The Mark Stone Trio brings together celebrated world percussion traditions of Africa and India with the lyricism of the violin to create a vibrant new global soundscape. Inspired by his extensive travels, performances, and studies in Africa and India, Mark Stone, Associate Professor of World Music and Percussion at Oakland University, formed the group in 2013. The trio performs new music that draws on Mark's wide-ranging compositional influences, stretching from American jazz to traditional African music and classical Indian music to European concert music. In the group Mark plays the powerful Ghanaian gyil, ancient karimba (mbira nyunga nyunga) of Southern Africa, and the traditional Ugandan endongo. He has pursued in-depth research on each of these instruments in Africa with many master musicians including Haruna Walusimbi, Dizu Plaatjies, and Bernard Woma. In addition, Mark plays the modern South African kalimba and the American-made array mbira. He is creating a new style of Carnatic kalimba playing based on his studies of Indian music and collaborations with the world’s leading Carnatic musicians, including Dr. Balamuralikrishna, Sudha Raghunathan, and the Carnatica Brothers. On the newly-invented array mbira, he has developed a sound based upon his considerable background performing jazz vibraphone and western marimba repertoire.
Mark's original compositions and arrangements for the trio combine his gyil and mbiras with violin and tabla/frame drums to create an exciting new sound. He is joined in the group by violinist Alan Grubner and percussionist Dan Piccolo, both of whom freely cross musical boundaries with their dynamic playing. Alan and Dan are exceptional improvisers, bringing a wide-range of performance experience to the ensemble. Alan Grubner’s soulful violin playing is grounded in a deep knowledge of jazz, latin, newgrass and classical traditions. He incorporates signature percussive techniques on the violin and improvises with sensitivity and passion. Dan Piccolo is currently a doctoral candidate in percussion at the University of Michigan, where he directs the World Percussion Ensemble. Since 2005, he has travelled regularly to Varanasi, India to study tabla as a disciple of Pandit Kuber Nath Mishra. In the trio Dan plays with a rich musical vocabulary of Indian classical music and American jazz, performing on tabla, frame drums, and a multi-percussion set. The Mark Stone Trio has been featured at festivals in Michigan and New York and has completed residencies at the University of Michigan and Ohio University.