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Mark Denison: Music Program Head

Mark Denison got involved in musical theater during his high school years, and those experiences became defining moments on his journey toward a career. “I always thought I’d pursue the sciences, but I took a left turn and ended up here,” he said. “Music got a hold of my soul.”

Denison joined Tidewater Community College in July as the program head for Music at the Norfolk Campus.

Denison began teaching music as a high school band and choir director in Klamath Falls, Ore. Once he earned his master’s in conducting, he switched gears and taught choir and band to elementary school children in Tacoma, Wash.

Over the past decade, Denison’s work has taken him to six states, including a post at Treasure Valley Community College in Idaho and Oregon. “I found my niche in the community college because we have such a diverse student body. Some students are working toward associate degrees, while others just want to learn to sing or read music,” he said.

Professor Denison works on techniques with percussionists.
Professor Denison works on techniques with percussionists.

Denison is excited about the potential for developing a stronger music program at TCC.

“TCC has a vision of creating a music program with dynamic facilities to accommodate the unique needs of music students from practice rooms to instruments to classrooms designed specifically for music instruction,” Denison said. “It’s been amazing to work with Dean (Kerry) Ragno to develop the curriculum and follow the steps for program development for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.”

Adding more student ensembles is among Denison’s first priorities. “We are a performance art, so I really want to get students out there performing with their instruments. We definitely learn by doing,” he said.

TCC’s music program includes a choir, under the direction of David Warren, and a jazz band, developed by Chris Card. “Our faculty has contributed so much to our music offerings, and it is exciting to be launching in this new direction.”

When asked about his love of music, Denison said, “It’s in every pore of my being. I’ve got the best job on the planet because I get to talk about the stuff I love every day and share my passion with students.”

Dension plays the trombone and all low brass instruments, as well as the trumpet and horn. He also plays upright and electric bass, jazz piano and sings. He dabbles in woodwinds and percussion. “When you’re a music educator, you pretty much play everything,” he said with a laugh.

A family of performers, Denison and his wife Candie, a vocalist and actress, enjoy sharing the stage with their daughter. In his free time, Denison practices American Wing Chun Silat, as he holds a black belt in the art.