Solo Performance:  “Julie-O”

Mark Summer is known worldwide for his phenomenal percussion and pizzicato techniques combined with bowed jazz and fiddle phrasing.


Cellist, composer, former member of the Turtle Island Quartet.

Widely regarded as one of the outstanding cellists of our time, Mark Summer is known worldwide for his phenomenal percussion and pizzicato techniques combined with bowed jazz and fiddle phrasing.  Mark is a co-founder of the two-time Grammy®-winning Turtle Island Quartet, and was the quartet’s cellist for 30 years.

He is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music where he was a student of former principal cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra, Stephen Geber. In 2008, he was awarded a Distinguished Alumnae award from CIM. Mark was a tenured member of the Winnipeg Symphony from 1981–1984, before leaving the orchestra to perform in several Canadian contemporary and Baroque ensembles, as well as his own group, The West-End String Band. Asked to perform at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1985, the group went on to record Mark’s original music for CBC Radio. In the fall of 1985, Mark visited the Bay Area where he was invited by David Balakrishnan to help form Turtle Island Quartet.

Mark continued to touch base with his classical roots, performing with the Chamber Symphony of San Francisco, the Oakland Symphony, Oakland Ballet, and the contemporary music ensemble, Earplay. Over 30 years since embarking on an improvisational musical odyssey, Mark has continued to develop a unique and multi-timbered style, which incorporates virtuoso jazz soloing, distinctive bass lines and extensive percussive techniques adapted from the guitar, bass and drums.

He has been the subject of feature articles in Strings and Bass Player magazines, and has published several pieces for solo cello; his best known and beloved “Julie-O,” has been performed by cellists all over the world, and was featured in a recent Apple Watch commercial as well as on two episodes of NBC‘s “Parenthood.”

In addition to composing and his past performances with Turtle Island Quartet, Mark currently performs in a trio with jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton, a seven-time Grammy®-nominated singer. Mark also performed in a trio with clarinet virtuoso Paquito D’Rivera of which their recording, The Jazz Chamber Trio, was nominated for a Grammy® in 2005, and includes Marks piece “Kalimba” for solo cello.

Mark has recorded on numerous motion picture soundtracks and performed and/or appeared on albums with Linda Ronstadt, Toni Childs, guitarist Jeff Tamelier of Tower of Power, singer-songwriter Debbie Friedman, saxophonist Kirk Whalum, and guitarist Will Ackerman.

In 2011, he made his American debut as an orchestral soloist, premiering David Balakrishan’s cello concerto “Force of Nature,” written especially for Mark. In 2013 he had his European solo premier, performing the concerto with both the Neuss Chamber Orchestra and the Georgian Chamber Orchestra Ingolstadt. Mark has taught and performed recitals at Cello: An American Experience, a program for young cellists for three summers.