I grew up in West Des Moines, Iowa and did my undergraduate degree at Luther College where I earned a B.A. in music education. Upon graduating, I taught for three years in Minnesota as an elementary music education specialist in the Rosemount and Lakeville public school districts. While there, I completed levels one and two of the Orff-Schulwerk certification. In 1996 I began graduate studies in historical musicology at the University of Colorado-Boulder, earning both M.M. and Ph.D. degrees. My doctoral dissertation was a study in musical semiotics using the quotation of hymn tunes in the music of American composer Charles Ives as a case study. During that period, I taught as an adjunct instructor at both Regis University in Denver and Front Range Community College in Westminster, Colorado. From 2003-2006, I taught as an adjunct professor here at Blackburn in the Department of Performing Arts, teaching music history courses to music majors. In 2014, I returned to Blackburn and began working in alumni relations and development.
As a musicologist, I have done seminar work in Medieval and Renaissance mensural notation systems, as well as in German Romanticism, American music, and post-tonal theory. My principal research area, however, is in American classical music from the period between the end of the Civil War to the end of WWII. In 2009, I published a peer-reviewed book on the Third Symphony of Charles Ives, using it as a means to examine changing American attitudes towards modernism from the turn of the century when it was written through 1946 when it eventually premiered. That work is volume six in the CMS Sourcebooks in American Music series. Additionally, I have presented papers at conferences of the Society for American music and the Society for Music Theory.
Since transitioning into alumni/development work I have had the pleasure of helping develop a culture of philanthropy, both on campus and among our alumni and friends. I work collaboratively with the Institutional Advancement staff to make Blackburn as affordable as possible for families through fundraising and alumni engagement. In my current role, I am chiefly responsible for administering the Gideon Blackburn Fund, which is our principal annual giving program and the cornerstone of our development effort. Additionally, I write on alumni engagement and fundraising on my professional blog at http://www.markazobel.com
Why I am at Blackburn
In my parents’ generation, a college education cost about as much as a low-end car. Today, it averages as much as a house. At a time when college costs are spiraling out of control, outpacing inflation by nearly 2:1, I am intensely motivated to look for solutions so that going to college does not thrust the next generation of leaders into a permanent state of debt peonage or, worse, become the sole purview of the uber-wealthy. Thomas Paine once observed that, for a democracy to thrive, it needs both a populace that is willing to take on the responsibilities of self-governance, and also one that is educated enough to make prudent decisions in the political process. This means that education is critical, not only to the quality of our national discourse, but the very future of the republic. College costs need to be within the reach of the general citizenry, and I am at Blackburn because I believe we have the solution for the 21st century. Through our student-managed work program, and the generosity of our alumni and friends, we are able to offer a high tuition discount rate. We are far and away the most affordable private liberal arts college in the state of Illinois, and our students’ debt loads upon graduation are about half the national average. Not only that, but we have a 97.5% job placement rate, based on a 98% response rate to our exit surveys. Those are numbers we can stack up against any college or university in the country. Simply put, I am at Blackburn because we are getting the job done!