Today’s Feature – June 8-9: Mark Crowder

June 9, 2008 at 9:53 pm (Today's Feature)

Ladies and gentleman, meet the winner of this year’s Indiana University “Campus Superstar,” Mr. Mark Crowder. Fresh out of Indianapolis, Crowder came into this year’s competition prepared for victory, past competitions chalked up to experience; the knowledge that became an integral part of his triumph. Singing Beyonce’s “Listen,” Crowder won over the entire campus with both his vocal ability and his outstanding showmanship.

Crowder looks to a gospel style to inspire his own singing, which makes sense. His soft yet powerful voice matches up vividly. He’s been working on it for most of his life, even attending the prestigious Indiana University School of Music (which was #1 in the nation at the time) with a full scholarship. Even in high school, Mark was known as the guy brought in to hit the notes no one else could hit.

Music has always been there for Crowder, and he knows no matter what direction his life may take as he moves on after college, whether its music or business, that song will always be there. He says of music, “It’s nice to know you’re good at something when those days come when you feel like everything else in your life is not working.”

Don’t be surprised if some day in the not so distant future you start noticing his name popping up on iTunes or at your local record shop. And if you ever get to see him perform, you’ll see for yourself that he puts everything he can into every tune. Get into the XXQ’s to learn more.

XXQs: Mark Crowder

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get interested in performing and singing?

Mark Crowder (MC): My mom usually teases me about coming out of the womb screaming my own little tune, so I guess I would have to say from my first breath. There is something beautiful about music that I can’t explain. There is probably nothing of this world that equals its value to me.

PEV: Do remember the first time you ever performed in front of a crowd? What was going through your head?

MC: Well, I don’t remember the first time I had to be in front of people, but fortunately my parents got it on camera. I was about three years old, and it was time for the Christmas program at church. I was fine during rehearsals, but when it came to actually do it I was kicking and screaming and refusing to go up there. I ended up not going up on the platform. It’s especially funny though because my Dad is holding the camera and trying to get a hold of me at the same time so you see nothing but the floor and camera flailing about as my Dad tries desperately to get me to calm down. My mom couldn’t help at the time because she was up at the front of the church trying to help the other children.

Besides that, I don’t really ever remember having actual stage fright. Everyone gets some butterflies when they go up in front of people, but I’ve never been actually afraid to get up in front of people. In fact, I’ve always loved it. I guess it’s in my blood.

PEV: Born in Madison, Wisconsin, and growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana, what kind of music were you listening to?

MC: I’ve always listened to gospel. That is definitely what I listen to about 99% of the time. Now back when I was in high school, I did start listening to a lot of rap and R&B. But even then, I still listened to gospel the majority of the time. Now, because of my vast musical taste, I could be caught listening to anything from swing, classical, jazz, a tiny bit of country, or rock. I like rock. Especially Punk and some Emo. And then I will listen to the occasional R&B song if it’s appropriate to listen to. I never listen to rap anymore.

PEV: You attended the prestigious Indiana University School of Music (which was number 1 in the nation at the time) with a full scholarship and later transferred to IUPUI. What were your earlier days performing and taking classes like at that level? Was it a hard adjustment?

MC: It was extremely difficult for me because I had no previous experience in classical music. Personally, I had never had vocal lessons and I had been singing very hard and very high my entire life so my voice muscles were not nearly as strong as some of the other that had been singing correctly almost since they could talk. I was surrounded by individuals who had been taking vocal lessons for years. Some of them had been performing nationally since they were very young; and some of the other students would already now them by name. So it was definitely something I was not used to. That being said, I never had the chance to perform classically in front of others in a performance or otherwise through the school. The classical school doesn’t put you in front of people unless you are ready. Since my vocal technique was none existent, they did not want me to embarrass myself or try to do more than I was vocally ready for.

Also, I felt kind of like the hot shot vocalist at my school. We had great vocalists Matt Preston, Paul Lahr, Peter Scarborough, and Anthony Johnson. But if the note in the music was very high, everyone knew if no one else could hit it, I could hit it. I was even given parts in musicals simply because the directors wanted me to impress people with my vocal ability. So, even though I came on full ride and obviously I would not have received that scholarship if I did not have talent, I still felt at the bottom of the totem pole because everyone was better than me.

PEV: Was there a certain point when you realized that music was going to be a critical part of your life?

MC: I’ve always felt music would be a critical part of my life. I have had so many different goals and my career path has changed so many times in the past five years, but music has always been a constant. It’s nice to know you’re good at something when those days come when you feel like everything else in your life is not working.

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist (alive or deceased) who would it be and why?

MC: Probably Israel Houghton. He is a gospel singer that writes fabulous music. I adore His love for God, his passion, and his ability to create music anyone would feel like dancing to.

PEV: In all your travels, which city do you think offers the best scene for music?

MC: Well, I don’t think there is any city that helps you get further along than any other. If there had to be one, probably Nashville, Tennessee. But for the most part, everywhere is going to be a challenge. If you are in a small town or a town that is not known for producing musicians you may be one of a few artists trying to get noticed. So although there is less action going on in that arena, there are less musical options to choose from. If you go to Nashville, New York, or Los Angeles, it seems like everyone and their baby’s momma is a singer. So it depends more on you than your location.

PEV: Having lost two years prior, at the annual contest at Indiana University the “Campus Superstar” did you feel a little nervous about going at it yet again? Or was it a “third’s time a charm” attitude?

MC: There was a “third time’s a charm” attitude and also a little fear as well. I was much more level headed this time around. I understood the competition better. The fact remains that no matter how great of a performance you have in this contest, there is still the possibility of losing because another contestant can bring a lot of people that are going to be loyal to vote for them. So you have to do well enough to not only get in the top five, but also recruit some of the neutral people in the audience and then hope that’s enough. I realized that I had a good chance of winning because I was singing “Listen” by Beyonce, which is a phenomenal song. I also had a lot of experience with the competition and other big competitions so I was prepared for the nervousness feelings that would inevitably attack before performing. I was also aware of how important it was to win over the crowd and just flat out perform well instead of entirely focusing on my vocals. So these were all points that I possibly had a better grasp of than the other contestants simply due to my previous experience with the contest.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Mark Crowder performance?

MC: I’m always going to come out strong. Fans know that they are always going to want to jump up and get involved when I sing – not because I’m such a great singer, but I like to believe that I put my entire self into each song.

PEV: Before a show, are there any pre-show rituals you do or is just go out there and perform?

MC: I just go out and perform. Nothing special.

PEV: Any embarrassing or funny live performance stories?

MC: Once in high school during our second musical performance of “Oklahoma”, I completely forgot the words and just had to pretend like nothing had happened. I just kept on dancing and starting singing the first verse over again so that those in the audience would not think anything had happened unless they knew the song extremely well. Once back stage, I crumpled to the floor. They called my choir director from the sound booth to come comfort me because I was so upset that I had messed up. I like my performances to be perfect and the audience to leave completely in awe. Fortunately, very few people said that they had noticed anything out of the ordinary. So I guess I fooled people pretty well….or not. Who knows!

PEV: Tell us, what is the BEST part about college life?

MC: The freedom! I am so glad there is no regimen of classes to follow. You can show up or skip. It is your choice. Very much like life. You can be the 9am to 5pm kind of guy if you would like. Or you can be the 10am to 12pm and 3pm to 9pm kind of guy. Whatever you want. It is up to you.

PEV: Is there an up and coming artist out right now that you think we should all be looking into?

MC: Me! Well, if you like gospel music of if you simply like to hear a nice voice or be uplifted feel free to join the fan club and be apart of the Mark Crowder revolution.

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Mark Crowder?

MC: Ummm, I’m really weird. People see that I dress nice and sing so they think that I would automatically be one of the popular people. I guess I am in a way, but mostly I try my best to be friends with everyone and then, of course, I have my couple of little quirks.

PEV: What is currently in your CD player or on your iPod right now?

MC: Nothing. I haven’t listened to much of anything just coming off of finals. But the last several artists I listened to were Donnie McClurkin, Marvin Sapp, Usher, and Story of the Year.

PEV: After graduating from college, do you plan to pursue music more?

MC: Yes. I hope to get signed by a label or at least keep music a lucrative hobby.

PEV: When you are performing or attending classes, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

MC: I watch too many movies. I also enjoy hanging with my friends a lot. I love investing in people and letting them invest in me.

PEV: In one word, describe Mark Crowder.

MC: Happy.

PEV: So, what is next for Mark Crowder?

MC: Well, I am not sure really. I will be some touring this summer with my cd as well as working full time. So I might decide to focus more on business or pursue music upon graduation in the fall. I have a graduate school offer from Yale University so I have also considered applying there. It all depends. All I know is that I will be happy and pleasing the Lord in whatever I do. As Israel’s song says, “To worship You I live!”

For more information on Indiana University’s Campus Superstar, check out www.iuhillel.org

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