Mark Summer

Mark Summer

About Mark Summer

Widely regarded as one of the outstanding cellists of our time, Mark Summer is known worldwide for his phenomenal percussion and pizzicato techniques combined with bowed jazz and fiddle phrasing.  Mark is a co-founder of the two-time Grammy®-winning Turtle Island Quartet, and was the quartet’s cellist for 30 years. He is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music where he was a student of former principal cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra, Stephen Geber. In 2008, he was awarded a Distinguished Alumnae award from CIM. Mark was a tenured member of the Winnipeg Symphony from 1981–1984, before leaving the orchestra to perform in several Canadian contemporary and Baroque ensembles, as well as his own group, The West-End String Band. Asked to perform at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1985, the group went on to record Mark’s original music for CBC Radio. In the fall of 1985, Mark visited the Bay Area where he was invite by David Balakrishnan to help form Turtle Island Quartet.

Mark continued to touch base with his classical roots, performing with the Chamber Symphony of San Francisco, the Oakland Symphony, Oakland Ballet, and the contemporary music ensemble, Earplay. Over 30 years since embarking on an improvisational musical odyssey, Mark has continued to develop a unique and multi-timbered style, which incorporates virtuoso jazz soloing, distinctive bass lines and extensive percussive techniques adapted from the guitar, bass and drums.

He has been the subject of feature articles in Strings and Bass Player magazines, and has published several pieces for solo cello; his best known and beloved “Julie-O,” has been performed by cellists all over the world, and was featured on two episodes of NBC‘s “Parenthood.” In addition to composing and his past performances with Turtle Island Quartet, Mark currently performs in a trio with jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton, a seven-time Grammy®-nominated singer. Mark also performed in a trio with clarinet virtuoso Paquito D’Rivera of which their recording, The Jazz Chamber Trio, was nominated for a Grammy® in 2005, and includes Marks piece “Kalimba” for solo cello.

Mark has recorded on numerous motion picture soundtracks and performed and/or appeared on albums with Linda Ronstadt, Toni Childs, guitarist Jeff Tamelier of Tower of Power, singer-songwriter Debbie Friedman, saxophonist Kirk Whalum, and guitarist Will Ackerman.  In 2011, he made his American debut as an orchestral soloist, premiering David Balakrishan’s cello concerto “Force of Nature,” written especially for Mark. In 2013 he had his European solo premier, performing the concerto with both the Neuss Chamber Orchestra and the Georgian Chamber Orchestra Ingolstadt. For the last several years, he has taught and performed recitals at Cello: An American Experience, a program for young cellists.

Skype lessons: markrsummer

Enjoy Your Cello Playing, Always — by Mark Summer

I was practicing prelude from Bach’s G Major cello suite the other day when a thought suddenly occurred to me. I was having fun practicing! It certainly wasn’t the first time I had that experience, however, the feeling was as fresh as the air after a rainstorm. Often, when things get hard in a practicing session I sort of slam myself with a cascade of negative thoughts: “Mark, you should play this better than this! How many years have you been working on this piece? Can’t you play more in tune? It sounds like &^@#!” and on and on and on. But this time, the self-talk was different. I noticed that I was enjoying focusing so intensely on music I had sometimes mindlessly breezed through many times before. I began to really appreciate Bach’s genius and compositional prowess. I noticed where the phrases [...]

By |2018-01-19T04:35:51+00:00November 5th, 2015|Categories: Artistic Vision, In the Practice Room, Self Discovery|Tags: , , |

A New Year’s Goal-Setting Session — by Mark Summer

As the New Year dawns bright and full of possibilities, (the financial cliff not withstanding), this is a useful time to contemplate where we stand on our path of development as musicians, and to think thoughtfully about where we’d like to be in the coming year. My wife and I make it a priority to take turns, voicing our goals, and writing down each other’s dreams and aspirations for the coming year. It gives us a supportive place to dream big and to begin to put into practice what we are imagining for ourselves. Even if you don’t put much credence in books like “The Secret”, which posits that positive thinking brings us what we think about, I think that we can all agree that it’s useful to know what [...]

Keeping Healthy On The Road (or in Your Dorm, Home or Apartment) — by Mark Summer

The fall being my busiest touring season with Turtle Island, I’m often thinking of the best ways to stay healthy and happy throughout the dark days of “flu season.” After years of almost constant travel, with endless days of connecting plane flights, shared van rides, and occasionally horrifically early lobby calls, I feel somewhat qualified as an expert at keeping my body in tune enough to weather the storm of illnesses that plague the general population. In 27 years, I’ve never missed a concert due to illness. I thought I had the flu once while on the road, but at a recent physical/flu shot pitch, my doctor informed me that if I was able to play a concert, it wasn’t the flu. Nevertheless, my record speaks for itself. I’m not [...]

Teaching at Cello: An American Experience — by Mark Summer

As a founding member of the Turtle Island Quartet, I am grateful to Paul Katz for asking me to contribute to CelloBello. As a conservatory-trained, improvising cellist, I hope I can bring a unique perspective to this forum with thoughts on performing, teaching, and traveling with my cello. This past summer I enjoyed five days of intensely rewarding teaching and performing at the summer music program, Cello: An American Experience. The program attracted 18 young cellists from around the country, and is held at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, 44 miles south of Minneapolis. Left to right: Avery Johnson and Mark Summer My introduction to Cello: An American Experience began with a Facebook message sent to me from the director, and my old colleague, Anna Clift. Anna [...]