Dr. Mark Sumner has been the Director of UC Berkeley Choral Ensembles and the UC Alumni Chorus for the past twenty years. Prior teaching includes positions at UC Santa Barbara and the University of Southern California. He is also a professional singer, conductor, actor and stage director—having performed with the Grammy Award-winning Los Angeles ensemble, Cappella, Los Angeles Chamber Singers, American Bach Soloists, SF Cappella, LA Opera, Dallas Civic Opera and LA Master Chorale. While in San Francisco, he has also served as the Director of Music at the historic First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Francisco for the past nineteen years.
A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mark has a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Southern California as well as degrees in music from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. He won the Gordon Getty Music Scholarship at USC and was also the recipient of a Distinguished Service Award from his hometown Board of Education (one of only two given in their history). In 2013, he served as the conductor of the Oklahoma All-State Chorus.
While in Los Angeles, Sumner performed on several motion picture soundtracks, sang with various professional ensembles, taught at Long Beach City, Pierce and Valley Colleges, and conducted several choirs throughout the region (positions in Thousand Oaks, Pacific Palisades, and Woodland Hills).
Bay Area projects have included the leading of performance tours to China, Russia, Cuba, Eastern Europe, England, France and Germany. More recently he has conducted 200 singing Carmina Burana with the Smuin Ballet; provided music for recent productions at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco; conducted acclaimed performances of VOICES OF LIGHT: THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (1928) at Bay Area venues: the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, and for Cal Performances in Berkeley; assisted with the Super Bowl Halftime Show in February; musically directed UCB productions of Hair! and, finishing last week, Rent; and is currently accompanying Morten Lauridsen and his music on an upcoming Italy tour, followed by the leading of his fourth performance tour to Transylvania, the birthplace of liberal religion.
Under his guidance, groups from Berkeley, such as the UC Mens Octet, California Golden Overtones, Noteworthy, BareStage and the Cal Jazz Choir, have won two successive Championships of Collegiate A Cappella and collectively average well over one hundred performances in a school year.
Besides music, Sumner is an active competitive tennis and duplicate bridge player filling his free time relaxing at home watching TCM. His favorite movie happens to be airing at this festival: THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (1943): “Being from the middle of the United States, I’m an unabashed, star-struck, classic movie fanatic. While in LA I made friends with a Hollywood Reporter film critic, Maxwell Hunter, hobnobbed with LA Film Critic Award recipients and cozied up to his step-mother, Irene Manning; you may remember her from the early to mid-40s Warner Brothers era. A side note: I was the winner (single-handedly I might add) of the Oscar Trivia contest hosted by Alex Trebek on his and my first TCM cruise in January, 2013!”