Mark Vance is a composer and music educator, living in Nevada City, California. He has played an extensive role composing, teaching, coaching, arranging, conducting and promoting music throughout his community in the rural California foothills. Composer, William Jay Sydeman, calls Vance a “21st century kapellmeister living in Nevada City, in charge of making music throughout the town”.
Vance grew up in musical home. His mother was an accomplished violinist, pianist and a beloved high school choir teacher. Vance recalls “There was always music in our house. There were violin and piano students coming for lessons every day after school.
We always sang together in the car, even on trips to the market.” There was so much music in our home and it seemed so normal. I think I was about 8 years old when I realized that not every home had a piano and people didn’t sing together in the car.
Fundamentally a composer and educator, Vance has studies in piano, voice, clarinet, flute and saxophone. Notables he has studied with include: Pierre Boulez, Aaron Copland and Gunther Schuller, as well as Robert McFerrin (voice). Vance attended Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.
He has served as Executive Director of the Nevada County Composers Cooperative since 2003. The mission of NCCC is to foster the creation of new music and help facilitate the performances of these new works.
Vance currently works for InConcert Sierra as Education Director in charge of creating, implementing and teaching music education programs. Please see Education section below for more information.
Vance has received grants from California Arts Council and the American Composers Forum. He has also received numerous commissions from InConcert Sierra, Music in the Mountains, Twin Cities Concert Association, and many private sources.
Vance is published by Santa Barbara Music Publishing and C. Alan Publications. His CDs “It’s About Time!” and “God, I Love Chamber Music!” are available on CD Baby and iTunes.
Vance lives in Nevada City with his wife, Estelle, and their two goldfish.
Mark Vance has a life long history of teaching music.
His “Live Composer in the Classroom” program was designed to expose middle and high school choir and band classes to living composers. This interaction is meant provide a symbiotic opportunity for both the composer and the students. The composer’s job is to create a new composition with input from the students and the students are gaining insight to the actual compositional process interfacing with the composer. The students then premiere the new music.
In 2000, Vance was hired as Education Coordinator to create a comprehensive music education program for Music in the Mountains. It was there that he was encouraged to create a pilot music composition program for youth. This composition program was well received in the community and quickly evolved from a small pilot to a school-year-long program focusing on music theory and composing. The two things that make this Young Composers Project unique are working with the middle and high school youth demographic (there are rarely music composition programs for this age range) and incorporating an interdisciplinary learning semester. This semester focuses on learning about a regional non-profit and their mission. Students then volunteer at the non-profit and then write music inspired by their experiences. The finished music is then premiered by professional musicians. This program has been the subject of several PBS specials.
Since 2019, Vance has served as Education Director for InConcert Sierra, creating and overseeing an impressive catalog of educational programs. Here he has developed the Composers Project for music students interested in composition. Vance also implemented
Music Now (professional music assemblies in schools), Peers Performing in Schools (music students performing in school classrooms), Student Showcase Recitals (providing performance opportunities for local music teacher’s students) and a Music 101 class for adults.
Since the quarantine Stay at Home order, Vance has converted to teaching online and although it isn’t anywhere near as satisfactory as face to face teaching, it does make teaching music composition possible in the Covid-19 world. Vance is also exploring online student recitals with students or parents shooting video of the home performances which will be gathered and streamed together. This online WFH Virtual Recital encourages students to continue to practice and a goal to work towards.