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"A poet must write, an artist must paint, and musicians must make music if they are to be at peace within themselves."

Howard Swan

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Dr. Mark Watkins

 

Mark Watkins received his baccalaureate from Brigham Young University (cum laude) and his masters and doctorate in five woodwind instruments from Indiana University's School of Music with secondary areas in music history and jazz studies. He has studied saxophone with C. Raymond Smith, Eugene Rousseau, Daniel Deffayet (of the Paris Conservatory), and Yushi Ishiwata (of the Tokyo Conservatory); clarinet with David Randall, Earl Bates, and Howard Klug; flute with Alain Barker (South Africa), Peter Lloyd (London Symphony), and Kathryn Lucas (Guildhall School, London); oboe with Marc Lifschey (Cleveland Orchestra); and bassoon with Rodney Ackman and Sidney Rosenberg (Montreal Symphony). While at Indiana University, Dr. Watkins was afforded the opportunity to perform and study jazz and composition with David Baker and Dominic Spera.

Dr. Watkins has been a member of several significant ensembles including BYU’s Synthesis, both the Dominic Spera and David Baker jazz ensembles, Al Cobine’s jazz band, the ER Big Band (Eugene Rousseau), the Jazz Arts Group Big Band, the Hard-Bop Saxophone Quartet (HBSQ, founder), Swingset (director), Out of Nowhere with Ryan Nielsen, Justin Nielsen, Aaron Miller, and Jay Lawrence; and FOUR with Brent Jensen (formerly), Ray Smith, Sandon Mayhew, and Jon Gudmundson.  In 1994, Dr. Watkins was offered a position in the D.C. based US Army Filed Band, a marvelous opportunity, but was unable to enlist due to visual disability. Some of the notable artists that Dr. Watkins has either performed, accompanied, or hosted as director in the jazz idiom include Clark Terry, Louis Belson, James Moody, Bob Mintzer, Randy Brecker, Nicholas Payton, Cyrus Chestnut, Ed Calle, Pete Christlieb, Pete Condoli, Kevin Mahogony, Byron Stripling, Wycliffe Gordon, Eric Marienthal, Conrad Herwig, Ingrid Jensen, and many others. Dr. Watkins has performed in numerous major US cities including New York, Chicago, Orlando, Kansas City, Salt Lake, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Las Angeles, San Diego, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Washington D.C. He has performed with Synthesis at festivals in France, the Netherlands, and Switzerland and at conferences of the International Association for Jazz Education. As a concerto soloist he performed with the BYU Wind symphony in England, Wales, and Scotland. He fulfilled principle clarinet book duties for the Kennedy Center’s production of Leonard Bernstein’s 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. and, with the Dominic Spera Jazz Ensemble, Dr. Watkins was a featured soloist on the PBS Special, The Sounds of the Big Bands, sponsored by Yamaha aired nationally. He often performs as a classical soloist, featured on the Ibert Concertino da Camera with the Idaho Falls Symphony (2005) and on recital with Martin Schuring (oboe, Arizona State), Marlene Pauley (clarinet, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra), Liz Buck (flute, Arizona State), and Jason Hardink (piano, Utah Symphony) as part of the Jackson Hole Music Festival (2006). In younger years he won the Brigham Young University Concerto Competition and played in the National Intercollegiate Band. Dr. Watkins’ toured with Swingset, the Brigham Young University–Idaho faculty jazz ensemble (2000-2004), in July 2001 throughout Italy including Rome, Terni, Sperlonga, Pescara, Spoletto, and L’Aquila with invitations to return. In the summer of 2006, he performed with FOUR at Jazzland in Vienna; the World Saxophone Congress (WSC) in Ljubljana, Slovenia (multiple “Bravo” accolades from Jean-Marie Londiex); the Villa Celimontana Jazz Festival in Rome; and at Jazz After Dark in London. FOUR toured Southeast Asia in July 2009 including a residency at Rangsit University (Thailand), the WSC in Bangkok. The Arts House in Singapore, and a residency at The University of the Philippines in Quezon City. “I particularly enjoyed the performances by FOUR. Kudos to Mark Watkins for his great arrangements.” (Farrell Vernon, North American Saxophone Alliance, Bangkok Congress Report) In the spring of 2007, Dr. Watkins toured Chile with BYU–Idaho’s Sound Alliance and The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico in 2012, his sixth national/international tour as director. FOUR went abroad again in July 2012 performing at Jomfruin in Reykjavik, Iceland; at the WSC in St. Andrews, Scotland; a residency at Landeshauptstadt Hannover Musikschule, Germany; and performances in Luxembourg including the International Blues 'n Jazz Rallye. At the World Saxophone Congress in St. Andrews they were selected to play on the "all-star" concert of best performances.


He has participated in numerous CD recording projects including a 1999 release with the HBSQ (Don’t Step On Your Neck) on the Sea Breeze Jazz label, which has become somewhat of a collector's item selling for between $38 and $50 in its sold out state. Concerning this CD, Jazz Times (5/00, p.194) states, "...Offers a delightful variety of timbres, groupings and styles...perfectly executing intense, no-nonsense jazz charts…employing clever, inventive arrangements, and many of the improvised solos...soar." His CD project, Swingset: My Favorite Things, on the Rock House Records label, was released in April, 2002. Commenting on Dr. Watkins’ solos work, Daron Bradford states, “…I particularly liked the soprano and alto work as it plays off of the melodic structure of the tune which, to me, is much more rewarding than pattern work.”  FOUR's first CD With Friends Like These was released in 2006. Regarding this CD, the Saxophone Journal (JanFeb 2007, Vol. 31, No. 3, p. 47) says, “…strong writing and solos, coupled with rhythmically solid ensemble playing and lots of energy to spare.” Cadence Magazine (July 2007, pp. 104-105) adds, “…an enjoyable listen.”  Jazz Hang Records released FOUR’s second CD, On a Warm Summer’s Evenin’, in 2010. Ed Calle (Miami Saxophone Quartet) comments, “Supported by rock-solid jazz and orchestra ensembles, On a Warm Summer’s Evenin’ is a celebration of diverse musical styles by an inventive writer and FOUR outstanding saxophonists who are as equally at ease unselfishly serving the demands of an ensemble as they are navigating the rigors of solo duties. To all involved, thank you for the music and the artistry. Godspeed FOUR.” And from Noah Peterson (Portland, KPLU), "From the downbeat, the screaming-hot, new release from FOUR, On a Warm Summer's Evening is fat-city! … These cats are dazzling in every way! … I need my Mark Watkins bop-fix!  This is great jazz from start to finish - beautiful, intelligent, soulful, swinging and all done with the highest caliber of performance. Congratulations guys, this is sublime." FOUR’s latest CD, FOURway Stop, was recorded in June, 2012 and a short run released for their Europe tour. It will soon be out on Jazz Hanf Records. Also to come is a CD from the quintet Out of Nowhere to be recorded in June 2013.


Dr. Watkins is active as a composer publishing with Walrus Music, Roncorp/Northeastern, Dorn Publications, and his own FOURjazz. His jazz saxophone quartets have been particularly sought after. Comments regarding his composition and arranging include, “creative…great…” (Lars Yorgason), “…fresh…” (Thomas Walsh), “…inventive…” (Ray Smith).  "Two of the most appealing dimensions of FOUR’s offering are Watkins’ pen and the virtuosity of each individual. Watkins’ diversified, fresh, and engaging writing results in new discoveries with every listen." (Ed Calle) "Ferociously-delicious arrangements…you never know what's coming next and, like Beethoven, it's always the perfect thing that follows." (Noah Peterson) Dr. Watkins’ first large work, other than for scoring classes, was written by request for David Blackington and the BYU Wind Symphony, two movements of Domenico Cimarosa’s Concerto for Oboe and Strings arranged for tenor saxophone and concert band. It was performed throughout Great Britain in 1988. His next large work was for the Moorhead High School Concert Band and the HBSQ, With Friends Like These…. Interestingly, Russ Peterson wrote a companion piece called Who Needs Enemies. Of Things Hoped For, written in 1999 for the Ricks College Symphonic Band, is a movement for solo tenor saxophone and concert band, He has several works for orchestra featuring voice, soprano saxophone, saxophone quartet, and even jazz ensemble; most of these were written for the Idaho Falls Symphony. In February 2008, his concerto Three Contemplations was premiered with the BYU–Idaho Symphony Band, faculty trio, and FOUR. In May 2012 Saxitude and the Luxembourg City Concert Band performed his arrangement of Chim Chim Cheree. Dr. Watkins music has been performed across the United States from L.A. to New York, in Canada, Chile, Luxemberg, France, England, Wales, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Thailand, Singapore, The Philippines, Iceland, Scotland, Germany and elsewhere. One of his composition and recording goals is two CDs of sacred music for saxophone, one for Christmas and one for the rest of the year; to this end, he has four quartets and three solo pieces published.

Dr. Watkins has a keen interest in music education. He has been and is active across the United States as a clinician and adjudicator on all five woodwinds and in the classical and jazz idioms.  His doctoral document is entitled, Learning Woodwind Fundamentals: Teaching Sequence, Exercises, and Music, which is currently used in BYU–Idaho's woodwind methods course. Dr. Watkins’ research into saxophone tone production has lead to regional and national presentations and clinics at such events as the 1998 Minnesota Music Educators Association Conference in Minneapolis, the 1998 Biennial Conference of the North American Saxophone Alliance in Chicago, the 1999 National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors’ National Symposium at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, the 2000 Idaho Music Educators Association Conference in Idaho Falls, and the 2000 World Saxophone Congress (WSC) in Montreal, Canada. A three-part series of articles explaining the usefulness of this research is published in the 2002 and 2003 editions of The Saxophone Symposium (Part I in Vol. 27, 2002; Parts II and III in Vol. 28, 2003). His research into articulation lead to a well-received lecture at the 2006 WSC in Slovenia. His research on extended techniques with Lars Mlekusch (saxophone professor with the Vienna, Austria Conservatory) was presented at the 2009 WSC in Bangkok, Thailand with no vacant sets to be found. At the 2012 WSC in Scotland he presented a lecture on teaching techniques derived from his fluoroscope and endoscope research. Among his articles Dr. Watkins has published in JAZZed Magazine (“’Standards’? Determining Curricular Repertoire,” Part 1, July 2011, pp. 20-13 and Part 2, September 2011, pp. 28-31) and he has several book projects nearing completion with titles: Studies with the Bird: Foundational Jazz Articulation and Saxophone Sound: A View from the Inside as well as his ebook, Fundamental Jazz Improvisation: What Everybody Thinks You Already Know.

Dr. Watkins has been an Associate Instructor at Indiana University, an Instructor at Brigham Young University, an Assistant Professor of Music at North Dakota State University, Director of Woodwind Studies at Ricks College, and is currently Director of Jazz Studies at Brigham Young University–Idaho in Rexburg. Under his leadership, the jazz studies program at BYU–Idaho has developed a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies degree.

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