Mark Tonelli is a musician and educator based in Decatur, IL. He is assistant professor of music and coordinator of Guitar Studies in the School of Music at Millikin University, where he teaches applied guitar, guitar ensemble, arts entrepreneurship, and is a Coleman Foundation Entrepreneurial Faculty Fellow. Mark is a recipient of Millikin's Artistic Achievement Award and is a Road Scholar for Illinois Humanities, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Currently, Mark is a Fulbright Scholar, serving as a visiting professor of music at Universidade Federal de Uberlandia in Minas Gerais, Brazil until September 2022.
Mark has enjoyed a career performing with a wide variety of artists: American Idols Clay Aiken and Phil Stacey; Broadway legends Rita Moreno and Carol Channing; rock icons The Platters and Greg Bissonette; crooners Bobby Rydell and Al Martino; jazz musicians Jon Faddis and Ed Soph; European piano star Marina Arsenijevic; and YouTube sensation Lexi Walker. He has been seen on Fox News and in the Emmy-nominated PBS special Marina At West Point.
Before arriving in Illinois, Mark had residencies in three major music hubs--- New York City, Dallas, and Kansas City. In NY, he performed at NYC's 55 Bar, Cornelia St. Cafe, and St. Peter's Church; in the Dallas area, at Sambuca, The Ft. Worth Jazz Festival, The Dallas Museum of Art, and a two-year weekly residency at My Martini in Arlington; and in Kansas City he has performed at Green Lady Lounge, Blue Room, and The Art Factory.
Mark's group has released three critically-acclaimed CD's on the MTonal Music label. The group performs music in various streams: Marks' award-winning original compositions; rock pieces by David Bowie, Queen, and Tom Petty that make unlikely but compelling jazz arrangements; Italian pop songs from the last several decades re-imagined for jazz small group; and hidden gems from Brazil.
For ten years, Mark was the guitarist for the West Point Band's Jazz Knights, touring and performing in some of the nation's top venues, including Jazz Standard, Blues Alley, Jazz Showcase, Kennedy Center, Jazz Kitchen, Avery Fisher Hall, Count Basie Theatre, The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, and The Midwest Clinic. With the Jazz Knights, Mark performed with a who's who of jazz legends including Benny Golson, Billy Cobham, Bobby Watson, Randy Brecker, Steve Turre, Rufus Reid, Bob Mintzer, John Riley, Claudio Roditi, Adam Nussbaum, as well as the Boston Pops and the New York Philharmonic Brass Quintet.
Mark's music has been featured on National Public Radio's (NPR) All Things Considered. He has been a winner or finalist in the Billboard Magazine World Song Contest, USA Songwriting Competition, and The Great American Song Contest. His large jazz ensemble arrangements are published by UNC Jazz Press and FJH Music, and his music for guitar ensemble is published by Guitar Chamber Press.
Mark is the author of four books, Everybody's Jazz Guitar Method, Way To Play: Jazz Guitar Riffs and Chords, and Way To Play: Chord Melody, published by the FJH Music Company; and Entrepreneurship in Action: The Power of Student-Run Ventures, published by Edward Elgar. Mark has written for Guitar Player, Downbeat, The Jazz Education Journal, JazzEd, Just Jazz Guitar, The Instrumentalist, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He has made presentations at major music conferences, including those of the Jazz Education Network , National Association for Music Education (NAfME), and the College Music Society.
Mark holds a doctorate in education from Columbia University, a master of music in jazz studies from the University of North Texas, and a bachelor of music in jazz performance from William Paterson College. He proudly endorses D'Addario Strings and Eastman Guitars.
"...world class player."
Scott Yanow, jazz critic
"Tonelli's tone is pure and reminiscent of the legends. Powerful straight-up jazz guitar."
"I found the ensemble to be quite talented. Tonelli is quite an able composer... plenty of rich sonorities and blended voices. Nice stuff."
"Made every patron feel as if it was a personal jazzfest at their own living room."
"Fans of pure jazz will find The Mark Tonelli Group's self-titled debut to be well worth their time. Excellent jazz guitar album."
-Internet Ed Music Review
"Super musicians... an excellent experience."
-Dallas-Ft. Worth Jazz Guitar and Bass Society
"... Tonelli has penned some very cogent compositions for our edification.....And, his group reveals them wondrously from the inside-out. All his sidemen ply their respective crafts prodigiously, creating a kind of a copious improvisational slate of cool jazz. The group presents a panoply of solid musical syncopation containing both a reassuring as well as a quiet quintessence of pure bebop.... The group sounds superb. Bravo guys!!"
"... this CD brims with a quieter, more satisfying intelligence... [Tonelli's] solos expertly shift between rhythmic phrases and warm flurries... a hard bop celebration... really good!"
"...thoughtful and delightful... subtle and seemingly effortless is Mark Tonellis guitar playing... finger fire set to original compositions... Mark gets involvement from his group and yet has the patience that shows he's completely comfortable to let the music do the talking... the listener gets to hear how clever Mark can turn phrases within phrases... Smartly, he finds the balance to let the listener know hes the leader without being overbearing."
-North Texas E-News
"...horn sections are brilliant in layered phrases."