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Mark Tonelli is an internationally-renowned musician and educator whose career is characterized by innovation and entrepreneurship. 


Mark is associate professor of music and coordinator of Guitar Studies in the School of Music at Millikin University, where he coordinates the guitar studies program and teaches courses in commercial music. Mark created the long-running course Arts Cafe, a live-performance venue that students operate, which features innovative programming across the arts spectrum. Mark is a recipient of Millikin's Artistic Achievement Award and has been a Road Scholar for Illinois Humanities, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is a Fulbright Scholar to Brazil.


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.


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.

As a Fulbright Scholar, Mark served as the first visiting professor of music at Universidade Federal de Uberlândia in Minas Gerais, Brazil, where he directed popular music ensembles, taught jazz improvisation, and gave electric guitar lessons. In addition, he traveled across the country giving masterclasses at universities and performing in jazz clubs and festivals in the cities of São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Campinas, Goiânia, Uberlândia, and Uberaba. Mark subsequently returned to Brazil with the Millikin University Brazilian Ensemble for a ten-day performance residence in the city of Uberlândia, the first time in the university's history that a group traveled to Brazil.


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 five books. Everybody's Jazz Guitar Method, Way To Play: Jazz Guitar Riffs and Chords, and Way To Play: Chord Melody are published by the FJH Music Company. Entrepreneurship in Action: The Power of Student-Run Ventures, and Cases on Arts Entrepreneurship, both the first books of their kind, are published by Edward Elgar. 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.

Mark Tonelli publicity photo


" 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." 

-Cadence Magazine


"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!"

-Jazz Now


"...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."

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