Mark Powers is a new musician to the Omaha area. At the first of this year, Mark moved to Omaha from Portland, Oregon. Interested in the local music scene as well as getting involved, Mark contacted The 402. We are proud to announce that he is now officially a percussion instructor here at The 402 Arts Collective.
Living most of his growing up years in Wisconsin and Minnesota, Mark was raised in a music focused family. He and his siblings were required to attend choir all through school as well as play an instrument. Mark told The 402 the first musician who had an influence over him and his passion for music was his older brother. His brother played organ and piano. “I would watch him as he would play a four limb organ, which still blows my mind today. People think drums you have to be coordinated for but have you ever seen someone play the organ?” Mark says the most influential thing that his brother showed him however was the idea that a musician could live off of his/her craft. “The biggest thing was when I saw my brother quit his job so that he could just play and teach. I thought, ‘Music is cool…You can make money doing it?!’ That was a huge turning point for me.”
When ten year-old Mark walked into his elementary’s cafeteria one afternoon, which at the time was filled with a variety of instruments, he was told he had to decide what he wanted to play. “I was leaning towards trumpet at the time. When I tell people this they don’t believe me but drums are actually quieter then trumpet when you first start out. As a beginner drummer you practice by using a practice pad and some sticks. When you are a beginner trumpet player, you or your parents have to invest in a shiny new trumpet which isn’t cheap and ultimately …loud. My mom thought it was just another one of those things I was in to for a while,” Mark laughed. “She persuaded me and I chose drums. I have tried trumpet since..let’s just say I made the right decision when I was ten.”
Soon after making the decision to play drums, Mark found himself taking band as a fifth grader under the instruction of Mr. Wenz. Mr. Wenz would have double drum lessons. Mark and another kid named Jeremy would participate in the double drum lessons. “I was always the one who couldn’t do it. Jeremy would nail his parts and could read music. It was like pulling teeth for me.. but did I practice? I don’t remember practicing which means.. probably not. I just remember being the poorest of the two.” Not until around age fourteen did Mark really develop a love for drumming.
Mainly teaching himself drum set, Mark tells The 402 that he hardly read any music at this time. “I ended up skipping two grades in high school. I was sixteen when I auditioned for (at the time it was called) Music Tech in Minneapolis.” Mark describes that he had to do an audition for the application process. “After I had finished my audition the guy looked at me and said, ‘I don’t know.. I’m going to have someone from the drum department come in here.’ And that’s exactly what he did. So not only did I audition.. but I auditioned twice!” The guy who walked in the room to listen to Mark audition for the second time was named Dave Stanoch. Mark said he didn’t realize it then but this guy was going to play a huge role in his percussion career. From being a great teacher to a role model, Dave was and is a fellow musician Mark works with to this very day. Back in the audition room Dave looked at the young Mark and said, “You know what? Why not!” Mark tells The 402 that if the audition had gone a different route, if Dave Stanoch didn’t see potential in sixteen-year-old Mark, he is pretty sure he wouldn’t be drumming today.
Mark studied under many influential instructors during his time at college. Gordy Knudston, who is a member of the Steve Miller Band, was the head of the department. Mark says it was a good education because not only did he learn how to play well but he also learned how to be professional. “I got to see all of my instructors out at gigs. I learned a lot technically, professionally and personally. I was really young and these guys took me under their wing and to this day we are all still friends.” Mark says he still does projects with a lot of them.
“A lot of people believe that teachers are the ones who couldn’t. This is completely not the case.”
Mark mainly plays drum set, however, he has a passion for world percussion. “About two years ago exactly I had an artist residency in the Middle East in Kuwait City. All of this led up to a spring concert that I was then a guest artist at,” described Mark. “I’m hoping in the next year and half or so to do the same thing in Dubai which would be really cool.”
Mark has had the opportunity to travel to West Africa, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Southeast Asia, East Africa as well as the Middle East to learn different styles of percussion. He loves to implement these different elements in his personal playing as well as in his teaching. Being fully aware that not everyone has the opportunity that he has had, Mark wants to share the knowledge that he has learned from others and pass it on to his students.
“I have taught between 50-60 kids every week at one point in my teaching career. I want to act like every lesson is the best lesson that student has ever had! I want to keep them excited in what they are doing. Music can be all encompassing, like in my life, or it can be something on the side. Music is such a powerful tool and as a teacher, I have the opportunity to show them this.”
Moving to Omaha is a whole new chapter in Mark’s life. He has creative ways of getting his name out and understands that every musician has to be proactive. “I like to be around better people. I like being the weak link.” If one is looking at Mark Powers and all of his credentials, one would say he can hardly be considered as a weak link. However his humble attitude and proactive spirit is refreshing. “The path of least resistance is the path of least growth. I enjoy the challenge.” This idea is fundamental for a musician and Mark believes can be implemented in a young musician’s life.
Take a lesson from the talented Mark Powers. Whether you are just starting out or want to learn a fresh new style of drumming, register today!
Also check out Mark’s blog series with Hear Nebraska “Guerrilla Gig-Getter”