Meet Mark Spagnolo:
Mark Spagnolo is a 4th year University of Guelph student working towards a BA in major in Music and minor in Geography. Mark participated in MUSC*3560, an experiential learning course, which resulted in performing a set with his jazz trio as part of Art in the Open, an online exhibition of creative projects from various disciplines hosted through the College of Arts. He also works as a music educator at the Guelph Outdoor School and Camp Celtic/The North Star Forest School, where he applies much of his music and experiential learning education to his teaching practices. Mark discusses the class, his focus in the course, and his favourite things about it. He also shares more about his music endeavours including his duo project, Shëbåd, with musician Claire Wright, and his favourite things about experiential learning.
What was your experience like in MUSC*3560? What did you focus on in this course?
“This course is essentially Al Goreman fostering his love and wisdom of jazz through our little trio. We focus mainly on pushing our own limitations, understanding pieces deeply and building a strong repertoire of tunes and musical relationship to one another.”
What was your favourite thing about the course?
“My favourite experience in this course was by far the opportunity to play with my lovely and talented friends. Al’s caring ear and passion to be there to support our musical beings has sparked a lifelong mentorship which I am so blessed to have.”
How did this course complement the other courses you were taking at the time?
“Without this course, my jazz cravings would not be filled! I needed this outlet to express, dive deep and learn music the best way; by simply getting your hands dirty, sounding bad and good and everything in between. There’s a place for study, and there’s beauty in academic understanding, but ability and improvisations allows for you to explore this vast abyss called music in a more grounded light. I have personally learned and said more about myself, my feelings, my understanding of music, my fears, my passions in this class than any other. A lot of ugly truths come up when deepening your relationship to music as a team.”
What is the experience like for you to create a song or performance set?
“The three of us have played at multiple venues around Guelph and the GTA and we are very much there to do our job; which is to fit the scene and bring what the room calls for. Typically our setlists are made on the spot, and we read the room. It’s very enjoyable to see how different a tune can be from one day to another, or one space to another, for varying audiences. We rarely compose our own tunes for the trio, our creativity mostly comes from the arrangement and the stylistic choices of how we play. There’s some magic moments when playing together. Some moments where the air just feels right, I’m calm, safe, content and out of my head beam out in my memory as extremely fond, and the music reflects this. The other moments are just as valuable and important as learning experiences towards creating more of those.”
What is it like to create music by yourself vs. in a trio like the one for this course? Do you three work together often?
“I chose bass specifically to play with people because there’s truly nothing better. I’m not much of a solo artist, I enjoy playing piano by myself but it doesn’t hit the spot. Creating my own project, Shëbåd, which is completely original recorded music created between myself and the vocalist Claire Wright, and comparing that to this trio, they are vastly different. It’s like comparing friendships in some ways. The requirements for what it means to show up and be present, the mind sets, the dynamics between members, the governance of the project, end vision, it’s all so different. I dearly love improvised music and interpretation, but I also dearly love groove, composition, producing and all the other aspects. We are lucky that music is vast. Like the observable universe, music has a sort of never-ending mysticism yet theoretically perceivable reach.”
What other music endeavours are you participating in or working towards right now?
“I have a more modern project called Shëbåd. It’s magic and I am so grateful. It’s this gift Claire Wright (the vocalist) and I have been given. We’ve both worked hard to become the musicians and people we are, and now we get to celebrate the fruits of our labor and learn completely new aspects of music we had yet to explore (recording, producing, mixing, composing, arranging, deep collaboration, musical governance). Simon Pequegnat, the guitarist from the trio, is also a member of Shëbåd. I'm also a private music teacher to many students around Guelph with a large focus on outdoor music education. I absolutely adore the challenge and gratification of sparking love for music in old kids (I have a 40+ year old student) and young kids. After the spark, I help guide and facilitate an intellectual and personal pursuit for music. I am focused on demonstrating the lifelong friend nature and music can be. There’s a serious connection between music and nature and they have quite the symbiotic relationship for igniting a passion to learn between the two. I bring my musicianship to and teach at the Guelph Outdoor School and Camp Celtic/The North Star Forest School.”
What is your favourite thing about your program at U of G?
“My favourite things are the profs and the people. I love the pace, I love to learn through conversation tapping into my professors' wisdom, I love the ability to explore other realms of academia. If I were in any other program, it would be too specialized and focused for me to be successful. Guelph really lets you make the program be whatever you want it to be.”
What does Experiential Learning mean to you?
“Hands dirty, hard lessons and memorable milestones. Love participating in experiential learning whether it be a personal pursuit or with my projects."