Jazz Guitarist Mark Whitfield Shares Sophisticated Artistry

Jazz Guitarist Mark Whitfield Shares Sophisticated Artistry
Posted at 3:02 PM, Nov 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-09 15:02:01-05

A jazz guitarist and collaborator considered among the best in the business will teach, tour and share his professional insights with jazz students from the MSU College of Music from Dec. 1-9.

Mark Whitfield is the second of four jazz artist this academic year to mentor students through the MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence program coordinated by the MSU College of Music.

Launched in 2013, the pioneering residency program, supported by a $1 million endowment by the MSU Federal Credit Union, models the long-standing jazz tradition in which established musicians pass on their knowledge and experiences to aspiring jazz musicians. 

While in residence, Whitfield will work with MSU jazz studies students on campus and then take to the road with MSU Jazz Orchestra I to teach and perform at Michigan schools, arts academics and community venues in Kalamazoo, Lansing, Warren and Northview, The week-long

tour includes holiday-themed performances, beginning Dec. 1 with “Noel Night” in Detroit, followed later in the week by a concert with MSU Jazz Orchestras on campus.

“Mark Whitfield is a highly modern and sophisticated player who is also deeply funky and soulful,” says

Randy Napoleon, MSU assistant professor of jazz guitar. “In addition to being a virtuoso and a first-rate musician, Mark is a true extrovert, and is very generous about sharing his wealth of musical and professional knowledge with others.”  Whitfield graduated from Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 1987. 

Shortly after, he returned to New York to embark on a career as a jazz guitarist. Whitfield has collaborated with legendary artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Herbie Hancock, Carmen McRae, Gladys Knight, Burt Bacharach, Jimmy Smith, Clark Terry, Shirley Horn, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Joe Williams, Stanley

Turrentine and George Benson, his greatest teacher and mentor. In 1990, the New York Times dubbed

Whitfield “The Best Young Guitarist in the Business.” Later that year, Warner Bros. released his debut albumT he Marksman. Whitfield followed his debut release with 14 solo recordings and collaborations with some of the most important artists in recent years, including Sting, Steven Tyler, D’Angelo, Mary J. Blige, John Mayer, Chaka Khan, Jill Scott, Diana Krall, Christian McBride, Chris Botti, Roy Hargrove and Nicholas Payton. 

In January 2017, Whitfield released Grace with the Whitfield Family Band. The group features Whitfield on guitar, his sons Dave Whitfield on piano and Mark Whitfield Jr. on drums, Yasushi Nakamura on bass, and Sy Smith singing the title song.“

We like to think that the holidays are coming early this year when Mark Whitfield comes to town,” says Director of Jazz Studies Rodney Whitaker. “Mark is extremely relatable and quick to share what he’s learned from legendary and contemporary artists. He’s also simply one of the best jazz guitarists on the scene.”

Now in its sixth year, the MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence program attracts high-level talent and serves as a model for jazz studies programs nationwide. Inspiring lineups provide students and

communities a rare opportunity to listen to and learn from high-energy, well-known musicians and virtuosos who are equally accomplished as educators, composers and arrangers shaping the world of

jazz. All combined, the residencies of 21artists to date have reached more than 29,000 students and adults across Michigan through workshops, performances and one-on-one instruction at non-profit organizations and at middle and high schools. Jazz Guitarist Mark Whitfield will be the second in the versatile line-up of Jazz Artists in Residence for 2018-19, which included saxophonist Melissa Aldana

in October. The program will welcome bassist Mimi Jones in February, and trombonist Steve Davis in March. Whitfield will perform with the MSU Jazz Orchestras I led by Rodney Whitaker in the MSU Fairchild Theatre on Friday, Dec. 7, at 8 p.m. The concert will also showcase performances of MSU Jazz Orchestra II. Tickets are reserved seating, $17 adults; $15 seniors; $7 for students and those under 18 with valid ID, and are available from the College of Music box office—in person at the Music Building, Room 102, 333 W. Circle Drive or over the phone at (517) 353-5340—online at, or at the door one hour before the show. Schedule:

MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence Mark Whitfield A collaborator with a who’s-who list of jazz musicians, Mark Whitfield was bound for greatness ever since he left his Berklee College of Music roots in the late 1980s. He earned “The Best Young Guitarist in the Business” nod in 1990 by the New York Times and a stack of accolades ever since.

•Saturday, Dec. 1, Noel Night, Detroit: Jazz Orchestra I with Mark Whitfield ; location to be announced

•Monday, Dec. 3, Press Day, 5:00 p.m. gathering and 6:00 p.m. performance. MSFCU Blue Monday at

MSUFCU Headquarters: MSU Professors of Jazz with Mark Whitfield. Special performance for members of the MSU Federal Credit Union.

•Tuesday, Dec. 4, Rehearsals and Workshops at MSU

•Wednesday, Dec. 5, Hackett Catholic Central High School, Kalamazoo

•Thursday, Dec. 6, Winans Elementary School, Lansing; Warren Mott High School, Warren

•Friday, Dec. 7, 8:00 p.m. MSU Fairchild Theatre with MSU Jazz Orchestras

•Saturday, Dec. 8, Location and performance to be announced

•Sunday, Dec. 9, Northview High School with Rockford High School, Grand Rapids