WILLIAMSBURG — “Tunes in Town” is an occasional series that will catch up with some of the local musical talents that call Hampton Roads home.
Mark Calhoon comes from a family whose only musical experience was listening to the stereo. That said, there were two shows in particular that ignited the music spark in Calhoon, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour and Johnny Carson’s TV show.
“I saw these guys playing drums and I thought ‘this is awesome’. They got me excited about music,” Calhoon recalls.
Once in school, Calhoon picked up the trumpet, played baritone and French horn in the school band, and at the age of 13, Calhoon’s parents bought him his first guitar.
During college, Calhoon got tricked into auditioning for the New Virginians, a traveling band from Virginia Tech. The 11-piece, 22-singer-and-dancer show band traveled around the country performing and Calhoon was a member of the band for two years.
“Music was just always a way to express myself. I wasn’t a writer, not a poet, but I think with music it’s about the interplay with other budding musicians. You can always make chords and harmonies. Whether you are playing trumpet, trombone, or guitar, playing with other musicians is just amazing to me, especially when you hear the sounds that come out,” Calhoon said.
Calhoon travels throughout the Hampton Roads area playing gigs. His set list ranges from music from the 1960s through today, but what he enjoys most is the requests from show attendees.
“The vast majority of stuff that I play is often suggested by someone in the crowd. 80% of my setlist is stuff that people suggested because it takes them back to a special moment in their life,” Calhoon said.
Through music, he has learned many important lessons. According to Calhoon, the most important is discipline.
“If you want to be good at music, you have to be disciplined and just work at the craft. But at the same time, passing on the music you’ve learned and sharing your love for the art with others is a huge part of why I do what I do,” Calhoon said.
While Calhoon has played all over the country and up and down the Eastern seaboard, he enjoys the behind-the-scenes of taking in new places and faces the most. That said, he’d love to open up for any group as a solo artist.
“I’ve played for presidents, I’ve played for governors, I’ve played for the General Assembly. I haven’t opened up for anyone as a solo artist, so that would probably be the last thing on my bucket list with music. I’ve just enjoyed playing in all different venues, from New Jersey to South Carolina. It’s just fun playing, seeing new places, and meeting new people,” Calhoon said.
For Calhoon, as long as he loves what he is doing, he’ll continue doing it.
“When this is no longer fun, that’s when I stop playing. It’s been 50 years and it’s still fun, people keep coming back to see me, they still like hearing the songs I play, it’s still fresh and people still really appreciate it,” Calhoon said.
For more information on Calhoon and his upcoming gigs, visit Mark Calhoon – Acoustic Tunesmith on Facebook.