Born in Los Angeles in 1959 into a family of musicians, Mark Tyson, HOLA music instructor and founder of our rock band, is living proof that music changes lives. Mark has been an artist his whole life, a performer for 30 years, and a teacher at HOLA since 2004. He has nurtured the talent of many budding musicians. Recently, when we caught up with him, Mark shared his thoughts on teaching, as well as a playlist of the music that has influenced him as a person and artist.
HOLA: What do you love about music and teaching?
Mark Tyson: I get the most joy out of bringing music to people from all over the globe. Music is so powerful. I’ve seen it change lives, including my own. My favorite part about teaching is the smiles on the students’ (and also their parents’!) faces. I have over thirty years of experience performing and recording many different music genres, so my students get an international flavor in my classes. I love seeing these students grow as musicians and people.
Mark Tyson performs with HOLA’s rock band at this year’s Holiday of the Heart.
HOLA: What have your students taught you?
MT: I’ve learned from my students many things — it is quite remarkable, actually. More than anything they’ve taught me patience. They also remind me of the passion I had at their age for music, which helps keep that passion alive in me now. Every now and then, a student will play a song for me that has some phenomenal guitar player using multiple techniques that prompts me to go study myself. It’s definitely a give-and-take relationship.
HOLA: If you could teach your students just one thing, what would it be?
MT: If I had one thing to teach my students it wouldn’t be music theory at all. I would teach them to be as open-minded as possible, with music and with life. To listen to all music and to travel. And if I could teach them only one genre, it would be blues. After that, they can adapt to other genres easily. I remember when I was their age, all I wanted was to be was a rock star. Later, my tastes changed and I ended up playing just about everything but rock. I trained in classical and have never played classical in my career, only taught it. So yes, I always encourage open-mindedness.
HOLA: Who has shaped who you are as a person?
MT: My paternal grandmother was an amazing woman, truly an inspiration to my whole family and the community that she lived in. I was influenced deeply as a teen by the writings of Jiddu Krishnamurti. It wasn’t until 2003 that I decided to be a teacher, which happened because I didn’t want to be away from my son while I was on tour, so I had to find another way to get by. The staff at HOLA has taught me so much. Through the years, I’ve observed so many different teachers who I continue to learn from. HOLA’s Jon Armstrong was amazing; I really loved working with Jon.
HOLA: What are your musical influences?
MT: I have many musical influences – first, my father who played piano, then my older brothers. I’m the youngest, so I wanted to play like my dad and brothers so bad. My grandfather too, he played piano & guitar. My first instrument was the flute, then saxophone. My early influences were John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Jr. Walker, Maceo Parker, Herbie Mann, Hubert Laws, and Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull). Then on guitar would be Jimi Hendrix, Manitas Di Plata, Sabicas, Muddy Waters, Albert King, John McLaughlin, and Santana. My favorite singers are Marvin Gaye and probably Miriam Makeba (South Africa) or Om Kalthoum (Egypt). All around favorite musicians are Jimi Hendrix & Bob Marley. Current artists I really love are Raul Midon, Tinawaren (Mali), Tommy Emmanuel (Australia), and Yasmin Hamdan (Lebanon). Most music I listen to is old school: Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, John Lee Hooker, Khaled, Duke Ellington, Wes Montgomery, Etta James. All kinds of African, Indian & Middle Eastern music, and old R&B, and Delta Blues.