Baltimost: Mark Osteen, co-founder Baltimore Jazz Alliance, vice president Baltimore Chamber Jazz Society

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Credit: Kris Faatz.

Baltimost is a Baltimore Fishbowl feature series that asks locals what they love about their city. The idea is to celebrate Baltimore and the people who make it so unique.

So what makes Baltimore the Baltimost to you? It could be a favorite place, a great meal, a memorable interaction or something else entirely. Email suggestions to Karen at [email protected]

Mark Osteen, 65, is co-founder Baltimore Jazz Alliance and vice president Baltimore Chamber Jazz Society.

In his words: “When you go to a jazz performance, it’s a different show every night. Art is unfolding before your eyes in that second. It’s never going to come back again. You’re catching art on the fly. You get to see musicians and artists working together to create something bigger than they are.

I also like that jazz spans different ages and races. It’s really America’s only indigenous art form. We should be proud of that, proud of that heritage.  

I grew up in tiny Libby, Montana. We had music in our house all the time. Both my parents were singers. I started piano lessons when I was 7, sax in fifth grade. I played in the big bands at the University of Montana, and with rock bands after college.

I came to Baltimore in 1988 when I got a job as an English professor at Loyola University Maryland. They were putting together a student jazz ensemble and I asked if I could be part of it. They didn’t have any other faculty members, but they let me join. I still play with the Loyola jazz ensemble, but now there are other faculty members too.  

Around 2003, I formed the Baltimore Jazz Alliance with a few other jazz musicians and fans. Within six months, I was president, and I had that role for 12 years.   

In Baltimore, there are more good musicians than there are places to play. We wanted to bring together Baltimore musicians and expand the audience. We’re trying to get across the idea that if we come together, there are bigger audiences for everyone. 

We made a couple of compilation CDs of Baltimore artists and released a book of original compositions by Baltimore musicians. I’ve been playing jazz in Baltimore for 25 years. So many clubs start and then go out of business, but now there seems to be a resurgence. 

I’m also vice president of the Baltimore Chamber Jazz Society, now in its 28th year. We have five concerts every year, always on Sundays in the Baltimore Museum of Art auditorium. The acoustics there are just marvelous. 

Sax is still my main instrument. About 20 years ago, I became a founding member of the Cold Spring Jazz Quartet. We play about three times a year at Germano’s, among other places. I’m also still with the Loyola Jazz Ensemble.  

What do I love about Baltimore? The live jazz, of course. You can find five or six jam sessions any week. Keystone Korner, which opened in April in Harbor East, brings in local and national artists, as does An die Musik. Caton Castle has been carrying the torch for 20 years or more.”

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