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Dr. Mark Tonelli – Assistant Professor of Music & Coordinator of Guitar Studies



Mark Tonelli received a guitar in 1979 for his seventh birthday from his grandmother, an amateur organist. After playing it badly out of tune for a year, his mom enrolled him in guitar lessons. Since then, the guitar stays better in tune, and Mark has gone on to a 25-year career in the music industry, performing across the U.S., Europe, and Canada. He has worked with a wide variety of artists including Clay Aiken, Jon Faddis, Rita Moreno, Carol Channing, Lynn Seaton, Greg Bissonette, Ed Soph, Andrea McArdle, Al Martino, Phil Stacey, Bobby Rydell, Charo, The Coasters, and The Platters. He has been seen on FOX News and is featured in the Emmy-nominated PBS musical special Marina At West Point.

Dr. Mark Tonelli is the Assistant Professor of Music & Coordinator of Guitar Studies at Millikin University in Decatur, IL. Click for more on the program.

Mark Tonelli at the Capital Jazzfest Photo credit: Jeff Bassinson

Before arriving in his current location of central Illinois, Mark had residencies in three major music hubs– New York, 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 at Green Lady Lounge, Blue Room, and The Art Factory. His group has released three critically-acclaimed CD’s on the MTonal Music label.  

Check out Mark’s Music

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.

Mark Tonelli at the KC Festival

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 are performed by collegiate and high school bands across the country. His music for guitar ensemble is published by Guitar Chamber Press.

Mark’s Performances (video)

Mark has published three books with the FJH Music Company—

Everybody’s Jazz Guitar Method, Way To Play: Jazz Guitar Riffs & Chords, and Way To Play: Chord Melody. “Blues Bird” from Everybody’s Jazz Guitar Method was selected by the National Federation Of Music Teachers for all-state jazz band auditions for 2012-2015. Mark has written instructional articles for Guitar Player, Downbeat, The Jazz Education Journal, JazzEd, Just Jazz Guitar, and The Instrumentalist. He has made presentations on jazz improvisation, jazz performance, and music entrepreneurship at major music conferences and festivals, including the Jazz Education Network, National Association for Music Education (NAfME), College Music Society, and Self-Employment In The Arts national conferences as well as the National Jazz Workshop and NY State Band Directors’ Association conference. 

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 Eastman Guitars and D’Addario Strings.

Mark coordinates the guitar studies program at Millikin University in Decatur, IL, where he teaches applied guitar, guitar ensemble, jazz improvisation, arranging, and arts entrepreneurship as a Coleman Foundation Entrepreneurial Faculty Fellow. 

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