How and when did you first get involved with the HVBA?
About 10 years ago, I wandered in to a jam and “hid in the back.” I really liked the music and was there [at the jams] all the time. Eventually they gave me a job, taking care of HVBA merchandising (tee shirts, bumper stickers etc).
So were you one of those kids who listened to bluegrass from an early age?
No, I didn’t grow up with it. I came to the music later, working my way backwards from the Grateful Dead, then back to groups like Credence Clearwater and to Doc Watson, then to country, then to bluegrass.
I’ve heard that you don’t play at the HVBA jams. Do you play any instruments? Are you a closet musician who may just show up some day and suddenly start playing at a jam?
I do have a mandolin sitting in my living room. I located it via “Mandolin Café” on the internet and bought it (sight unseen) from a fellow in Brooklyn. I learned two songs (8th of January and Angeline Baker). Pat Dinges helped me through those two songs, and introduced me to the application, Amazing Slowdowner, so while I haven’t had lessons I wasn’t totally flying blind. I haven’t learned the chords yet.
So is the mandolin your favorite instrument?
I picked the mandolin because I figured I could stand in the back and chop. But I have “mandolin elbow” so I haven’t been playing lately. Overall, I probably like the fiddle best.
Tell me about yourself. Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in Castleton-on-Hudson, which is a little river town outside Albany. I went to Hudson Valley Community College, and I’ve worked at IBM for 30 years. I have two sisters and a brother.
Did you grow up in a musical family?
No one in my family played a musical instrument (though I did play the guitar for about a year when I was young), but we all liked listening to music. We were more of an outdoorsy family. I’m a hiker. I’ve been all over hiking. In this area, I’ve hiked in the Catskills and on the Appalachian Trail. I also bike some (away from traffic, for example on the rail trail in Dutchess County). I went skiing with my brother and sister-in-law over the holidays.
Who is your favorite musical group or performer?
That’s hard to say. At the moment, I’m listening to “Crooked Still,” a newgrass group out of Boston. They are “amazing.” I like to be open to all types of music and I go through streaks with different groups. I go to Grey Fox every year and I’m happy if I find a new group to enjoy. I heard an interesting group – The Deadly Gentlemen – at Grey Fox this year. [The Deadly Gentlemen website describes their music as follows: “We started out a couple years ago as an experimental spoken word bluegrass band, but we’ve changed the game plan this time around. Now we mostly play epic folk and grasscore.” This looks like a great illustration of Mark’s openness to new music in all its forms.]
OK. I won’t limit you to one favorite performer. What if you could do the programming for a concert, and you could select several musicians - living or dead? Who would you pick?
Vassar Clements; Bill Monroe (I heard him at the Town Crier in Pawling several years ago); Doc Watson; and Del McCoury. I’d also invite Crooked Still of course.
Other Hudson facts:
Mark loves doing crossword puzzles (in pen of course, but he insists that he rarely finishes them and that he uses a pen because that is what he has with him most of the time). Unwilling to rely solely on the puzzles in the daily papers, he usually buys crossword puzzle books at B&N. He says that if the HVBA had weekly jams, he’d go to them too . . . and would probably do even more crossword puzzles. Mark also likes to read, especially non-fiction (history) and sci-fi. He really looks forward to bluegrass festivals. As evidence of this, he mentioned that he has already purchased his pass for the 2013 Grey Fox Festival!
If you haven’t met Mark, you should make a point of getting to know him. Just look for the HVBA tee shirts or look for the crossword puzzle book.