Mark was born in Hexham in August 1972 the son of a nurse and civil servant. He was joined by a baby sister in 1974, the year his family moved to Hartlepool following a promotion at work for his father.
He attended St Aidan’s Primary school before moving to Fens Junior school and then later Manor Comprehensive. First musical influences were what he could find in his parent’s record collection and as for a lot of us, it was the music of the Beatles. His father had a love of music playing keyboards or bass in many local bands around Hexham as well as playing organ in Hexham’s Fandango’s night club. So Mark was born into a household appreciative of music and its performance, which allowed the family garage to become the future rehearsal room for many of the bands Mark would become a member of. Mistaken Identity, The Washing Machines, Jutty Road and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes to name but a few!!
Mark's first introduction to playing a musical instrument at junior school was less successful. Handed a violin he just didn’t take to it which was surprising considering his heritage!! His Great Great Grandfather Joseph Campbell Senior was a child virtuoso, on stage from the age of 7 Joseph became orchestra leader at Newcastle Empire Theatre and later Musical Director at South Shields Empire. Probably Joseph’s Irish roots led to him being such a great fiddle player and possibly Mark’s interest in the Irish Bodhran drum.
Joseph’s son Charles, Mark’s Great Uncle, however, took to the violin with ease. Taking the stage name Jimmy Campbell, he played violin for the BBC as well as music hall’s and theatres across the United Kingdom. Jimmy brought together his own orchestra and became resident Musical Director at the Dublin Theatre Royal from 1935 till it closed in 1962 conducting for all the great names of the time from Judy Garland to George Formby!
At Manor Mark’s love for classical music began and he would always recall the first piece of classical music his teacher Gavin Smith played to his class. This had a phenomenal impact on Mark then and throughout his life, that piece was Holst’s Planet Suite. At Manor he was introduced to percussion and took to it effortlessly, he played largely by ear and natural instinct while getting to grips with reading music. This natural rhythmic ability is what made Mark a great player and gave him a very reliable reputation of being called upon at late notice to fill in for different band performances. Gavin Smith had been a renown Jazz trumpet player which again gave Mark a keen love for jazz music.
Mark moved onto Hartlepool VIth form for music A Level and under the influential teaching of Stephen Sild, Mark was introduced to composition and singing!! He took private singing lessons with Stephen’s wife Gillian Marshall and gained his Grade 8 in singing!! Hartlepool VIth Form was a place where music and performance thrived. Having already been a member of Hartlepool senior Wind Band and Hartlepool Youth Orchestra, Mark now joined the college orchestra and choir and took part in the thrice annual dramatic performances the college took on, along with the annual choir concert and Christmas choir performance. He even took the role of Major General Stanley in the college's production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance.
The support and encouragement Mark received at Hartlepool VIth form gave him the confidence to follow his dream and apply to music school. He was accepted by Birmingham Conservatoire and took time there to develope his composition as well and percussion. Here he experienced the whole range of percussion instruments and took to the marimba. Much inspired by Sir Simon Rattle, the then President, and also by Dame Evelyn Glennie, both of whom he met and performed with while at the Conservatoire.
He discovered a passion of African drumming and formed his own drumming group Afro Dizzy Act and they went off on an exchange visit to the Paris Conservatoire. Having also met with film students from Birmingham Polytechnic, Mark tried his hand at film score composition which he continued throughout his life and had some of his film music premiere at Canne and London Picadilly.
A piece he composed while at university, Schindler, was performed in a Composers Concert in Symphony Hall, to great acclaim. His Requiem was performed in December 2017 by Hexham Orpheus choir having had its premiere at Mark’s own funeral.
Following University Mark wanted a career in music and decided to enlist in the British Army. After his basic training in 1996 at ATR Bassingbourne in Cambridgeshire, he went on to study at the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall. Here he was awarded the Denis Brady prize for Percussionist of the year and the Boosey & Hawks medal for Musician of the year and Best All Round Pupil. He performed a solo at the prize giving concert and selected to play Evelyn Glennie’s piece A Little Pray on marimba.
Mark served with the Royal Artillery for 7 years based at Woolwich barracks. Along with numerous performances, Mark also managed the most comprehensive music library which contained numerous historically significant documents worth millions. Mark also led his section in what was then the busiest British Army Band. They played at all sorts of events including the Rugby World Cup, Champions league finals, the Queen’s garden parties, gun salutes, changing of the guards, Spike Miligan’s appearance on the Terry Wogan show and the Queen Mothers funeral.
While living in Woolwich Mark also took on some tutoring at Cleevepark School in Kent and Woolwich College in London.
Mark returned home to Northumberland in 2003 and followed his love of the outdoors by becoming an Archery instructor at Broomley Grange Residential Centre. He took up positions at the Hexham and Corbridge Carboot fairs and Hexham Queens Hall, all part time so he could commit to musical projects alongside. He also continued to tutor percussion, this time at Durham University.
He continued to compose for stage and screen and helped out with many bands including the Prudhoe Community Band, Peterlee Brass Band and Tyne Valley Big Band, where he became a permanent member. Led by jazz trumpet player Dave Hignett, Dave and the members of Tyne Valley Big Band have been tremendous supporters of the foundation and continue to offer their support along the way. They have had a pair of drum sticks dedicated to Mark, which they place on the stand for every rehearsal and concert to keep Mark’s memory very much alive.
Mark was a very humble and modest gentleman, he would never have told you of his achievements and even those who were close to him are still amazed when they hear of all he achieved in his short life. He passed away in August 2017 at just the age of 45. He would be overwhelmed by the support everyone has given to the foundation in his name and would whole heartedly agree with its aims and thank you from the bottom of his heart for your support.