For a July concert of Acoustic Guitar Summit, I was featured on the front page of the Pamplin newspapers in the Portland metro area. Nice! —
“MUSIC WAS ALWAYS THERE”
by Shane Hoffman — Portland Tribune/ Wilsonville Spokesman
Acoustic Guitar Summit to play at Wilsonville Summer Performance Series
All these years later, it still gives him as much joy — maybe more. Mark Hanson’s career is more than 40 years old now. The years are adding up. So is the laundry list of accomplishments.
A member of the Acoustic Guitar Summit — a Portland based trio made up of three of the country’s most prominent fingerstyle guitarists — Hanson’s performed nationwide, once serenaded former President Barack Obama and has interviewed James Taylor during a stint as an editor at Frets magazine. His name is known internationally for his music and collection of guitar instruction manuals and DVDs. And for their contributions to the Henry Mancini – Pink Guitar CD, he and fellow Summit member Doug Smith won a Grammy in 2005.
There’s more. Yet, Hanson contends, little makes him as jubilant as performing live does, and with COVID-19 (seemingly) in retreat, he’s relishing its return.
“It’s really good that live performance is happening again,” he said. “Something was missing with Zoom performances. There’s a good quote from Terry Robb (the third member of the Summit), he said, ‘Mark, I did a live gig. And I heard applause and I didn’t know what it was.'”
Hanson performs solo — as do Smith and Robb, who are renowned in their own rights –as well as alongside his wife Greta Pedersen, and with the trio. A West Linn resident, Hanson and the trio will be performing close to home on Friday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Meridian UCC in Wilsonville as part of the Wilsonville Summer Performance Series hosted by the Wilsonville Arts and Culture Council.
“It’s a wonder venue,” Hanson said. “The acoustics are great and we’re very comfortable playing there.”
The genesis of Hanson’s love for music began with his mother. She was a church organist and the interest worked its way down to him. In his younger years, he had five years of piano lessons and five of clarinet. Both instruments forced him to use all 10 of his fingers independently, making it an instinctive transition to guitar.
“I was always diverse in my interests,” said Hanson, who attended Stanford to study engineering. “But music was always there. I was always involved in a group in high school or singing group in college.
Like his favorite artists at the time, John Lennon and the Beatles, he crafted his style by borrowing techniques and styles from others. To this day, watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show remains one of Hanson’s fondest memories.
“I think artists in general train by, first of all, being enthused and thrilled and inspired by the great artists who have come before,” he said.”You learn your craft by imitating them, copying them. And if you copy enough artists from different styles and then you work with it, then music starts coming out your own way.”
When he moved with his family to West Linn in 1994, Hanson, already a decorated solo artist, was working on a Christmas album. With it set to release, but no local following to speak of due to the recent move, he phoned Portland connections he’d made in the industry, Smith and Robb, and original fourth member, Paul Chasman.
Soon enough, the group joined up for their first of what would become countless concerts, performing at the Aladdin Theater.
The individual members of the group saw their followers gather together. From there, the Acoustic Guitar Summit was born and has since blossomed.
When the group members perform solo, they’ll often incorporate vocals. When they perform as a group, the songs seldom include singing. Because each possesses a mastery of fingerstyle guitar, they’re able to play off each other in an improvisation, jazz-like way.
“Each one of us plays the guitar really in the manner of a piano,” Hanson said. “We have a melody, and we have a bass line, and we have harmony notes coming out in the middle. Then we meld that together amongst the three of us so that the composite sound is orchestral.”
The combination of multiple guitars allows them to pull a richness and fullness out of their sound. Hanson likens it to a grand piano.
Their early ‘gigging’ served as a training ground for the members of the group. “It would require you to work at your music, at your art, and continue to create new pieces or new arrangements and then practice the art of being in front of an audience; being able to work with them and retain them, keep them interested,” he said.
Now the Summit’s music can be heard on national TV on Martha Stewart Living and Late Night with Conan O’Brien, in the files Twister and Moll Flanders, and on NPR’s Echoes and West Coast Live. The musicians’ music has been licensed for syndicated TV and radio broadcasts, as well as regional and national advertising campaigns.
As the Summit picked up in notoriety, Hanson continued his solo work. To date, four of his titles have been named to the Top 100 acoustic music publications by Acoustic Guitar magazine.
Hanson has extended his reach to a multitude of corners within the industry. He’s learned, he’s taught, and now he’s soaking up every moment he can as a performer.
He doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.
“I’m smiling all the time because I’m having such fun,” Hanson said. “And the music is good. It’s really good for my soul.”
To learn more about Hanson and his work, visit MarkHansonGuitar.com
In its early years,
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