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Mark Flugge: Bio

Renowned jazz piano virtuoso, composer, educator, and bandleader Mark Flugge passed away unexpectedly on May 11, 2014 in Columbus, after battling a debilitating hearing affliction for nearly two years.  He was a cherished friend and mentor to countless musicians in the Central Ohio area and around the world.


Born January 27, 1962, in Columbus to Tadd Flugge and Nadine (Eley) Flugge, Mark graduated from Walnut Ridge High School, The Ohio State University (Bachelor's in Jazz Composition), and the Eastman School of Music (Master's in Jazz Piano Performance).  Fans may recall his early groups- the Funk Bunnies, No Pedestrians, Tonight Only, Midnight Magic, Centrifusion, Dr. Bombay, Brasileira, and the Ted Linker Band.  At the time of his passing, he taught at Capital University and OSU, and formerly served on the faculty at Eastman.  His teachers included Paul Gearhart, Richard Tetley-Kardos, Bob Allen, Hank Marr, Tony Caramia, and Bill Dobbins. Mark was devoted to his students, and inspired them to be the best that they could be, both as musicians and as good citizens.  He conducted clinics throughout the U.S. and Germany on jazz improvisation, jazz piano, and the music of Duke Ellington; other particular interests included the music of Bill Evans, Clare Fischer, and Dave Frishberg.   


As a soloist, he performed “Rhapsody in Blue” with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Newark-Granville Symphony Orchestra, the Capital/Bexley Orchestra, and the Westerville Symphony. Mark also appeared with Vaughn Wiester's Famous Jazz Orchestra, the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, the Columbus Symphony, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, and the Breckenridge Music Festival Chamber Orchestra in Colorado.


Founder of the Chamber Jazz Series at the Columbus Music Hall in 2006, Flugge continued to program, produce, and perform this series at the Columbus Museum of Art up to his passing in 2014. The Mark Flugge Trio was the house rhythm section for the Chamber Jazz Series; they also played every Friday night at the Hyde Park steakhouse, where they were a fixture from 2000-2014; "one of the best trio rooms in the country" was the consensus of jazz lovers. Recent performances with the "From the Five Jazztet" at Natalie's Coal-Fired Pizza and Live Music were of particularly high quality, including a show of Thelonious Monk.  Mark was admired and beloved by his many fans, many of whom became like family to him.


Flugge's CDs are "In Love, In Blue" on solo piano, "February's Promise" (jazz quintet original compositions), and "Familiarity" (also featuring Michael Moore and Gene Bertoncini).  His compositions, arrangements and performances are also featured prominently on "Waltz into Madness" with wife and flutist Lisa Jelle.


Other particularly notable musical accomplishments abound.  Mark was musical director for the "Birth of the Cool" with the CJO in 2011, and was the bandleader for the Opera Columbus production of Kurt Weill's "Berlin to Broadway" in  2010. He presented the solo lecture-recital “From Jelly Roll to Jarrett, a Jazz Piano History” at the King Arts Complex in 2008. In that same year, Flugge collaborated with Ronald Jenkins, musical director at First Community Church, on Sacred Jazz and Spirituals, a service and CD featuring Flugge’s arrangements of standard liturgical music. In 2005, he transcribed Thelonious Monk’s “Town Hall Concert” recording, and subsequently led performances of the transcribed album from the piano for the Firehouse Jazz Series, and also at the University of Illinois’ Summer Jazz Festival. Another Firehouse Jazz Concert Flugge produced, “A Tribute to Horace Silver”, was named a “Best Event of 2005” by the Columbus Dispatch, which also included his “Tribute To Bill Evans” concert with singer Dick Mackey as one of 2007’s most memorable concerts. Performance credits included work with such notables as David “Fathead” Newman, Joe La Barbera, Jimmy Heath, Marcus Belgrave, Ken Peplowski, Joe Lovano, Jon Faddis, Eddie Daniels, John Abercrombie, Claudio Roditi, Maureen McGovern, and Ira Sullivan, among many others.

His collaborations with vocalists included four CDs with Dick Mackey ("Why Stars Come Out At Night", "Nightingale", "Pretty Girl", and "In April") and one with Jody Mancini ("Voicings").  He was also the featured soloist on the Famous Jazz Orchestra CD “Sight Readin’ Baby”. The Ohio Arts Council awarded Flugge on three separate occasions for pieces he composed for his group “No Pedestrians”. In 2011 Flugge performed his composition "Waltz Into Madness" with flutist Lisa Jelle at the National Flute Association annual convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. His composition “Chorale and Fantasy” for woodwind sextet was premiered at Capital University by QuintEssential Winds in March 2012.  Jelle and Flugge premiered his four-movement work, "Suite Bill Evans" at the February 2014 Chamber Jazz concert; the live performance will be included along with "Chorale and Fantasy" on the next Mark Flugge CD, projected release date June 2015.


In addition to his all-consuming love for music, Mark was a master Scrabble player, avid Reds fan, and baseball card collector; sharing these hobbies with many dear friends brought his last two years much solace.  He is survived by his beloved wife Lisa, adored daughter Erika, beloved parents Tadd and Nadine, brother Michael (Beverly), niece Erin Barker (Dustin, Kayla, Jacob), and nephew Adam.  In addition, many special aunts and uncles survive, and countless friends and colleagues in the music profession are left to cherish his memory.


Mark is deeply missed by all who knew him; his fondest with was that his music would live on.  Donations to further his musical and educations legacy may be made out to the Mark Flugge Memorial Fund, and may be sent to Lisa Jelle, Capital University Conservatory of Music, 1 College and Main, Columbus OH 43209.