Music Educator, Composer, Pianist, Writer
Mark Christopher Brandt
Mark Christopher Brandt, composer/pianist
Emil Cheytanov, Violin
Christopher Dixon, Violin
Jennifer Bockstege, Viola
Katherine Colburn, Cello
Thomas Mirus, Piano
The Butterfly Released November 1, 2019
"Fresh, inventive, and alive."
- Dana Gioia, California Poet Laureate, and former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Butterfly is a departure for pianist and composer Mark Christopher Brandt, who has defied categorization since his first cd release in 1995. The music of The Butterfly features intricate themes placed into resonant tonal centers which are woven seamlessly together by the Manassas String Quartet of Manassas, Virginia. While Mark makes a tiny cameo as a pianist on the title track, the lion’s share of the piano is performed by New York-based pianist Thomas Mirus, who delivers expressive and romantic playing not just alongside the four string virtuosos on the title work, but also on a delicate two-part invention and a powerful sonatina that close the album. More...
At the time of this writing, I am in my sixtieth year on the planet! I have been a professional musician for forty-four of those years, and a musical artist for all sixty of them. My earliest memories involve rocking back and forth to rhythms and melodies within myself and having no understanding of how to express them. As soon as I discovered the transistor radio, the turntable, and the cassette recorder, I was lured away from those things which fill and satisfy the average child. Once the piano came into my home, I was forever at peace in the beautiful and intangible world of sound and resonance.
While I was growing up, both my goal and my dream was one day to perform my music live, and to record at least one album. My goals were not to get money, applause, or adulation. I instinctively knew, as an artist, that the goal was to work to uplift myself and those around me. That is what the great musicians were doing for me with their recorded works. I learned early that by having a positive attitude and doing my best, I could actually make a living as a professional musician. And I did. Before I was out of high school, I was playing professionally in dance groups and jazz groups, and pushing myself to new levels of artistry playing in a fusion band with school friends, while studying classical too. The money came, and so did the applause.
I will admit that I was born in a wonderful time in music history. There were live bands everywhere, jam sessions occurring somewhere all week long, extra sessions on the weekends, and record stores in every plaza and mall. When I went to a club, I could actually go backstage or to the side stage and ask the performers questions about music. They were always willing to share a crust of gold-lined bread with a hungry kid like me.
I learned that asking for help opened doors faster than acting like I knew it all. And logging hours of listening - both to live music and recorded music - produced more fruit in developing my own individual voice than hours spent reading, practicing licks, and mastering transcriptions of other artists. There’s that word: Listening. If I am sad about anything at all, it is simply that almost every musician I have met who is forty or under has never listened to an album from beginning to end.
The streaming world, for all its ease of grabbing, and all of its claim to have the latest sound everyone needs, has in fact numbed, and in many cases deadened, the creativity of young artists. They cannot tap into their own voice because they can’t distinguish melody from background noise. They can’t recognize their own inner voice because they are too intensely insecure about making sure everyone likes what they do when they try to compose. Rampant imitation is taking the place of individuality. No one is truly improvising anymore. Everyone boasts of chops but they don’t even realize that their music is emanating from highly trained arms, fingers, and muscles and not their inner ear, or what is often referred to as their soul.
Those who wish they could dig deep, fear the rejection of the modern day majority of shallow listeners, so they enter into less-than-challenging music and say it’s what they truly believe in. These poor artists, who crave approval and money, end up posting video after video, but they always find frustration in the fact that they are not appreciated for their gifts and talents. The fact is, when we dumb down our gifts so people will like us, we are never happy.
Those who actually believe they have what it takes to succeed, are committed to proving what they know and what they can do, rather than allowing what is calling from within them to have voice and expression. They offer “how to” tutorials and demos, but they are not in the trenches of the club life or the risk of live performance. The fact is they can’t be. There are no clubs. There is no more gig life. Musicians of today are trapped in the illusions created and supported by the tech industry and in the wreckage created by the fast departure and demise of music-loving and courageous entrepreneurial club owners.
Everyone wants to be on iTunes, or on YouTube. Everyone is piecing together songs with some form of a GarageBand method. A true artist can hear the pieced-together patchwork sound in the music of today. The listeners of today, trained in the streaming world, cannot. We have as many self-proclaimed “artists and musicians,” as we have listeners. It was not that way when I was a kid. It was not that way when I started out on my career as a leader.
When I first entered the studio, musicians were playing their works from start to finish - solos and all - and using a minimal amount of editing. The live energy was only there if you could actually play it live. That use to be the gold standard for artists, especially those in the jazz and fusion world. A musician would compose a piece, practice it with the band, play it live, and record it from start to finish. All my instrumental albums have been recorded this way.
These days, no one wants to be home alone with their instrument and a dream for greatness (which ultimately provides its own rewards), conquering themselves and their instrument through self-denial and self-discipline. The recorded music of today - in every single genre - reflects the death of true artistry. I often ask younger artists to ponder this question: If anyone can do it, then what makes it unique?
When I was a child, vinyl was the medium of choice. Cassettes slowly came into fashion (with a brief and unsuccessful marketing attempt from those who invented the eight track cassette). As an adult, my medium became the compact disc. As I was coming into my own confident voice, composing and performing cds were the preferred way of listening to music. Of course the operative word in the last sentence is “listening.”
I thank God that people are still discovering me and my music. As I have watched the demise of listening and musical skills over the years, I remain joyful and committed to sharing my gifts with anyone interested, and I enjoy teaching more than ever. I hope to bring the lost art of inner searching to yet another generation of musicians. The missing item in most music today is not skill or talent. It is a sense of the Divine within us. It is God that we are missing.
It seems that so many of the great musicians in my day knew that God was there. They knew and often professed that He was the reason they could or should do what they were doing as artists. Yes, there were a few who did not want to admit that, and there were even a few who actually did not believe that. Nowadays, it is the total opposite. Those who believe are few, and those who do not believe are many.
Maybe the reason I have lived such a joyful and successful life as an artist and musician has more to do with my trust in God, than my trust in myself. Sure, I logged the hours of work and the hours of listening, but I never believed that the music I heard within myself found its origin in me alone. That belief is not only arrogant, it is simply not true.
As you begin to travel through my website and view all of my musical works, I would like to share the following prayer that I composed on March 19, 1993. I offered this little prayer that the Holy Spirit inspired within me, to God through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as I began to embark upon my career as a composer and performer of my own works. I have prayed this prayer many times over the years, for it focuses me and provides me with a gentle reminder that God is the Creator. I am the creature.
The Musician's Prayer
I do not play a musical instrument.
I am Your musical instrument.
I do not create and play music.
I reproduce the sounds created and played by You.
You are the Ultimate, Consummate, Perfect, Divine Musician.
Always play Your instrument to its fullest potential.
Open the minds and hearts of listeners,
that they may come to appreciate the wonder and beauty of Your Talent
as the Ultimate, Consummate, Perfect, Divine Artist
Through me - Your instrument.
May all who hear my music, hear You.
May I always remember that anything I call mine,
was Yours first and given to me by You.
Sunflowers and Roses
Joie de Vivre
This Side of Forever
Worth The Wait
Suite for a Fish Our of Water
Lionheart Music East
Silence gives birth to beautiful music.
The Finest in Cocktail Jazz and Elegant Dinner Music
Serving the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia Since 2008
A short list of places we played:
St. Regis Hotel 923 16th St NW, Washington, D.C.
Hay Adams Hotel 800 16th St NW, Washington, D.C.
Capital Hill Club 300 First St SE, Washington, DC 20003
Belle Grove Plantation 336 Belle Grove Rd Middletown, VA
101 Constitution Ave 101 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, D.C.
Sky Dome Lounge 300 Army Navy Dr, Arlington, VA
National Press Club 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor Washington, DC
Rappahannock Cellars 14437 Hume Rd. Huntly, VA
Arts Club of Washington 2017 I St NW, Washington, D.C.
The National Christmas Tree E St NW & 15th St NW, Washington, D.C.
Carnegie Institution for Science 1530 P St NW, Washington, D.C.
The Millennium at Metropolitan Park 1330 S Fair St, Arlington, VA
(Annual Christmas Party since 2010)
The Gramercy at Metropolitan Park 550 14th Rd S, Arlington, VA
(Annual Christmas Party since 2011)
Hall of the Americas (Organization of American States Main Building)
17th Street and Constitution Ave NW Washington, D.C. 20006
About Lionheart Music East Website (1986-2020)
Lionheart Music East was founded in December of 1986 by pianist, composer, and music educator Mark Christopher Brandt. While the company is now predominantly the booking agency for his very successful East Coast Duo, it originally housed one of the most successful private instruction studios on the East Coast for jazz, improvisation in all styles, and for all instruments. LME has also produced numerous musical works of art, which have sold consistently and globally since the opening of the independent record label branch in 1995.
You have found the most reputable and most consistent jazz-based business, and business man on the East Coast, outlasting numerous jazz clubs, bands and booking agencies in the delivery of quality jazz, as well as integrity of musicianship, and ethical, affordable, business practices. The East Coast Duo has remained one of the most in demand groups offering classic jazz, cocktail jazz, dinner and background music for every conceivable type of event and venue since it's inception in 2008.
In every major town or city in America you will find a small little business or shop that has been a favorite there for generations. It boasts a steady word-of-mouth clientele, reliable help, and a regular trafficking of patrons, both new and old. It is often family owned and remains long after other bigger establishments have come and gone. Lionheart Music East is just such a place on the national map. Quality music. Quality musicians. Reputable booking agents. Affordable rates. Professionalism and artistic integrity of the highest standard.
Effective September 1, 2020 Lionheart Music East closed it's booking agency and disbanded the East Coast Duo. If you would like to book Mark, purchase his music, listen to his music, sign up for music lessons with him or learn more about him in general he can be contacted personally at:
Visit Mark at any of the following locations:
Assisted Living Facilities:
Arbor Terrace of Herndon 1100 Dranesville Rd Herndon VA 20170
Caton Merchant House 9201 Portner Ave Manassas VA 20110
Chambrel at Williamsburg 3800 Treyburn Drive Williamsburg VA 23185
Coppermine II 13395 Coppermine Road Herndon VA 20171
Herndon Harbor House Retirement Center 873 Grace Street, Suite 200 Herndon, VA 20170
Quarry Station 8750 Quarry Rd Manassas VA 20110
Charlestown Retirement Community 715 Maiden Choice Lane Catonsville MD 21228
Brookdale Imperial Plaza 1717 Bellevue Ave Richmond VA 23227
Tall Oaks Assisted Living 12052 North Shore Drive Reston VA 20190
Spring Arbor of Richmond 9991 Ridgefield Parkway Henrico VA 23233
Spring Arbor of Salisbury 14001 Turnberry Lane Midlothian VA 23113
Spring Arbor of Williamsburg 935 Capitol Landing Road Williamsburg VA 23185
The Sylvestry 6251 Old Dominion Dr McLean VA 22101
Arleigh Burke Pavilion 1739 Kirby Road McLean VA
Brookdale Woodward Estates 14997 Health Center Dr, Bowie, MD 20716
Numerous Clubs, Hotels, House Parties and Restaurants from Delaware to North Carolina.
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.
Mark studied classical composition and piano performance at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. (1979-1982), and jazz composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts (1983-1984). While attending Catholic University, 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 opened for several nationally recognized groups, including Tim Eyermann and the East Coast Offering, and Maynard Ferguson’s Big Band.
While attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, (Upon arriving in 1984 Mark tested out of their entire undergrad harmony and theory programs), Mark’s talents were noticed by the faculty, who invited him to sessions with them as well as sessions 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 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 sixteen 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 Freedom. Structure 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 February of 2021 Mark suspended his performance career so that he could devote more time to composing. He is still accepting music students privately through word of mouth referrals.