Michael L. Mark, a retired Towson University graduate school dean and professional musician who was also a fair-housing activist, died of Parkinson’s disease complications May 10 at the Charlestown Retirement Community.
The former Mount Washington resident was 81.
Born in Schenectady, N.Y., he was the son of David Mark, a General Electric worker, and his wife, Ruth Garbowitz, a homemaker.
Reared in Washington, he was a graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School, then obtained a bachelor’s degree at Catholic University of America.
He later received two master’s degrees: one from the University of Michigan — where he played in the school band when it made a State Department-sponsored trip to the U.S.S.R. in 1961 — and another from George Washington University. He returned to Catholic University for his doctorate.
His brother, Brian Mark, a Pasadena, Calif. resident, said their mother “wanted to give her children as broad a cultural experience as possible and, despite having very little money, bought a small piano for her sons and paid for piano lessons.”
He said his brother began playing the clarinet before he was 8 years old. A cousin gave the family one, and Dr. Mark showed aptitude with the instrument. He studied with teacher Sydney Forrest.
He began playing in musical groups at 13 and later joined the musicians’ union. He was often called to play in pit orchestras at the Kennedy Center and the old Mechanic Theatre — he was part of the orchestra for the Mechanic’s 1967 opening night and its performance of “Hello, Dolly!” with Betty Grable.
Dr. Mark also toured with Frankie Avalon and performed with Buddy Hackett, Jan and Dean, Liberace and Barry Manilow. He was a part of the Ringling Brothers circus band.
He played saxophone in the Baltimore City Park Band under conductor Leigh Martinet.
“He was a consummate musician, and one of the most self-deprecating persons I have ever met,” said Ed Goldstein, a tubist who is leader of the Peabody Ragtime Ensemble. “We played these great transcriptions under Leigh, and Michael really got into it.”
When Mr. Goldstein was writing a book about the tuba, Dr. Mark offered help and advice. “He was subtle in his approach and he saw the big picture,” he said. “He was invaluable to me.”
After teaching in Prince George’s County public schools from 1958 to 1966, Dr. Mark became an associate professor at Morgan State University, serving as director of bands and teaching undergraduate and graduate school courses. He also was director of music for the Elmira, N.Y. school district, and from 1973 to 1981 was an associate professor of music at Catholic University.
He was named dean of Towson University’s Graduate School in 1981. He headed a program for 25 master’s degree programs in arts, humanities, education and life and social sciences. He held the post until 1995.
He also served as professor of music at the university from 1981 until 1998.
James Anthony, an associate professor of music emeritus at Towson University, said Dr. Mark “became a scholar of music education and was also a leader in that field. He was a gentle and pleasant person.”
Widely regarded as a music education history and expert, he published more than 75 scholarly articles. He was also co-author of numerous books related to music education.
Dr. Mark was a past president and longtime board member of Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc. He wrote “But Not Next Door,” a book about fair housing and breaking segregation barriers in Baltimore.
“I perceived him as a quiet lion,” said Robert J. Strupp, executive director at Batimore Neighborhoods. “His understanding of housing issues has enabled us to continue our work during his tenure.”
Professor Mark was a past president of Young Audiences of Maryland and raised funds for the organization. He volunteered at the Maryland Historical Society.
Last month, the Maryland Music Educators Association named him the recipient of its Corwin Taylor Music Education Award.
“He was a giant in the field of music education,” said Mary Ellen Cohn, executive director of the association. “He was nationally and internationally recognized, and conferred with other music educators across the country and throughout Europe and in China.
“He was the essence of humility and was always willing to give of himself,” Ms. Cohn said. “He was not afraid to tackle anyting.”
Services were held Monday at Sol Levinson and Brothers.
In addition to his brother, survivors include his wife of 55 years, Lois Nitekman, a retired economic developer officer for Baltimore Development Corp.; two daughters, Michelle Manco of Mount Airy and Diana Mark of Baltimore; and a granddaughter.