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Mark Woodyatt

I first learned how to improvise by playing in church. These experience provided me with challenges such as learning to play Background melodies within the correct chord changes when I was accompanying the organist, vocalists or choirs. Solo improvisation on familiar pieces of music presented further challenges in regards to the delicate balance of keeping the melody and direction of the piece intact, so I learned how to listen ahead, and after some trial and error, I’d learn what worked and what didn’t.
I was introduced to Ozzie Ozbourne’s No More Tears and Mr. Crowley and started to transcribe the wicked guitar solos. It was about this time when I first heard Mark Wood shred on Electric Violin. Boy, was this a contrast to my upbringing in the realms of classical and sacred music! Nevertheless, I was passionate about trying something different, and challenged myself to learn how to play jazz, becoming the first jazz violinist accepeted to the Eastman School of Music, where I attended as a double major in Violin Performance, learning both classical, jazz, period music and contemporary music. At this time, I had already heard of jazz fusion, and has dabbled a little with Irish fiddling, Texas swing, country, rock and bluegrass. Still, I didn’t have an electric violin, and when my dad took me to NYC to purchase an instrument at Manny’s Music, I was referred to Mark Wood, but missed the boat. He was on back order and bills had to be paid, so I instead modified my acoustic violin by getting an L.R. Baggs bridge pickup, which was set up by the master luthier Ron Fletcher of Yonkers, NY- he has set up fiddles for Mark O’Connor and Regina Carter, as well as my jazz violin teacher Rob Thomas in NYC, to name a few. Once I got a Baggs paracoustic D.I. (Direct Input) pickup, I was ready to start playing professionally in bands. I acquired a loop pedal and started to experiment some more. Hitting a brick wall, I went back to school to study music education, and in the process, learn how to play variety of instruments, including upright and electric string bass, cello, various percussion instruments including drum kit, valve trombone, trumpet, while further refining my keyboard skills and learning how to improve my technique on violin. Throughout my life, from about age 15 on, and never stopped playing solo, is in string quartet’s, and ensemble music as both concertmaster/bandleader and sideman. As the years progressed, I started working with professional jazz musicians, and that’s where magic started. More to come for those who are interested in my journey to learning how to improvise to classical music in a tasteful way… Which is something that I know can always be improved upon. However, this was quite common throughout the 17th 18th and 19th centuries. As a fellow violinist and string player, my mission is to bring back, in essence, revive this lost art.