Mark Christopher Brandt

BIO

“We get one life. It’s up to us to find our purpose. It is our duty to find the reason for our existence, and to bring joy and light to those around us who have not yet discovered theirs.”  Mark Christopher Brandt

Compiled from verified, reliable sources, multiple articles and interviews.

 

Mark Christopher Brandt (born February 2, 1961) is an American composer, pianist, bandleader and writer.  HIs middle name Christopher comes from the Greek name, Christophoros which means “bearing Christ.”  It is derived from Christos combined with phero and translates literally as “Christ bearer,” or “one who carries Christ.”  Since December 25, 1991  Mark has been an unapologetic follower of Jesus Christ and His teachings, as found in the Catholic Church.  He considers the use of his middle name crucial to both his public and private life.

 

Mark has operated a successful private instruction studio, built solely on word-of-mouth advertising, since 1991.  In 2011, he received the Virginia Governor's School Award for exemplary service and dedication to education.  Many of Mark's students have achieved high honors and scholarships at both the high school and the collegiate level. Many have successful careers in the music industry as performers, educators, producers, and engineers.

 

Mark’s first musical performance was during his sixth grade year at an assembly for his elementary school.  At the request of his music teacher, Mark performed an original composition, Heartbeat, and there discovered his desire to share what was occurring within him musically.  Like all accomplished composers and instrumentalists, Mark honed his skills performing as a side man and an accompanist for many years.

 

Since his first professional performance in 1977, Mark has shared the bandstand with a variety of artists, from the famous to the obscure, in performances on television, in theaters, large and small venues of every kind and in in every genre of music.   Mark’s experience as a composer spans classical to country and includes a Rap and Hip Hop piece he was commissioned to create for the Ramada Renaissance Hotel’s “We’re Somebody Special” Corporate Ad Campaign that took place in the early 1990’s.

 

Before graduating high school in 1979, Mark was already an experienced performer and had appeared at some of the major venues in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia, Maryland area, including the Main Stage at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia. The United States Navy Band Commodores sent a recruiter to Mark but he respectfully declined their   offer hoping for a deeper artistic freedom than a career in the military would ultimately provide him with.

 

As Mark began his musical studies at the college level, he entered the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. (1979 -1982), as a piano performance major, playing the masterworks of Bach, Beethoven and Chopin.  With the start of his third year, however, he felt the call to switch his major to composition.  At that time, the dean of the school of composition was the nationally renown author and educator, George Thaddeus Jones, who wrote what some have called the definitive book on Music Theory (1974).  Glancing over Mark’s portfolio, Jones told him that he clearly knew what he was doing, and with that, Mark began the formal study of composition.

 

While attending Catholic University of America, Mark was actively performing with many of the East Coast’s most reputable musicians, in almost every jazz club that was open for business.  The group with which Mark regularly performed was the opening act for several nationally recognized bands, including Tim Eyermann and the East Coast Offering, and Maynard Ferguson’s Big Band.

 

As his work as a professional musician increased, Mark felt the need for a hiatus from his musical studies.  After about a year off, he decided to complete his education at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts (1983-1984).  Upon arriving in 1984, Mark tested out of their entire undergraduate harmony and theory programs, and began his studies under the tutelage of renown composer Ken Pulig.

 

While attending Berklee College of Music, Mark’s talents were noticed by many faculty members, who invited him to sessions with them and with other students, who, like Mark, would go on to achieve successful careers in music.  Upon completing his education at Berklee, Mark left the Boston area, settling in central Florida.

 

While playing in Florida, Mark became a member of a prominent group playing Top 40’s hits and country music.  As the group grew in popularity (1985), the opportunity to sign with a label in Nashville appeared.  Mark passed on the offer, remaining focused on his personal dream of being a composer and a performer of his own music, free from category and genre.  In an attempt to gain objectivity, Mark left that group and moved to Georgia, where he packed up his musical gear and worked odd jobs in order to gain a fresh view of his artistic options. It was during this time that he met his future wife Ramonie.  They were married in April of 1989.

 

When Mark’s long-time friend Geoff Thaler (woodwinds) discovered that Mark was not attached to a group, he invited him to come back to the Northern Virginia area, which Mark did in December of 1986.  The two immediately began working together professionally and started to collaborate in the realization of their life-long dream of playing and recording their own music.  In March 1987, they debuted compositions from both their portfolios at Blues Alley, Washington D.C., in a fusion/funk group, Syncron.  Shortly after this performance, Mark and Geoff replaced their rhythm section with two phenomenal musicians (Dallas Smith, electric bass and Stan McMullen, drums) who would work with them for the next eight years.

 

By 1991, Mark again became known as one of the top jazz musicians in the tri-state area and was starting to gain national attention.  Hoping to breach the fear of launching himself as an artist under his own name, Mark released a recording of his jazz trio (Warmup 1994) for limited circulation.  The hint of success it brought was all he needed to move forward with his own music.  By 1995, Mark’s first recording of originals - a duo project with longtime friend and woodwind master Geoff Thaler - was completed and titled Veritas.  This became the catalyst for two more projects and multiple performances with Geoff.

 

As well-known jazz labels, and national artists began to take notice of Mark and his music, he began studying his options and learning more about the music business.  Mark ultimately decided to start his own independent record label and produce, release, promote and sell his recordings under that banner.  Before the Internet became the glut of music that it has been since the late 90’s, Mark’s music was selling all over the globe.  To this day he is still selling his music online under his own label, Lionheart Music East, with seventeen projects to his name.

 

After his 1999/2000 New Year’s performance at the Cosmos Club in Washington D.C., Mark decided to step away from performing so that he could be close to his wife and to his children during their young years.  During this break, he built one of the most reputable teaching studios on the East Coast, regularly placing students with scholarships into the top music colleges and universities in America.

 

In these first few years of the new millennium, Mark was asked to lead the Holy Rosary at his home parish of All Saints in Manassas, Virginia on Saturday mornings.   He has been leading the Rosary in his parish every Saturday morning since he was first asked to do so, and in 2016 his Rosary meditations were approved by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington and published in a book titled A Year of Favor.  This book was followed with a book of Mark’s meditations on the Stations of the Cross, also published with ecclesiastical approval, titled His Footsteps Your Calvary.

 

From 2008 until 2014, Mark was a sponsor for the annual Chantilly High School Invitational Jazz Festival. The festival, which for over 35 years took place at Chantilly High School in Virginia, was, at the time of Mark’s arrival and his departure as sponsor, the largest of its kind on the East Coast.  Mark remains at the top of the list as the “go to” instructor for piano, composition and improvisation lessons for all instruments. His students include many of the Washington, D.C. area's professional musicians, seeking him out for polish and refinement of their improvisational skills.

 

In 2008, Mark returned to the world of performing with a new jazz trio, and began to use his middle name, Christopher, professionally, wishing to be known, not just as an artist, but as an artist who carries Christ.  After the release of Worth The Wait (2010), Mark and bassist Shaun Jurek became the East Coast Duo, moving successfully into the club, hotel, and private party circuit that Mark trafficked as a young jazz pianist in the late 70’s and early 80’s, and again in the late 90’s before his 2000 hiatus.  Adding a drummer for a second trio CD, this one of Christmas classics, December Moment (2014) received a glowing review from Downbeat Magazine.  Mark and Shaun began to fill the calendar year with performance after performance, becoming one of the most respected and most working jazz groups on the East Coast.  The duo remained active until the spring of 2020 when the pandemic caused the two musicians to amiably disband.

 

While collaborating with multiple artists and performing with the East Coast Duo, Mark released a double CD of piano solos, This Side of Forever (2012), and two completely Improvised solo piano recordings, Seven Moons (2015) and Seven Gifts (2016), which feature the music he created on the spot with cameras rolling in his educational DVD series on improvisation.

 

Between 2013 and 2016, Mark collaborated with well-known guitarist Dan Leonard in a group they called No Explanations.  Together, they produced three CD’s and a documentary DVD: Round Trip, The Making of an Artist, which has premiered in film festivals all over the world and been translated into both Italian and Polish.

 

In 2017, Mark began composing music for flutist Yana Nikol, and cellist Katherine Colburn in a programatic collaboration titled The Nightingale (2018).  Mark and Yana followed up The Nightingale a year later with both a duo CD, Sunflowers and Roses, and a DVD, Structure and FreedomStructure and Freedom is the third DVD in Mark’s series on Improvisation.  The collaboration between Mark and Katherine Colburn continued into 2019 with the release of The Butterfly, which also featured the Manassas String Quartet of which Colburn is a founding member.

 

In October of 2021, Mark released Joy, a work of sacred music with themes inspired by the Joyful mysteries of the Rosary. The recording features Mark’s compositional skills in traditional Latin choir settings, large choir works, and simple praise and worship songs for voice and piano.  Mark sings lead vocals on many of the pieces, and he is accompanied and beautifully surrounded by his three daughters, who are accomplished musicians and singers in their own right.

 

At 61, Mark has no intentions of slowing down or becoming complacent.  He is still accepting music students privately through word-of-mouth referrals, and he has entered into a new period of artistic growth as a pianist and a composer, which has inspired him to completely remove himself from all social media platforms with the exception of those stations where a streaming presence is automatic through his association with CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes. While Mark’s Internet presence is minimal, his downloads continue to sell worldwide, and his hard copies are like fine wines that become more valuable as the years pass.

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