Mark Dillon’s earliest memory is of sitting on Dolly Parton’s lap at his great uncle’s country western radio show. He was a guest soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on banjo and has a PhD in music education. He is not the voice of his generation. Everything else is irrelevant.
Mark Dillon is musician / music educator born into a musical family. His first memories are of siting on Dolly Parton’s lap while watching his great-uncle Lloyd’s country radio show. After finishing a degree in music theory and then a master’s degree in guitar building he started a business repairing guitars while playing music most nights in the Chicago area. Later, he became a high school music teacher and specialized in teaching popular music and recording. He later went on to get a master’s degree in music education and a PhD in music education. Currently he teaches commercial music at Guilford Technical Community College and songwriting at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.
The Too Long Biography
Mark Dillon's life as musician started well before his birth. His grandfather was a founder of the 1930's country act The Lonestar Players, a Depression era country band that played that played throughout the United States in the 1930's, 40's and 50's. While country music was a hobby for many, it was a method of surviving the Great Depression. His great uncle, Hank Jones, in addition to being with the Lone Star Players was the host of Louisiana's Old South Jamboree from 1962 until his death in 2006. Other members appeared on the Grand Ole Opry stage in the 50's and 60's. Mark was raised with the personal stories of Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, George Jones and other country greats. This is the foundation that Mark Dillon's own music is built on.
Mark's history as a professional musician is interesting in its own right. Raised near Rolling Prairie, IN (pop. 657) on land that was historically a Miami Indian campsite and a Methodist Minister's retreat. He started playing guitar at the age of five and after graduating in the bottom quarter of his class, went against all his parent's wishes and studied music as (ha, ha, ha) a profession. After taking pretty much every college class available that did not involve classical music, Mark was inexplicably awarded a degree in Music Theory from Indiana State University. Realizing that a degree in Music Theory was worth slightly less than the paper it was written on, he returned to school in Arizona and received an advanced degree in guitar building, making him one of the few musicians in the world who has a guitar endorsement deal with himself. Mark established the repair shop at Front Porch Music in Valparaiso, Indiana and actually started to make a decent, respectable living. While in Valparaiso he established the Songwriters Association of Northern Indiana (SWANI) as well as studied songwriting and guitar with the likes of Norman Blake, Donovan, John Hartford, Steve Gillette, Martin Simpson and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Of course, having a real job with insurance and benefits was entirely unacceptable to someone with a desire to perform music full-time so Mark sold out his business, packed up his backpack and hiked the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail. After finishing the trail Mark moved to Southern Indiana and spent years playing with various bands as well as performing solo gigs around the country. When he realized he was spending more money on alcohol than on food he once again packed his bags sold a bunch of guitars and headed to the dry city of Asheboro, North Carolina.
Once in North Carolina, Mark became began teaching English and later high school band. His t band program probably had more banjoes than trumpets and he found a niche in sharing his love of roots music with children and young adults. After several years teaching in public education Mark returned for a master’s degree at the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG) where he focused on multi-cultural music education. He followed later with a PhD in music education where he focused on code-switching in music education. His academic career focused on the history and sociology of country music. Since finishing his PhD Mark teaches music in the Commercial Music program at Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC). He also teaches songwriting at UNCG. In 2017 Avid ProTools called him a genius, which seemed to be greatly exaggerated by his own regard.
Mark Dillon's performances defy classification. He has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, (on tenor banjo), plays jazz with Big Band. and busked his way around Ireland. He's appeared on a Kerrville songwriters compilation with the likes of Steve Gillette, Kevin So, and Chuck Brodski. He currently plays guitar and banjo with The Zinc Kings, a band dedicated to preserving the music of the North Carolina piedmont. He has appeared as multi-instrumental musician and producer on 15+ cds and in 2000 released his first solo album "A Certain Slant of Light" followed by "Apple Barn" in 2005. Since then he has released several albums with various bands and often works in sound design for theater and film His stage show is known for its diversity ranging from the country tunes learned in his youth to jazz standards and original songwriting. In short you are never quite sure what to expect of his performances but you are guaranteed an exciting evening that you won't forget.