Harmonies of Time: Mark Rose's 40-Year Journey with the Old Towne Band

For an incredible 40 years, Mark Rose has led the Old Towne Band. Renowned for its performances of popular music from the late 1800s and early 1900s, such as marches, ragtime, Dixieland, circus music, old overtures, and early swing, the band has flourished under his direction.

Mark Rose

Mark Rose, RVC Old Towne Band Director

Mark's journey into higher education and music commenced in 1984 when he assumed the role of band director.

Initially, Mark's career path led him to high school band teaching, but he quickly realized it wasn't the right fit. Instead, he found his passion in conducting pit orchestras for local community theaters. After obtaining his master's degree in music, Rockford College (now Rockford University) hired him as the musical director for their summer and school year musical productions.

When Rockford College discontinued its summer musicals, Mark transitioned to directing the Old Towne Band at Rock Valley College (RVC). Over the years, RVC has provided essential support, including administrative assistance and rehearsal space, allowing the Old Towne Band to thrive.

“I've known Mark Rose since early college days when we played in the pit at Starlight Theater together,” said Mike Beert, retired professor of music. “Mark always played his parts with great aplomb and relish. He was why it was such great fun to be involved in music. You got the sense that not only was it cool to play music, but it was great to do it to a very high degree AND it was super to do it together!”

Despite his busy schedule, Mark continues to perform with various musical groups and explore a wide range of music genres. He remains dedicated to expanding his musical abilities and repertoire by listening to music from different eras and combing through music libraries for new pieces.

“Each type of music has its own unique style that everyone has to agree on in order to present the music in its best performance,” said Mark. “We sometimes alter the music to make it our own and to accommodate individual players. There is a core of musicians who enjoy playing in the band who continue to return every semester.”

In the early years of directing the Old Towne Band, audiences were sparse. However, a turning point came in the late 1980s when a concert drew an unexpectedly large crowd. With every seat filled and audience members even sitting on the stage, the Old Towne Band's popularity soared, leading to regular concerts to accommodate the growing audience.

“The beauty of Mark is that he hasn't changed,” added Mike Beert. “He still makes you want to play music because there is no higher thing you can be involved in, whether it's serious or funny, sublime or ridiculous. You want to do it for Mark and for the Muse! Bravo, Mark!”

In addition to their traditional concerts, the Old Towne Band has found success in accompanying silent movies with live music. Mark arranges and edits music for the band to perform alongside silent film comedies, adding another dimension to their performances.

Mark believes in the power of music as a lifelong hobby and encourages adults to explore courses offered at RVC. Whether it's joining a community band or learning a new craft, RVC provides opportunities for personal growth and enrichment.

"Despite the challenges of making a living as a musician, I'm dedicated to providing musical enjoyment to others," Mark shares. "Through the Old Towne Band and other community music groups, individuals can pursue their artistic passions while maintaining steady day jobs. It's about offering a fulfilling musical experience to all."

Join us for an unforgettable evening of music at the Old Towne Band Spring 2024 Concert on Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4, from 7:30 - 9 pm at the Main Campus – ERC Performing Arts Room. We look forward to sharing our passion with the community and creating lasting musical memories together.