Mark Hanson Biographical Information
Mark's Life's Work
Helping to rear our two daughters, Marta and Johanna, with my wife Greta Pedersen, and being an active citizen and family man have been my most important activities for the past 40 years. Creating music, playing guitar, and teaching others to do the same have been my treasured occupational activities for those same four decades. Hopefully I have succeeded to some degree in these endeavors, and hope to continue for some time to come!
I have been fortunate to have been rewarded in a number of ways for my activities. This includes a Grammy Award in 2005, playing for the President in 2009, and having one of my books included in Shawn Persinger's 50 Greatest Guitar Books.
My students continually inspire me to compose and arrange new pieces. My 2015 book/recording Travis Pick the Hits! includes my original fingerstyle solo guitar arrangements of 12 famous tunes, including Sting's "Fields of Gold", Kenny Loggins' "House at Pooh Corner", Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved" and Coldplay's "Clocks." In late 2016 Greta and I released our duo CD “Then & Now.”
After learning piano and clarinet as a youngster, I started guitar by borrowing my sister's Sears Silvertone acoustic and imitating Peter, Paul & Mary, Pete Seeger, and Kingston Trio records. I also played guitars with the kid who lived over the back fence, performing for hospital patients and church groups.
At that point the Beatles arrived, and guitar became my main non-basketball focus. Our duo turned into a junior high rock and roll band, where I learned to play barre chords and keep a steady tempo. (I joke with my adult students who can't play barre chords that they need to join a middle-school rock band for six months. After that they should spend another six months in a marching band to learn to avoid rushing the tempo!)
Acoustic pop players influenced me considerably during the '60s: Paul Simon, Stephen Stills, the Beatles and James Taylor. That led to a study of the British greats John Renbourn and Bert Jansch, and Chicago blues icon Big Bill Broonzy, among others; and eventually a lasting appreciation for jazz virtuoso Joe Pass.
I received my college degree in music from Stanford in the mid-70s, and commenced on my teaching/performing career. I look back at all of this time as my apprenticeship, preparing me to compose, arrange, perform, and teach. Every hour I spent on music, whether it was studying Bach and Beethoven or lifting fingerpicking tunes off records, was educational and worthwhile.
I wrote my first book, The Art of Contemporary Travis Picking, in 1985. Years of teaching had clearly defined my teaching method for alternating-thumb fingerpicking, so Greta and I started Accent On Music and published our first book. Merle Travis himself graciously consented to us using his name in the title.
About this time I began writing for Frets magazine, and eventually was hired as an assistant editor in 1986. My position at Frets trained me to write clearly, provided an insider's view of the publishing business, and gained me a great Rolodex. I interviewed and wrote cover stories on James Taylor, David Crosby and many other luminaries in the acoustic guitar field. I became a monthly columnist at Frets, providing transcriptions and compositions for fingerstyle guitarists.
When Frets was terminated in 1989, Greta and I continued with Accent On Music. We had published my follow up Travis Picking book, "The Art of Solo Fingerpicking." In the ensuing years I have authored many books, videos and DVDs. You can see them listed here.
Greta and I started our annual summer seminar in Portland, Oregon in 1998, and are happy to report that it continues with a strong core of supporters. Information on past seminars can be viewed here.
The Grammy Award
A great thing occurred in 2004/2005. I was included in the Grammy winning Henry Mancini - Pink Guitar CD from Solid Air Records in Southern California. The Grammy experience included a trip to the awards ceremony in L.A., and a handshake with Cyndi Lauper, our presenter. I wrote a blow-by-blow article about that amazing journey, which you can read here.
I continually develop new material for performance and teaching use. Solid Air Records released two solo CDs of mine in 2009. Some of my best, finger-busting arrangements are on these recordings, including the jazz standards "Take the 'A' Train" and "Angel Eyes", and pop tunes like Tom Petty's "Breakdown" and Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why." A transcription book of the jazz standards is found here. Also, I explain my arranging approach thoroughly in my "Fingerstyle Arranging DVD". Mark's latest project "Travis Pick the Hits!" was released in September 2015.
On the Road
I have presented concerts and workshops around the country for many decades. I have a workshop repertoire of over two dozen topics, which makes it possible for me to visit the same venue numerous times without boring the repeat students! If you want me to come to your area, please contact me and send me an invitation!
Thanks for taking the time to read.
- Mark Hanson (revised December, 2014)