage you, urge you, permit you, insist that you think, talk, and engage with others whose opinions and ideas may be different from yours. He believes that as you exchange viewpoints with others, your views have the option of expanding, broadening, and leaving you more enlightened than when you started. You will also be encouraged and guided by choosing a goal and a pathway to that goal. You will be encouraged to follow that pathway, and continue to seek guidance when necessary, as you head toward success in your chosen arena.