Born in Port Chester, New York, guitarist Mark Mollica spent his first twelve years living in Hong Kong, Bahrain, and Egypt. His family settled in Connecticut when he was 12 years old, and Mark began learning guitar a year later. “I had played other instruments before guitar, but was interested in improvisation and many different genres of music. My mom played guitar a bit and showed me my first chords and songs. I ended up really getting into music after that.” A desire to focus on jazz led him to New York City after time in New England and Los Angeles.
Mark structures his approach around repertoire, teaching students technique and musical style through practical application. “I believe that virtually every lesson can be augmented by a piece that demonstrates the topics that a student is handed, whether theoretical, rhythmic, or improvisational. When a student connects the usefulness of a given topic to a piece that he or she is working on, that student’s interest and curiosity is piqued by it.” Mark encourages student input when choosing repertoire while simultaneously providing guidance into new, more challenging areas of musicianship. “I believe that when a student feels their interests are being heard, they progress far faster, but in addition, once they reach one vista in their development, they can see several others that they had not considered, but now interest them. With a solid foundation, it’s very exciting to see the variety of directions a young guitarist can go.”
Although most comfortable working with students 7 and older, Mark is open to teaching younger students. “With young children I work on fun and simple fundamental lessons such as clapping rhythms, naming notes, and strumming small chord forms. I approach the material, which is usually very limited at that age, from several angles in order to maintain a nice pace and level of energy during the lesson.”
Mark also enjoys teaching adult students and places even greater focus on the repertoire he chooses for older students. “I find that adults need the inspiration that actually getting a song together brings. In many cases, that first song will be the very first time they’ve actually played anything. That’s very powerful motivation.” Mark incorporates technique into the process of learning specific songs and tries to keep adults “relaxed while they are dealing with the difficulties of a new instrument.”
John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Joni Mitchell and Michael Hedges are among some of Mark’s musical influences, in addition to mentors Joe Diorio and Vince Mendoza. As a performer, Mark is primarily a jazz guitarist who composes and arranges music with a focus on quartet writing (guitar, bass, drums, and saxophone). “When I feel like I have a great, well-rehearsed band, original music is one of my absolute joys.” His two recordings, The Gravity of Rivers and the more recent Next Time, showcase his writing and standards playing.