Mark Markham, Piano
Photo by Jean-Luc Fievet
Pianist Mark Markham is equally at home as a soloist, a collaborator with great singers, a chamber musician, a jazz pianist, or a vocal coach, and his interpretations have been praised by the public and press alike. His international career encompasses performances in North and South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, while the artistry of his playing has been described as “brilliant”, “exquisitely detailed” and “in full service to the music”.
The 2019-20 season was without doubt one of the greatest challenges for performing artists. For Markham the first half of the season was unexpectedly quiet, but how quickly plans can change. At the end of September, his friend and recital partner of twenty years, the great soprano Jessye Norman passed away suddenly. Her family asked him to perform at the funeral in Augusta GA and then again at her memorial service at the Metropolitan Opera House a couple of months later. His next performance was a return engagement in Kansas City for the Lyric Opera in early February. “In the Mood for Love”, a cabaret show created by Markham for the young artist program, was a wonderful success. In mid-February he went out to Oberlin College to play a recital with tenor Limmie Pulliam and give a master class for the vocal students. And this is where it stopped, at least for a while. In addition to giving virtual lessons, he was asked to give his first virtual concert for the Alliance Française of Hawaii. The planned concerts had to be postponed until February, so this would be a time to share live music with their members. They graciously opened the event to the entire world via Zoom and he played from his living room for a public from twelve different countries. It was a pleasant experience and is definitely a way to communicate with your audience.
Mr Markham began the 2018-19 season with a solo recital at the Lexington Bach Festival - “Bach and the Art of Improvisation”, followed by a recital with mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. At Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall he gave recitals with soprano Leah Crocetto and mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges. Also with Ms Crocetto he performed at Lafayette College and in Raleigh NC for the North Carolina Opera. With Ms Bridges he also performed on the Spire Series in Baltimore. In February he was pianist and music director for a program celebrating the music of Kurt Weill and George Gershwin entitled “Mack the Knife is the Man I Love” at the Kansas City Opera and in March he returned to New York City for a solo recital - “My Songs without Words”- on the Sacred Music in a Sacred Space series. In May he gave a master class on the Art Song Preservation Society series in New York City and in June gave a solo recital in Honolulu for the Alliance Française of Hawaii. He finished the season with the third edition of his vocal workshop Singing in Sicily.
As the recipient of the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award from The Johns Hopkins University, he opened the 2017-18 season with a solo recital at the Peabody Conservatory, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Peabody-Hopkins union. Other performances included Prokofiev’s Concerto #3 with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony, a vocal recital with soprano Leah Crocetto and baritone Zachary Nelson at the Morgan Library in New York City, Ravel’s Concerto in G with the Harrisburg Symphony, plus a solo recital on the Market Square Concert Series in Harrisburg and a performance of Rachmaninoff’s Concerto #3 with Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra. The summer of 2017 marked the first season of his vocal workshop, Singing in Sicily - a non-profit intensive training program for talented young singers from around the world.
Born in Pensacola, Florida, Mr. Markham made his debut in 1980 as soloist with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra and in the same year was invited by the renowned Boris Goldovsky to coach opera at the Oglebay Institute. His teachers at the time, Robert and Trudie Sherwood, were supportive of all his musical endeavors from solo repertoire, vocal accompanying, and chamber music to Broadway and jazz. During the next ten years as a student at the Peabody Conservatory, where he received the BM, MM and DMA degrees in piano performance, this same support for the diversity of his musical gifts came from Ann Schein, a pupil of Mieczyslaw Munz and the great Artur Rubinstein. While under her tutelage he won several competitions including the Munz Competition and the First Prize and the Contemporary Music Prize at the 1988 Frinna Awerbuch International Piano Competition in New York City. While still a student at the conservatory Mr. Markham toured with soprano Phyllis Bryn-Julson, a collaboration that resulted in critically acclaimed recordings of works by Messiaen, Carter, Dallapiccola, Schuller, and Wuorinen. In addition, he has toured the US, Europe, and Asia with countertenor Derek Lee Ragin and has given recitals with Gordon Hawkins, Theodora Hanslowe, Christine Brewer, Isabel Leonard and Vinson Cole.
Starting in 1995 for twenty seasons, Mr. Markham was the recital partner of Jessye Norman, giving nearly 300 performances in thirty countries, including recitals in Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Philharmonie in Berlin, La Palau de la Musica in Barcelona, London’s Royal Festival Hall, the Musikverein in Vienna, the Salzburg Festival, Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo, Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv, the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus in Greece, the Baalbek Festival at the Temple of Bacchus in Lebanon, and at the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize presentation to President Jimmy Carter in Oslo.
Much appreciated by the public for his improvisational skills, Mr. Markham performed at the Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany, where he collaborated with Sir Peter Ustinov for a live television broadcast throughout the country. His gift for jazz has been recognized in the Sacred Ellington, a program created by Ms. Norman in which he served as pianist and musical director, which toured Europe, the Middle East and finished in 2009 with a performance at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York City. His recording with Jessye Norman of “Roots: My Life, My Song” was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Mr Markham is a former faculty member of the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, the Norfolk Festival of Yale University and the Britten-Pears School of the Aldeburgh Festival in England. He has given master classes throughout the US, Europe and Asia and has been a guest lecturer for The Johns Hopkins University and the Metropolitan Opera Guild.