Columbus Makes Art Presents Mark Grisez, His Inspirations and What He Wished Others Knew About Music
Mark Grisez is principal trumpet for the Columbus Symphony. Originally from central California, Grisez has performed with the San Francisco Symphony, New World Symphony, California Symphony, Louisville Orchestra and a variety of other ensembles. He appears, along with the Columbus Symphony, in concerts like CSO’s Beethoven 250 Cycle: Symphony No. 6, performed virtually on Nov. 20. We chatted with Mark about his background in music, his inspirations, what he’s currently reading and more.
Kathy: How long have you been practicing your art?
Mark: I’ve been playing trumpet since the fifth grade, but I’ve been musicking as far back as I can remember. Some of those early memories include singing Fiddler on the Roof in the preschool boys’ room, running around the living room at high speed dancing to Blue Collar Man by Styx and playing the family piano with the head of a Maglite as it cried for death (I don’t remember that one specifically, but I’ve heard about it plenty from my parents).
Kathy: Who are some of your inspirations?
Mark: Alan Moore is one. The way he blends his art with mysticism and a bigger view of the universe sets my own imagination alight. There’s also Miles Okazaki, a jazz guitarist, composer and educator whose geometrical approach to harmony, melody and rhythm gets me excited to practice everyday. And I look up to Michael Tilson Thomas, who taught me much about asking the right questions (about art and about life) and finding my own answers.
Kathy: What’s something you wish others knew about your art form?Mark: I feel like most of us tend to think about music as if it were an object, a thing that we make—a noun. I prefer to think of music as an activity, as a verb. Maybe the composition itself is like a national park, but the actual music? The performance? I like to think of them as opportunities, as conversations, even as games, in which the ending is not set in stone. It’s the hiking through the park, not just the park itself.
Kathy: What’s your favorite way to relax?
Mark: I love reading and writing. They’re forms of work that allow me to heal and grow. I also love exploring harmony at the piano, even though I’m terrible at the instrument (see Maglite story above). Something about feeling my way around in the dark and discovering new colors and harmonic shapes at the keys is really soothing and fulfilling, even if the music never makes it onto paper.
Kathy: What are you reading these days?
Mark: Currently reading:
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire
Assata: An Autobiography, by Assata Shakur
The Chronology of Water, by Lidia Yuknavitch
The Revolution of Hope, by Erich Fromm
Dune, by Frank Herbert
Burnout: The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle, by Amelia and Emily Nagoski
Rhythm of War, by Brandon Sanderson
Kathy: What’s on your current playlist?
Mark: The Fifth Season by Lafawndah, and The Passion Of by SPECIAL INTEREST. I’m also enjoying going through Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s discography.
Kathy: If you could have dinner with anyone – living or dead – who would it be and why?
Mark: Alan Watts. Obviously I didn’t know him personally, but from what I can tell, he seemed like such a gifted communicator—a beautiful mixture of playfulness, wit, perception, interest and patience. I would love to have had a conversation with him, even if (maybe especially if!) we didn’t agree on everything.
See Grisez and the Columbus Symphony performing Beethoven 250 Cycle: Symphony No. 6 virtually on Nov. 20.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting and advancing the arts and cultural fabric of Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Learn more about local artists, organizations and events at ColumbusMakesArt.com.