World multi-percussionist Mark Stone is a leading expert in global percussion performance and education. Mark has performed with the foremost musicians of Uganda, Ghana, Trinidad, South Africa, India, and the United States. An accomplished composer and improviser, he has received multiple commissions and writes regularly for his many projects. Mark’s highly original style results from his unique musical synthesis and innovation, rooted in a deep knowledge of multiple world traditions.
Mark was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar at Makerere University where he researched traditional Ugandan music and performed with the Nakibembe Xylophone Group.
As a member of the Bernard Woma Ensemble he has performed at the Filmua Kukur Bagr Festival in Ghana, with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall, and has premiered concerti for gyil trio and orchestra with the South Dakota Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, and Albany Symphony. The Bernard Woma Ensemble was also featured at Marimba 2010, an International Marimba Festival and Conference at the University of Minnesota and the 50th anniversary Percussion Arts Society International Convention.
During a research trip to Trinidad, Mark joined the steel drum ensemble, Scrunters Pan Groove, performing in the finals of the individual steel drum competition and throughout the carnival festivities. He later brought his own Michigan-based steelband, Southpaw Isle, to Trinidad to take part in the World Steelband Festival. In the United States, Southpaw Isle performs frequently at concert venues, festivals, art institutes, universities, and K-12 schools. The group has performed many times at the Max M. Fisher Center as part of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's Tiny Tots Concert Series. In addition, Southpaw Isle presented the New York debut of the large Ugandan embaire and the world premier of Glen McClure's "A Caribbean Christmas Mass" for symphony orchestra, chorus, and steelband.
For the past twenty years, Mark has led the professional percussion group Biakuye. While rooted in the African traditions from which the group takes its name, Biakuye directly combined these traditions in innovative ways with American musical concepts in concerts and recordings. In 2008, the group toured South Korea at the invitation of legendary salmunori drummer Choi Jong Sil performing at the Sacheon International Percussion Festival and the Pyeongtaek Super Percussion Festival.
Inspired by his recent trip to India, Mark has started a brand new group, the Mark Stone Trio. While the trio’s format is the traditional Carnatic arrangement of a soloist with percussion and violin accompaniment, the music itself draws on Mark's wide-ranging compositional influences, stretching from American jazz to African mbira/marimba music, to European concert music. In the group Mark plays gyil and many types of mbiras including the new American made array mbira, the traditional Ugandan endongo, the ancient South African mbira nyunga nyunga, as well as the modern kalimba and karimba. 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 performs together with violinist Alan Grubner and percussionist Dan Piccolo, whose dynamic playing runs freely across musical boundaries.
Mark has also given many performances with the world jazz group Imaginary Homeland and the new music ensemble TONK. With these groups he has premiered more than thirty new compositions on local, national, and international concert stages. Composer David Rogers leads Imaginary Homeland, which has performed internationally at the 22nd annual Festival Cultural de Zacatecas in Zacatecas, Mexico and nationally at venues from the Music Mountain Summer Music Festival in Connecticut to Africa Fest 2009 at Tufts University in Boston. TONK, a Dutch-American interdisciplinary ensemble led by composer Derek Bermel, created and performed evening-length theatre pieces, employing through-composed, freely notated, and improvisatory structures. The group performed at New York venues including Philip Glass’s MATA Festival, and internationally as part of Gaudeamus Muziekweek in The Netherlands.
Mark always remains open to working with new musicians and exploring new creative directions to grow as an artist and educator. In recent years, Mark has expanded his global music compass to include both Native-American and South Indian traditions through his work with Joe Reilly and the Carnatica Brothers respectively. Steeped in Native American tradition, ecologist and singer/songwriter Joe Reilly’s original music seeks to empower people to forge positive relationships both with one another and with Mother Earth. Mark has accompanied Joe on his global percussion kit at festivals throughout Michigan.
Mark has also began collaborating regularly with K.N. Shashikiran and P. Ganesh, internationally renowned artists from Southern India known as the Carnatica Brothers. He has performed several concerts with them during their annual visits to Michigan and recently traveled to India to perform with Shashikiran and Ganesh at the Bharat Sangeet Utsav Pan-Indian Music Festivals in the cities of Chennai and Coimbatore.