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Mark Schatz - The Solo Concert

In the past I have been primarily a support musician as a member of a band with a featured singer. With the recent passing of my wife my reflections have led me to a desire to engage more personally with an audience to share my own artistry in a way that dissolves the fourth wall. To that end I have created a solo show that features my own compositions that I recently presented for the first time. Encouraged by its success, I plan to continue workshopping the performance, making it a prominent part of my future touring.


Mark is a dynamic and joyous performer with a wide skill set which he demonstrates here with Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, The Claire Lynch Band, and Sarah Jarosz.


Mark has played bass with some of the premier artists in the acoustic music world. Here are excerpts from recordings with Bela Fleck, Tony Rice, Tim O'Brien, Nickel Creek, and a live show with Linda Ronstadt.


Featured here are excerpts from some of Mark's compositions many of which feature his clawhammer banjo playing.


About Mark

Anne Arundel County

Mark Schatz's picture
Mark Schatz was born April 23, 1955 into a musical family. He began his formal musical training with cello at age ten and later switched over to string bass. His first performance was in 1971 on electric bass in a high school rock band. Inspired by a love for folk and traditional music, he started to play the guitar and mandolin. From 1973 to 1978 Mark got his Degree in Music Theory and Composition from Haverford College, studied for a year at Berklee College of Music in Boston, picked up the old-... more

Mark Schatz - The Solo Concert

Solo Show goal:
In the past I have been primarily a support musician as a member of a band with a featured singer. With the recent passing of my wife my reflections have led me to a desire to engage more personally with an audience to share my own artistry in a way that dissolves the fourth wall. To that end I have created a solo show that features my own compositions that I recently presented for the first time. Encouraged by its success, I plan to continue workshopping the performance, making it a prominent part of my future touring.

  • Cajun Stomp with Trades

    Cajun stomp with trades: In my new solo show I create rhythm by tapping my foot on a specially designed dance board that I stand on. In some songs I intersperse some Southern Appalachian clogging. This is an excerpt from a tune of mine called Cajun Stomp where I do some trades between the banjo and the feet - good fun for me and for the audience!
  • Turkey in the Straw

    I've included this in a "Children's Section" of my solo show. I've been doing it for years at school shows with Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, but it's fun for adults as well. The Jaw harp adds a completely new sonic texture which is always welcome in a solo show, and I've discovered that I can dance while I sing. So it's a bunch of fun for me and the audience!
  • Tenor Madness with Snaps

    In my solo show I'm always looking for ways to add some additional element of rhythm to in effect create a "rhythm section". I'm also looking for ways to involve the audience. Snaps on the backbeat in a swing tune make the tune get up and go! So I kill two birds with one stone on this one.
  • Somebody Loves You

    My wife's niece had a baby boy on June 8, 2019. She passed away a month later. Since we did not have any children of our own, caring for this infant from time to time has been a profound and life affirming experience in a very difficult time for me. This is an excerpt from a lullaby I wrote for him one of the first times I spent a full day caring for him.
  • Hound Dog
  • Cup of Good Stuff

    Here I'm sharing with a small and intimate house concert audience - actually my first solo show - the motivation for launching this new solo venture.

Claire Lynch

As Nickel Creek was winding down, my old Mark Schatz & Friends bandmate, Missy Raines was preparing to leave The Claire Lynch Band to launch her own solo career. My other bandmate, Jim Hurst approached me at the Rocky Grass Festival to see if I wanted the bass job. I'd been aware of Claire for years but wasn't that familiar with her artistry. I sat a listened closely to their set there and was mesmerized by her singing, songs, and stage presence - she had a lot of class! I got together with her and Jim while in Nashville with Nickel Creek a month or so later and we all agreed that it was a good fit. A good groove and good singing is lifeblood to me. Claire is one of the very best singers in the business. There's heart, range and depth of emotion there, and some superlative songwriting. She's also generous, collaborative, and just a bunch of fun to be around. I'm very proud of the four projects I recorded with her, the last of which is North By South, a tribute to Canadian songwriters, and was a 2017 Grammy nominee.

  • Claire Lynch "Once The Teardrops Start To Fall"

    Claire can roll with ease from a bluegrass song to a tender country ballad to a funky country rocker like this.
  • Dear Sister.mp3

    Claire co-wrote this with another well respected bluegrass songwriter named Louisa Branscomb. It was written in honor of the sesquicentennial of the civil war, and it draws on the story of Louisa's 4 great, great, great Alabama uncles who all wrote letters home to their sister while off fighting for the confederate cause. They found the letters in the attic of the old home place in a box and they ended up compiling them in a book called Dear Sister. This song won the International Bluegrass Music Association's song of the year award in 2014.
  • Doin' Time.mp3

    Claire always attracted some of the best talent to her band, and she stepped right up to some of the more contemporary musical sensibilities that the younger players brought to the band. This is an edgy song by Sarah Siskind that benefited from this kind of treatment.
  • Woods of Sipsey.mp3

    This is a spooky song of Claire's inspired by the Alabama countryside where a beloved in-law grandmother lived. I am much gratified by looking for a bass part that complements and supports a song, and I feel like the arco (bowed bass) part I came up with helped convey the still, dark emotions of this number.
  • Milo, Molly May, Calling You

    Claire discovered a wealth of Canadian songwriters after she married a Canadian from Toronto. This led her to record a CD of all Canadian songwriters titled North By South. There was one exception, and that was the first song in this radio appearance called Milo which she wrote for her Canadian Husband. The second song is Molly May, a heartrending song by JP Cormier about a man and his boat. We gather around the mike old style for the third number, Calling You, by none other than our own very American Hank Williams!
  • Claire Lynch Band "Widow's Weeds" OFOAM 2010

    This co-write between Claire and Jennifer Kimball which appears on her Whatcha Gonna Do CD has the lonesome mountain modality that cries out for the old Clawhammer banjo, and I am happy to accommodate. Just to clarify, widow's weeds are clothes of mourning that poor Ive can't seem to let go of.
  • In The Window

    When Claire asked if I wanted to do a Chanukah song on our Holiday! CD I remembered this simple little song that my family used to sing when gathered around the menorah in my childhood. The question was, how were we going to make this four line song which only changes one word eight times into something someone would want to listen to? Well, the Claire Lynch Band went into its collaborative, creative, arranging mode and turned it into an epic Klezmer masterpiece. I contributed by writing a bridge that distilled the whole Chanukah story down into five lines. Well, give it a listen and enjoy!
  • Great Day in the Morning

    This is just a fun, light hearted number that I got to start with a bass lick.
  • That's What Makes You Strong sung by Claire Lynch Band Thomas Center Gainesville FL

    Claire met the late Jesse Winchester at a festival many years ago and struck up a friendship. She sang on one of his recordings, then asked if she could record one of his songs that she dearly loved, and asked him to join her on the track. Here Jesse's part is taken by bandmate and a songbird in his own right, Bryan McDowell.
  • Barbed Wire Boys

    Claire's a great songwriter, but part of her art and skill is knowing a good song when she hears one. This is one of my favorites, written by Susan Werner, that she included on her Whatcha Gonna Do CD.

Bela Fleck

I met Bela Fleck around 1977 in Boston at an old-time jam session. He was playing with the Boston based progressive bluegrass band, Tasty Licks, and I was in my last couple of years of study at Haverford College outside of Philadelphia. I was coming back to Boston as much as possible because I'd fallen in love with a dancer in the folk dance group Mandala with whom I'd played with the previous year when I took a year off to study at Berklee College of Music. When I was in Boston we'd get together and play jazz standards - he on banjo and me on mandolin - I was able to combine my nascent fiddle tune chops with the rudimentary jazz harmony I'd learned at Berklee to keep up with Bela who was already a banjo phenom at age 17 or 18. I eventually joined Tasty Licks on bass with a strong vote from Bela, we went on the Kentucky together to play in a band called Spectrum, and I played on his first two solo projects, Crossing the Tracks and Natural Bridge. He called on me to join the juggernaut Bluegrass aggregation of Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, and Tony Rice for landmark recordings Drive (joined as well by Mark O'Connor here) and The Bluegrass Sessions. This band appeared at a handful of festivals and legendary club The Birchmere over a span of several years and I considered myself a very lucky guy to be part of that cream of that generation of bluegrass music, sometimes called New Acoustic Music.
Bela helped produce my two solo projects and remains a good friend.

  • Whitewater

    Bela assembled the best of our generation of bluegrass players - Jerry Douglas on dobro, Sam Bush on mandolin, Mark O'Connor and Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Tony Rice on guitar, and me on bass - to record his project called Drive. It's not just that they were all great players - it was the groove and energy and drive they generated when they played together. You could say that the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. This recording had tremendous impact on the next generation of players. Here is a live version of the title cut.
  • Buffalo Nickel

    From The Bluegrass Sessions recording.
  • Maura On A Bicycle, Stout And Molasses, Way Back When

    From The Bluegrass Sessions - a fun medley of an Irishy Jig, a funky number, and the good old bluegrass groove.
  • Sanctuary

    From Drive - a number in 7/4 time, but then it busts into 4/4 at the end and features Mark O'Connor on a blistering fiddle solo.
  • Slipstream

    Drive was a bit of a musical bible for the next generation of acoustic musicians. This is one my younger friends often play at jam sessions and they ask "Do you remember how to play this one?" It comes back to me after a couple of times through it!
  • The Bullfrog Shuffle

    This is from a project of Bela's called Double Time which was all duets with a wonderful array of his acoustic music friends. We wrote this playful tune together and I played a 1902 Fairbanks Whyte Laydie strung up with nylon strings sold to me by another legendary cat, Harry Sparks from Kentucky, to get a very different sound from Bela on his bluegrass banjo.
  • The Lights Of Home

    From Drive - I've always loved this beautiful and slightly haunting melody. I asked Bela (my best man) to play this, accompanied by members of Nickel Creek, for my wife, Eileen, and I at our wedding as we walked down the isle. Good memories!
  • Valley Of The Rogue

    A good, rollicking number from The Bluegrass Sessions
  • When Joy Kills Sorrow

    From The Bluegrass Sessions - brooding sections contrasted with upbeat grooves.
  • Bela Fleck--Freeborn Man--Tony Rice--All- Star Jam

    This is a rocking live cut of the old Jimmy Martin Classic, Freeborn Man. It features the same configuration that played on Bela's Drive & Bluegrass Sessions projects including Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Tony Rice, Mark O'Connor, and yours truly.

Tim O'Brien

After my five year stint with Tony Rice I joined Tim O'Brien who had recently left the prominent bluegrass band, Hot Rize, to launch his own solo career with the formation of the O'Boys which was an acoustic power trio with me, guitarist Scott Nygaard, and Tim on mandolin, bazouki, and fiddle. Tim is another force to be reckoned with in the acoustic music world. He's stylistically versatile, he has a beautiful, powerful voice, he writes songs with depth and subtelty that range from humorous flings to heartbreak, political satire, and soaring, hopeful love songs. And he's got a groove when he plays that's a mile deep. I toured with him from 1990 to 1998, often joined by his sister, Mollie who shared the family gene for virtuosic vocalizing. One of my favorite CDs to this day is a collection of Bob Dylan songs that he did acoustic versions of called Red on Blond. We still do occasioanal shows together and it's always a treat!

  • Tim O'Brien, Scott Nygaard, and Mark Schatz - One Way Street

    This is from an Austin City Limits show we did to support the release of Tim's Odd Man In CD.
  • Hold To A Dream

    This is an uplifting song of Tim's that we played at almost every show. This was just one of Tim's songs cut by Kathy Mattea.
  • The Farmer's Cursed Wife

    This is on the O'Boys first release, Oh Boy! O'Boy, and it's a cautionary tale about treating your wife right or else! I wear a lot of hats in this number playing clawhammer banjo, bass, and jew's harp!
  • Time To Learn

    Also from Oh Boy! O'Boy, this one has always gotten to me. My animated and beloved grandmother passed away shortly after we recorded this and it helped me to grieve.
  • Brother Wind

    A lonely number from the CD Rock in My Shoe
  • Everything Is Broken

    A Rockabilly treatment of this Dylan song from Red on Blond. I get to slap the bass all the way through this one, and if you listen closely, you can hear some sreaming high arco (bow) sounds in the solo section weaving in and out of Jerry Douglas's lap steel!
  • Farewell Angelina

    Also from Red on Blond, this features the exquisite sibling harmony of Tim and his sister, Mollie.
  • Talkin' Cavan

    Tim O'Brien did this wonderful talking blues about a trip to Ireland on his Crossing CD. In a Collaboration with Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble which featured songs from this project, the Director, Eileen Carson, suggested that I add hambone to this amusing and colorful tale.
  • Down In The Willow Garden

    This is a mournful old traditional ballad from Tim's Crossing CD, a beautiful exploration of the Irish American connections. This features two of my very favorite singers - Tim, of course, and Paul Brady from Ireland. Check out the low tones of Jerry Douglas's Weissenborn dobro on this one.
  • Tim O'Brien, Scott Nygaard, and Mark Schatz - Heartbreak Game

    Austin City Limits show, showcasing songs from The O'Boys first release.


I met Eileen Carson, the Director of Annapolis-based Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, in 1989 and we got married in 2004. Although I've made most of my living as a bass player with other acts, my involvement with the company nonetheless evolved over the years to the point where I took on the roles of Musical Director, Road Manager, archiver/videot, and I danced in several of the troupe's numbers. Through Eileen's direction and fearless artistry I learned invaluable performance skills and theatrical values. I performed with the group in the first London run of Riverdance. I was closely involved with the mounting of several high level theatre shows including Hot Strings and Flying Feet, Steps and Stripes, and Destination Baltimore, and collaborations with StepAfrika called SoleMates, and The Crossing with Tim O'Brien.
Another aspect of Footworks' that has been very gratifying and formative to be a part of is their dedication Arts in Education. I have participated in countless school shows both as a dancer and a musician with a pared down configuration. There's nothing like being in front of a cafetorium full of school kids to help you hone your performance skills! I have successfully used many of Eileen's approaches with other bands I've been out with when we were tasked with doing school shows. Working with Footworks has certainly been a formative and fulfilling experience!

  • Footworks at IBMA Award Show, 2014

    The International Bluegrass Music Association's 2014 Award Show was videotaped for broadcast and they called on Footworks to provide a colorful and kinetic kickoff to the show. I assembled a stellar band for the production that included Bela Fleck, Bryan Sutton, Missy Raines, Sierra Hull, and Ron Stewart. We were thrilled to get a standing ovation from legendary singer Del McCoury at the end of our presentation!
  • SoleMates

    Eileen conceived of a collaboration between Footworks and the Washington, DC based group StepAfrika! to celebrate the black and white connections in the evolution of American music and Dance. I've assembled clips that feature some of my onstage participation in the show.
  • Tap Medley

    I came to Footworks with some skills as a freestyle, solo clogger. It is with them that I learned the thrill of being part of a routine with other dancers. I was intrigued by the variety of persussive dances they did and I slowly learned enough of some of the other styles to join them onstage. This number is a medley that includes choreography by Eileen, New York's Brenda Bufalino who was a mentor to her, and legendary African American hoofer LaVaughn Robinson from South Philadelphia who Eileen had as a guest artist for several shows and festivals.
  • The Crossing

    In 2002 Eileen heard Tim O'Brien's project called the Crossing and recognized themes that it shared with aspects of Footworks' shows. She was already a huge fan of Tim's music so she approached him about doing a collaboration. The challenge she faced was to enhance and illuminate the songs with dance without distracting from the artistry of the singer and the message of the song. I think she achieved this goal and created a beautiful show.
  • Hambone

    I love percussion so I was intrigued by this old African American tradition of body percussion that members of Footworks did. They originally learned it from Frankie and Doug Quimby of the Georgia Sea Island Singers. I learned it from Footworks and of course added some of my own touches which is part of the tradition. It's most often done solo, but Eileen created a hambone routine which is a ton of fun to perform!
  • Canary's Song

    We love our local arts center, Maryland Hall For The Creative Arts, because it's got one of the best dance floors for percussive dance - well seasoned tongue-in-groove maple - that we've ever danced on. They renovated the theatre a few years back and we begged them to keep that old floor and they did! In 2016 Eileen invited The Claire Lynch band to do a co-bill with Footworks for one of our semi-annual shows there. Eileen asked Claire is she could create choreography for some of Claire's numbers and this is one of the very moving results.
  • Sweet Sunny South:Cherokee:Flatfoot

    This is segments from Footworks' Southern Suite.
  • Footworks at Wheatland, 9 '16

    Footworks was doing festivals long before they progressed to more sophisticated theatre shows, and they still love the way they bring large numbers of folks together to celebrate artistic diversity. This is an overview of their performance at the Wheatland Festival in Remus, Michigan, where they have been performing off and on for over 25 years.
  • Baakari's Blues

    Baakari Wilder, a native of Baltimore, is one the finest tap dancers of his generation. Steve Bloom is one of the Washington, DC area's preeminent percussionists. Eileen has had both of these gentlemen as guest artists in a number of shows, including the Wheatland Music Festival in Remus, Michigan in 9 '16. Eileen suggested that Baakari dance to some blues on the banjo, he was all for, it so we worked up this arrangement with yours truly on the banjo!
  • Destination Baltimore

    In 2014 Eileen created a show called Steps & Stripes to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner by highlighting the history and cultural diversity of Baltimore. This production had a very large cast so she re-configured it for a smaller ensemble and presented it as Destination Baltimore in 2017. This is an overview of that show.

Nickel Creek

I got a call in 2003 from acoustic innovators Nickel Creek. They were making a change in personnel and asked if I wanted to audition. Though I was many years their senior, some of their music was a bit of a stretch for me technically. But I'm a serious musician who's not afraid of a challenge so I jumped in with both feet, worked really hard on their inventive, energetic, and unique blend of bluegrass, rock, classical, and bits of many other things, and got the gig. This was a new experience for me - a tour bus, road manager, both front of house and monitor engineers, and sizeable, screaming young crowds. It was a huge energy rush, but at the same time it was what I called a two hands on the wheel gig - it required constant focus. I worked with them until they bid "farewell for now" in 2007. I recorded Why Should the Fire Die with them in this time period. They called me for a reunion tour in 2014 and I played on Dotted Line which was recorded to support that tour.

  • Jump Shot!

    Nickel Creek appealed to a younger crowd than most of the other bands I'd played with so there was a ton of visceral energy coming at us. Of course we were generating a good bit of steam ourselves as is exemplified by this shot.
  • 01 When In Rome.mp3

    This was the first single that got released form Why Should the Fire Die.
  • Doubting Thomas.mp3

    A beautiful song of Chris Thile's about faith. I get to do some arco (bowing) in this one.
  • First And Last Waltz.mp3

    Some nice effects on this lonesome number by engineer/producer Eric Valentine.
  • You Don't Know What's Going On.mp3.mp3

    This crew could rock pretty hard and I did not hold back!
  • Where is Love Now.mp3.mp3

    A beautiful heartbreak song rendered by Sara Watkins
  • 21st of May.mp3

    This tongue in cheek song of Sean Watkins about the rapture is enhanced by my dancing feet!
  • Extraordinary Machine

    In 2007, the year before Nickel Creek went on an extended hiatus, they had many of their heroes come out on the road and co-bill with them. Fiona Apple was one of those artists and Nickel Creek served as her band. She's an "extraordinary machine" with amazing charisma and stage presence so it was real treat to have the opportunity to be part of that convergence!

Tony Rice - Bluegrass Icon

After trying to learn the ropes of the country music scene in Nashville from around 1981-1985, I got a call from Jimmy Gaudreau, with whom I'd played in Spectrum, asking if I wanted to do weekend of shows at the Birchmere with Tony Rice, one of the iconic bluegrass guitar players and singers of our time. Tony apparently liked my playing and subsequently called and asked if I wanted to play some more shows with him. I had my head wrapped around trying to be an electric bass player for a major country act, and told him as much. To his credit, he was totally chill and just said that he'd call, and if I was available I was welcome to come play with him. After a handful of shows my better sense finally kicked in and I committed full-time to the gig, eventually becoming Tony's Road Manager and good friend. I played on several projects with him in this time period including Me and My Guitar, Native American, Tony Rice Plays and Sings Bluegrass, and The Bluegrass Album Band, Volume 5. The sound of his voice and guitar still really get to me - there's real undefinable magic there!

  • Tony Rice - Shadows

    Tony is a big Gordon Lightfoot fan and he recorded several of his songs. He kills it on this angsty love song.
  • John Wilkes Booth

    Tony had an odd fascination with John Wilkes Booth, and he asked Mary Chapin Carpenter to write a song about him. She did some research and as one of our finest singer/songwriters came back with this jewel. She and Jonathan Edwards sing harmony on this cut.
  • Sweetheart Like You

    Tony had a very discerning ear for a good song, which is one of the qualities that made him stand out in the bluegrass world. We were working late in the studio in Nashville on this Dylan song when he mentioned that he might like to have a horn on it - not too surprising because he's a big jazz fan. I called someone I knew in town, and although it was guite late Cole Burgess said he'd be right down - very Nashville!. Tony liked his playing so much on this track that he used him on a couple more. I think it added a wonderful new dimension to Tony's musical palette.
  • St. James Hospital

    A very rocking version of this old chestnut.
  • Me And My Guitar

    A James Taylor song here that Tony makes his own. We played it on every show for years - a good jam-it-out number!
  • Bluegrass Album Band - Blue Ridge Mountain Home & Big Spike Hammer

    Tony spearheaded a project that spanned many years called the Bluegrass Album Band. The bassist and fiddler that had played on the first four volumes was not available for Volume V so Vassar Clements and I got the call (I was playing in The Tony Rice Unit at the time). Here is that band at a festival with Vassar and Bobby Hicks, who had played fiddle on the previous projects, playing twin fiddles - very exciting!
  • Song For A Winter's Night

    Another Gordon Lightfoot love song - we kept the arrangement sparse on this one to give plenty of room to the emotion and the guitar.
  • This Morning At Nine.mp3

    This is from Tony Rice Plays and Sings Bluegrass which had several different players on it, one of whom was the Seldom Scene's legendary singer/mandolinist/entertainer John Duffey. This song was made popular in the bluegrass world by John when he played with The Washington, DC based Country Gentleman. So it's a treat to have him playing mandolin and singing his unmistakable tenor on this one.
  • Hard Love

    Here's a very emotional number on Me And My Guitar which also featured soprano sax. I might mention that ace engineer Bill Wolf, who engineered most of Tony's recordings, played piano on this and few others on this album.
  • Bluegrass All-Stars - John Hardy

    Rounder Records produced a show as part of the Pinecone series at the Kentucky Center for the Arts featuring prominent bluegrass artists on its label at the time. This video features Tony, David Grisman, Alison Krauss, J.D. Crowe, and yours truly.

Various Ventures

I have had many wonderful musical opportunities that fall outside of the projects listed above that I wanted to include in this portfolio. I have truly been blessed in the range and quality of personal and artistic encounters and I wanted to share some of them here.

  • Oh Mama

    Aoife O’Donovan is one of the great singer/songwriters of the younger generation of acoustic musicians. I had the good fortune to work with her on a tour I did with another great young banjo player, Noam Pikelny, to support a CD of his that I played on called Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail.
  • Ring Them Bells.mp3

    Sarah Jarosz is another of our great young singer songwriters. I've had the good fortune to do some recording with her, including her Grammy winning project, Undercurrent. This song from an earlier CD remains one of my favorites - it's a Bob Dylan song which features the great fiddler Stuart Duncan on fretless banjo of all things, but he also plays fiddle and viola on this track and the two do a mesmerizing interwoven dance in the outro. Harmony singing is provided by the great Vince Gill!
  • Ramblin' Feels Good | Jeff Scroggins & Colorado | Southern Star Sessions

    I've done a good bit of playing with these folks over the past few years and I produced their latest CD, Over The Line. They're a ton of fun to play with - great singing and great groove - two of the things I live for! I've included this video so you can get a feel for the energy they deliver in a live setting.
  • Piney River Girl

    This is a track from Jeff Scroggins and Colorado's latest project that I produced. I brought this tune to the band from one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Bill Staines. There's something about Greg's singing that really gets to me, and he surely does it with this song.
  • Dancing with Frogs

    The Claire Lynch Band played a the Edmonton Folk Festival several years ago and as Claire and I were strolling down the midway at dusk we met some very tall frog ballerinas. I could not resist asking one of them to dance and she obliged - it was a magic moment! Claire caught it on her phone and set it to one of my tunes, the Samolynn Waltz.
  • No End of Love

    I moved to Nashville in 1981 when it was just starting to attract young musicians who were part of what became known as the New Acoustic Music scene. I met a very talented singer named Kathy Chiavola who had a superlative voice and a great ear for a good song. We worked a good bit together for a few years, mostly locally, and this is a John Hartford song that was a favorite of mine in her repertoire that she asked me to play on when she recorded it.
  • Rude Awakening.mp3

    Della Mae is a great all female Bluegrass band. They were between bass players back in 2015 so I sat in with them on some shows. The groove and vibe was so good that they asked me to play on a recording project that was already on the books. It gave me the additional bonus of being able to work with Jacquire King who did a fantastic job producing the project This is one of the tracks.
  • River

    After we made the Holiday CD with Claire we did some holiday touring which included some stage props and a big Advent calendar. We did one of these shows at the City Winery in Nashville and had some guests join us. One was Maura O'Connell, a dear friend from my Nashville days, who is to this day one of the most respected Irish vocalists in Americana music.
  • Goodbye Cool World

    Al and Emily Cantrell are a marvelous musical duo and they have been close friends for many years. We have shared much good food, talk, and wisdom around their kitchen table in Nashville. One of my favorite one-liners of Al's is "It doesn't matter what you do; it matters how you feel about what you do." Good words to live by. I played bass on their most recent CD, Weather reports, and this is a song of Emily's which is a light hearted take on a very serious issue.
  • Double Bass Blues with Mark Schatz and Edgar Meyer

    There used to be a magazine called Frets which catered largely to the acoustic music crowd. They did Readers Poll Awards and in 1990 I won the Bluegrass Bass Award and my friend, bass genius Edgar Meyer, won the Jazz Bass Award. There was a popular Nashville Network show back then hosted by Ralph Emery, and he devoted a show to award winners. So we concocted this zany spectacle to add some levity to the show. It worked!

Mark's Compositions

I started learning to play fiddle tunes when I was seventeen and had a crush on a gal who was into the folk and folk dance scene in the Boston area where I did most of my growing up. I told her I had a mandolin that I'd found in my grandfather's closet and she gave me Cole's 1001 Fiddle Tunes and circled a few tunes for me to learn. I had some facility because I'd been playing the cello since fourth grade so I picked up a flat pick and gave it my best effort. It didn't end up getting me much traction with the girl, but it did introduce me to the magic of a fiddle tune, each one a little world unto itself - beautiful melodies that are compact, symmetrical, generally with an A and B part that elegantly represent the yin and yang of musical form. I went on to get a degree in music and I studied fugues, sonatas, counterpoint and I appreciated the evolution and sense and beauty of these forms. But with my love of mandolin and clawhammer banjo it was fiddle tunes that I started to write in my mid-twenties. There is a variety of inspirations for these. When I sit around and play by myself it's generally a mixture of drills & exercises, tunes that I already know just for fun and sometimes to improve my playing of them, and sometimes it's just whimsical improvisation. Out of the latter a little melodic phrase may appear. I record this so I won't forget it, then let this phrase lead to another, always in search of that beauty of melodic shape that I loved in all of the traditional tunes that I had learned and played so many times. After completing a standard 8-bar A-part (which is generally repeated in a fiddle tune, sometimes with a second ending, sometimes without) I'd look for a contrasting beginning for a B-part, then let that lead me down a compelling path through the next 8-bars. I'd keep recording my progress so I wouldn't have to worry about forgetting something. Some folks might call this following the muse. I try to name the tune immediately after writing it so there is some organic connection to the moment. Full Moon is pretty obvious. Another is The Fallling Waters of Arden - I wrote that while out on my back deck with my sprinkler going back and forth, and the name of my neighborhood is Arden. All Full Up was written after a big meal. Chelsea Town was written while I was in London with Footworks, performing in the first London Run of Riverdance. I don't have a very good long-term memory so these tunes are almost like snapshots from my life, helping me stay connected with my past experiences.
Then there are tunes that I have written when feeling some emotion. All My Children emerged while I was watching a video of my younger brother playing with his young children in far off Israel where he lived at the time. I wrote Julie's Waltz after a dream I had of an old flame.
Another category is events. I wrote the Samolynn Waltz while selling hotdogs in downtown Nashville around 1982 for the wedding of friends Sam and Lynn Bush. I wrote Black Mountain Air for the wedding of some other friends who were married in Black Mountain, North Carolina. I wrote For Carol for a favorite aunt who had died.
After recording my first CD, Brand New Old Tyme Way on Rounder Records, I did occasional shows to promote the project. For one of these shows I hired Jim Hurst on guitar, Missy Raines on bass, and Casey Driessen on fiddle. There was an alchemy in this configuration that made my tunes really come to life and I did a good bit of touring with these wonderful musicians from 2000 to 2003 as Mark Schatz and Friends. It culminated with the recording of my second solo project, Steppin' in the Boiler House.
Included here is a selection of my compositions drawn from these two solo projects.

  • Cajun Stomp

    Co-written with New Brunswick Fiddler, Ray Legere, this tune emerged with a wonderful cajuny feel, thus the name.
  • Black Mountain Aire

    This was written for two friends who got married in Black Mountain, North Carolina.
  • Season of Joy

    As mentioned in this project's description, Casey Driessen played fiddle on most of the Steppin' in the Boiler House CD. But I had Stuart Duncan in as a special guest on a couple of numbers, and it was old friend, Bela Fleck's idea to do this one with twin fiddles - brilliant!
  • Steppin' In The Boiler House

    My wife, Eileen Carson, and I taught at the Augusta Heritage Festival workshops in Elkins, West Virginia for many years. In one class where she was teaching clogging in the old boiler house I came up with this tune to have something fun and different for the dancers to do their newly learned steps to. The percussion on this one is hambone, a wonderful tradition of body percussion from the south, originally African American, that I learned from folks in Footworks who learned it from Frankie and Doug Quimby from the Georgia Sea Islands.
  • New Year's Song

    This was written for my Father whose birthday was Jan 1. One of Nashville's most colorful percussionists, and a good friend, Kenny Malone joined me on this one. He's playing a weird ceramic drum that he built for himself. He called it Og, and there was a port in the top of it that he'd put his chin in and out of to change the tone of the drum. Odd and wonderful, like Kenny!
  • Stogies

    When I set out to record my first solo project, Brand New Old Tyme Way, which featured my original compositions on clawhammer banjo, I reached out to one of my bass heroes, Roy Huskey Jr to play bass on it. Bela, the producer, suggested we come up with a bass duet for the CD. In the middle of working up the number, we stepped out on the front stoop of my little house in East Nashville to partake in a couple of his tiparillos of which he was very fond. Thus the name!
  • The Falling Waters Of Arden

    I wrote this one warm summer afternoon while sitting out on my back deck in Crownsville, Maryland, watching the sprinkler go back and forth. I used the name of the neighborhood I live in, Arden on the Severn, to name this sweet, lyrical melody.
  • Calgary

    I wrote this while on a summer tour of Canadian Childrens Festivals with Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble. We had been asked to do an early morning TV spot to help promote the festival in Calgary, Alberta, and although it was July, there was a Canadian chill in the air. The Footworkers were dancing to warm up and I started to play along and this tune emerged.
  • Samolynn Waltz-Gypsy Dance

    When I first moved to Nashville around 1982 it was a scratch and a scrape for a while, which led me to selling hotdogs out of a cart in downtown one hot summer. I would often bring my mandolin to pass the time before the busy lunch hour and in one of these lulls I wrote the Samolynn Waltz for the wedding of friends Sam & Lynn Bush. Oddly enough, Gypsy Dance was written on the banjo, but it worked out well to play it on mandolin as a nice pairing with the waltz.
  • Lennie's Misfortune

    I wrote this around the time that my father, Leonard, was having a bit of minor surgery, thus the name. I later wrote a third part or "bridge" that was just a chord progression with no melody which provided harmonic contrast and freed up the band from the more restrictive nature of the fiddle tune to jam some. Jim Hurst and Casey Driessen took marvelous advantage of this while I stayed out of the way and provided just rhythmic and harmonic support.

Mark's Songs

I love to mold and express with words and have written a good number of poems over the years (check out my website, for a sampling of these). From time to time I've coupled this skill with my musical inclinations and have penned a pretty good handful of songs. Here are some of those.

  • The Devil's Game

    This is another tune that I wrote while playing for one of my wife's dance classes at Augusta workshops in Elkins, West Virginia. I later came up with these words while en route to a rehearsal with Jim Hurst, Missy Raines, and Casey Driessen that I had a great time touring with for a few years as Mark Schatz and Friends. Jim's singing this one with me taking the harmony duties.
  • The City of Baltimore

    My wife, Eileen, created a Footworks show called Steps and Stripes to help celebrate the 200th anniversary of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. Since it was written in the Baltimore Harbor there was an emphasis on Baltimore history and diversity. She asked me to write a song about southerners coming to the area for better jobs. This is exactly what her parents from East Tennessee had done, so I wrote this as a loosely biographical story about them. This performance was part of that show.
  • The Ties That Bind.mp3

    This is a song that I wrote for my folks' anniversary many years ago.
  • You Name the Baby mix.mp3

    One of Eileen's favorite old Flatfooters from Sugar Grove, NC, was Robert Dotson. If she and her friends would call and ask if he wanted to go to Slagle's Pasture (a hot spot for bluegrass and country dancing) he'd say "If you name the baby I'll buy her a dress!" I got to know him pretty well in his later years, and I happened to be driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains the same day they were laying him to rest and this song emerged.
  • Song for Carmit.mp3

    I wrote this for my younger brother's first child named Carmit who was born in Israel where he lived for many years. This was one of the fruits of my early engineering efforts on a 4-track cassette recorder. It's me, myself, and I on this one - I'm playing everything!
  • One Love.mp3

    I wrote this after breaking up with my first true love - ah, the pain! It's on Brand New Old Tyme Way and I'm playing mandolin on it. Bela, the producer, suggested having Alison Krauss sing harmony on it. I knew her fairly well since we were all in the Nashville acoustic music scene together. I had introduced her to Tony Rice when I was playing with him and she played a number of shows with us which was a thrill for her at the time. So she was happy to add her sweet voice to the song.
  • My East Tennessee Home.mp3

    I made the trip to Bluff City many times with my wife, Eileen, to visit her Aunt Fay who lived in a sweet little house that she and her husband, Jack had built themselves with timber from their property. When she was a child, Eileen and her mother and older brother would spend a good bit of time there every summer, and she would go back there regularly over the years because she loved her Aunt Fay and those Holston Mountains and hollers somehow felt like home to her. I wrote this for her.
  • Eileen's Waltz-Claire.mp3

    I wrote this melody many years before I wrote the lyrics, and included it as an instrumental on Steppin' In The Boiler House. After I wrote the words we played it briefly in The Claire Lynch Band, and I got a rough recording of it one night when we played at the legendary Station Inn in Nashville. Beautiful fiddle playing on here by Jason Thomas!
  • We Need a Good Time

    This was a co-write that I did with Eileen, also for the Steps and Stripes show. We wanted to reference the Royal Theatre which was one of the premier jazz venues on the East Coast in the '40's and '50's. You'll hear other Baltimore references like the McCormick spice plant and Sparrows Point Steel.

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