Mark Pender and Glenn Alexander
Where: The Gathering Place, 207 West Main Street
When: Friday, January 17th, 2020
Pub Crawl | 7 PM-10 PM
Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Mark Pender grew up in an environment rich in American roots music and enjoyed cutting his teeth with many locally and internationally known bands before embarking on a journey to fulfilling his musical passions. He relocated to New York, touring with Jazz-Soul icon Charles Earland and as a result, teamed up with many great bands and artists, including Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Diana Ross, David Bowie, Power Station, The Might be Giants, Jon Bon Jovi, Ricky Martin, Joe Cocker, Robert Cray, Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul and Bruce Springsteen with whom he also performed in the 2009 Super Bowl half time show.
In 1993, Mark began a long relationship as a member of the house band for Conan O’Brien, where he has now enjoyed 25 years and over 4,000 TV appearances on Late Night, The Tonight Show and Conan on TBS. Currently residing in Los Angeles, Mark continues to record and make appearances on records, tours, and TV including Guitar Legends Salute To Heroes, Jimmy Kimmel, James Corden, The Might Be Giants, and now as a member of the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band.
I come from a tiny little farm community, a town called Maize, Kansas. My father also grew up in Kansas and he was a poor farm kid whose family couldn’t afford music lessons when he was young. Now, we didn’t have a lot of money either, but he made sure his kids had access to the things he didn’t. My m
om was a very proficient and very talented pianist. She gave private lessons to the folks around town and insisted that me and both of my brothers learned to play piano. I also took up the saxophone and played in the school band. But, like many kids, I played piano for five or six years, and then quit. Around this time, my mom was learning to play guitar. I was probably 12 years old and also wanted to learn. However, we couldn’t afford to have both my mom and I taking lessons, so she gave up guitar so I could take the lessons. And yes – I feel guilty about that to this day. Life can be challenging and hard, and because of an unfortunate series of events, music became my refuge and my friend, a way to pass the time and I became obsessed with it. I didn’t pick music, it picked me. Robert Fripp said: “Music so wishes to be heard that it sometimes calls on unlikely characters to give it voice.” And trust me – I was one of the unlikeliest characters to ever pursue a career in music. Until I found music, I was just going through the motions. Music was my escape, my salvation. Finding music changed my life forever.
No one in our family had ever gone to or graduated from college and everyone worked farm and construction jobs, including me – bailing and stacking hay, hauling and hanging sheetrock and brick tending, my final labor job. I knew that was something I didn’t want, so, encouraged by a couple of key instructors, I decided music would be my chance to attend college. Music would be my life, and a key person in shaping my musical journey was Chuck Dooling, my first guitar teach
er. He exposed me to jazz before I even knew what jazz was, and taught me to believe in myself and my abilities. Roger Kugler, my high school band instructor – and a musician of the highest order in his own right – was another important figure in my musical life and beyond. He believed in me when no one else did, he kept in school and reinforced that, with hard work and dedication, anything was possible. Then, when I was a senior in high school, I auditioned on guitar for Jerry Hahn, the great jazz guitarist, at Wichita State University. I had no skills and no talent, so needless to say I not only didn’t get a scholarship, but was not accepted to WSU at all. I did receive a scholarship – on alto saxophone – to attend Hutchinson Community College and participate in their jazz program. Everything truly does happen for a reason, and my time at HCC proved to be an incredible, invaluable experience that allowed me to grow and excel in music, thanks in large part to Bryce Luty, the director of the school’s jazz program – and the person who gave me my first professional performance opportunities.
After two years there, I auditioned again for Jerry Hahn and this time I got in – and received the first-ever scholarship for guitar given at Wichita State. My second year there I became the assistant guitar instructor and began teaching classes. Right after I received my B.A., my mentor Jerry Hahn took a sabbatical. So, at 22 years old, I became a full-time professor, running the guitar department, teaching 30 guitar majors, ensembles, etc. I wore blue jeans and t-shirts and was despised by most of the other faculty members, but I didn’t care. Jerry soon returned from his sabbatical and we played duo guitar around the Kansas/Oklahoma/Colorado tri-state area to sold-out crowds. It was great, but then I knew it was time to move on.
So, I packed my bags and put everything I owned – my bed, dishes, clothes, guitars and my dog – in a van pulling a little U-Haul trailer and headed to the New York metro area, the jazz capital of the world. I only knew one person who lived in the area, and after being in Jersey City for only a few days, he left, and I was on my own, not knowing a soul. It was a long road, and I spent a few years literally starving, existing on rice and beans and living in complete poverty. Ah…the things you do when y
ou are young and determined and have a dream.
Since then, it has been a wonderful journey of touring, performing, recording and teaching. I served on the faculty for the New School in New York City for 18 years, and am currently director of jazz studies at Sarah Lawrence College, where I have been for 20 years. I love music – listening, composing, recording, performing, sharing – and I am obsessed with, and have a continual love for, the guitar. Although everyone seems to always be concerned with and enamored by an artist’s credits and who they have worked with, the things that I am most proud of and rewarded by are the my own recordings as a solo artist and co-bandleader (please check the selected discography). But, it’s true, I have had the great pleasure of getting to record and/or perform with some of the world’s greatest musicians and entertainers (see credits) – something that seemed a like distant dream back in my little hometown in Kansas. I have been incredibly fortunate and feel very grateful for having made my living with music, something I love, since I was 18 years old. The journey continues………….