Composer and multi-instrumentalist Mark Sylvester regularly performs around the Washington, DC, area as a solo guitarist, as a singer/songwriter, and with numerous folk, world, classical, rock, and jazz groups. His recordings of original compositions include music for solo acoustic guitar, chamber music for classical banjo, and scores for live theater productions. Mark's primary musical influences and interests include folk and world music, cool jazz, prog rock, minimalism, American primitive and contemporary guitar music, and J.S. Bach.
Ever since learning to play the banjo, Mark has had an interest in using the banjo in unconventional ways. Inspired by the music of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Mark set out to compose his own new music for banjo. One of Mark's early instrumental compositions, The Bridge, featured the banjo and flute. A few years later, Mark collaborated with The Only Animal, a Vancouver, Canada-based theater company, to create Other Freds, a large site-specific theater show. Mark's score for the show featured the banjo as the central instrument. During the next few years, after having joined with other musicians and composers to form Great Noise Ensemble, Mark composed a set of chamber music pieces featuring the banjo. Mark's recording of these pieces, New Music for Banjo, was awarded the 2009 WAMMIE Award for Classical Recording. Soon after, Mark composed his Banjo Chamber Concerto. With these compositions, Mark has aimed at promoting the banjo in contemporary chamber music and in the concert hall.
Mark was a founding member and guitarist of Trio Trela. They performed an eclectic collection of folk tunes and melodies from around the world, especially from the Mediterranean region.
In 2005, Mark joined with a group of like-minded musicians and composers interested in contemporary music to form Great Noise Ensemble (GNE). During the following 14 years, Mark performed with GNE at venues such as The Kennedy Center, The National Gallery of Art, Strathmore Mansion, The Sidney Harman Hall, The Hirshorn Gallery, Symphony Space, the Catholic University of America, Atlas Performing Arts Center, and the Bang on a Can Marathon. GNE premiered many of Mark's compositions, including his Banjo Chamber Concerto, as well as the compositions on New Music for Banjo. Mark performed with GNE on acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, and bass guitar. Mark served as GNE's Audio Technician and primary concert recordist, and he produced GNE's CD, Guerrilla New Music.
Mark plays guitar (and some bass) in the DC area's premiere (and, well, perhaps only) Genesis tribute band.
Mark has composed and produced full-length scores for two of the The Only Animal's largest and most ambitious productions of site-specific theater: Nix and Other Freds. Mark's acclaimed score for Other Freds was nominated for a Jessie Richardson Theatre Award, while the production earned The Only Animal a Jessie Award for Expanding the Scope of Site Specific Performance.
For several years Mark performed with the avant-folk group, Tree Surgeons. His original songs appeared on their two CDs, Eye of Time and Witness.
Mark has collaborated, performed, and recorded with many other DC-area artists, including Jane Franklin Dance, Congressional Chorus, Inscape Chamber Orchestra, Wolf Trap Opera, Prince George's Philharmonic, Trifilio Tango Trio, MetroSongs, Ben Tufts & Friends, Verlette Simon, Fred Smith, Lea, Carey Creed, and Sense of Wonder.