Find everything Mark has produced from 1977 to present day at Mark Christopher Brandt .com
Mark Christopher Brandt has been active as a pianist and composer on the east coast of the United States since 1977. His first website was founded at this location (Mark Brandt .com) in the earliest days of the “World Wide Web,” but in 2008, after an eight year hiatus from public performance, Mark began using his full name, Mark Christopher Brandt. The 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.”
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.
The story of Mark as a unique and individual composer of his own material begins with is life as a sideman and an accompanist for many years. But at the same time he was working for others, he instinctively recognized when to move forward from even the most tempting offers in order to remain true to his personal goals and dreams as an artist.
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 MainStage 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 Berkeley 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. While playing with a well known group in Boston, Mark was offered a chance to sign with a major label. He opted, however, to remain true to his inner urge as a composer and 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. Again, Mark passed on the offer, remaining fixated on his personal dream of being a composer and a performer of his own music, free from category and genre.
In an attempt to clean out and gain some objectivity, Mark moved to Georgia, where he packed up his musical gear and, in a departure from life on the road, became an armed security guard. After several close calls in dangerous situations, Mark decided that becoming a forklift operator in an arts and crafts warehouse was safer. It was here that he met his future wife, Ramonie. Applying his musical work-ethic to the warehouse business, in just eight months Mark was offered a foreman’s position overseeing a new warehouse. Realizing that this career path would be the end of his musical career, Mark began to plot how to return to his first love.
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. It is important to mention that from 1977 until December 26, 1991, Mark was almost constantly under the influence of marijuana, cocaine, and alcohol in a death spiral of self-hatred and a fear of reality. As he successfully moved up and down the East Coast following his musical dreams, he was equally successful at hiding in the prison of self-abuse in which he was locked for fourteen years.
Now married to Ramonie, having buried both his parents and seeing the possibility of children of his own, Mark saw his past catching up to him. In a quiet and unpredictable moment of grace and peace, on a mountain in Hawaii, Mark did something he had not done since he was a small boy. He prayed. On December 26, 1991, in a profound moment of grace, Mark gave himself to the Divine Child Jesus and was instantly healed of his alcohol and drug addiction.
There was no therapy involved and Mark did not participate in a formal program. He went to bed on the night of December 25, 1991 completely intoxicated and woke up mid-day on December 26, 1991 completely hungover. He has never ingested another drink or drug since. What remained after the hangover dissipated was a sudden awareness of music playing in his “inner ear” which he recognized as being unique to his soul and not coming from his brain but from deep within him. In the first weeks of 1992 Mark’s life as a composer began in earnest.
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.
Two well-known jazz labels, one traditional and one contemporary began to take notice of Mark and suggested changes to his compositions which would marketable to a wider audience. As Mark studied his options and learned more about the music business, he decided to start his own independent record label and produce, release, promote and sell his own recordings. 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 and no end in sight to his prolificacy.
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 and receiving a Governor’s School Award for “exemplary service and dedication to education.”
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.
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 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 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 2020, Mark began to compose more extensively for chamber and sacred music settings. His latest release, Joy, is a vocal choir and piano project inspired by Sacred Scripture and the Holy Rosary. Joy features all three of Mark’s daughters singing with him on a family project destined to bring new energy into the Catholic Church’s praise and worship genre in the same way that Mark has brought new and unique sounds to the world of jazz and classical music since he began to share his music publicly in 1994.
If you would like to experience and enjoy the artistic works of this eclectic and unique Catholic artist, visit:
Mark Christopher Brandt 1980
Mark Christopher Brandt 2020