The Composer/Librettist: Peter Markush/Mark Rock

My parents met in the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra in the late forties, my dad at the back of the second violin section, my mom near the front of the first violins. My mother was a child prodigy, could sing beautifully, was playing church organ at 8 or so, also played viola, piano, and baritone horn, but I think regretted not being encouraged to create. I think she wanted to make sure that I didn't suffer the same deficit and so in addition to cello lessons starting at age 3, I attended Orff-Schulwerk classes, which empowered me to create my own rhythms and melodies.

Around ages five and six, I belonged to a gospel group made up of my four older sisters and my three older black foster sisters. We performed at churches and events around the Washington, DC area and were on local television once. The eldest of my foster sisters, Kristle Murden, was our dynamic and creative leader, arranger, and composer. The culture clash between my athiest father and my born-again foster sister was probably the main contributor to the brevity of our career as the Seven Sisters Plus One. Kristle went on to a distinguished career in gospel music, singing on the Lion King soundtrack and with Michael Jackson but primarily with Andraé Crouch.

I was a black belt in Karate at age 8 – the whole family studied – and I became an audio electronics hobbyist at age 10. I was The Mad Hatter in “Alice and Wonderland” and Moon in “The Real Inspector Hound” in high school. I bicycled from Washington, DC to New York City with my family when I was sixteen.

I would futz around a good bit on the two baby grand pianos that we had in our palatial music room (we also had a pipe organ) and wrote my first piano composition, “Bananas Marching Across a Train Track” --still a favorite at Markush family gatherings-- when I was ten. Guitar and bass guitar came around age sixteen, when rock and roll swept me up into its arms. That year I wrote my first rock song, called “I Don't Care,” and I was off to an artistically satisfying music career playing at midnight on Monday nights for tips.

I think my early empowerment actually helped ensure a lack of financial success with my music in my early adulthood. Because creating music was something that I was encouraged to do and was led to believe I was good at, I had a hard time in the more lucrative fields of music. I thought, my songs are good, I'm sure I can get paid to sing them just as surely as I could get paid to play Foreigner covers in a bar band or teach music at a university. Well, maybe someday I will but in the meantime I figured out that giving private music lessons and playing wedding gigs are not bad ways to make a living. Better than programming computers, which I also used to do.

I studied electrical engineering and music while playing in original punk bands with names like Zug, god, and The Bumping Uglies, in Birmingham, Alabama, collecting two degrees in electrical engineering. I also studied music but did not receive a degree in it. I moved to Charlottesville in 1996 to become a software engineer, and I did that for over seven years, during which I helped found a now defunct t'ai chi school. I've got one patent and I've published one paper.

In early 1997 I discovered old-time music – proto-bluegrass – and started going to fiddle conventions and old-time festivals. That year I started my four-year streak of placing in the finals of the non-traditional band contest at the Appalachian String Band Music Festival in Clifftop, West Virginia, culminating in a first place win for my band, The Marzaks, in 2000, and a performance slot at the festival the following year.

In the Marzaks, I created my alter ego, Mark Rock, which has since morphed a few times but is generally more androgynous and expressive than the more nerdy Peter Markush. When the Marzaks fizzled out, I performed solo as Mark Rock and with a band. I started doing this again recently, mainly in support of this rock opera.

In 2006 as founding lead singer of The Falsies, I was Hedwig in the Live Arts production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” – all the more meaningful to me because my grandmother's name was Hedvig. My involvement with Live Arts dates back to the early 2000's, when I did music for Lattehouse and Boston Marriage.

I played the starring role in the 2009 Amoeba Films release Eat Me, also featuring the rest of The Falsies.

In 2009 I also released a CD of my original instrumental piano music.

In 2012, I was in a play called “The Madwoman of Challiot” directed by Kay Ferguson, performed on the Downtown Mall and The Haven in Charlottesville. 6 performers playing 24 parts. I was music director and played four of the parts.

In 2013 I started Love Me Do, a band that takes Beatles songs and makes them funky.

After a stint as a freelance web designer, my profession shifted to teaching music and then playing in a string quartet and an old-time band for weddings. I teach qigong (similar to t'ai chi) in a Saturday morning class and also privately.

I'm the bass guitar player at Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church.

I got married recently. I like to cook.