Mark Castellano – Guitar, Bass, Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, Banjo, Mandolin, Ukulele, Drums, Voice, Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet, Trumpet, & Trombone Teacher

Mark Castellano
Guitar, Bass, Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, Banjo, Mandolin, Ukulele, Drums, Voice, Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet, Trumpet, & Trombone

Mark Castellano


M.M Education, Concordia University

B.M Education, Metropolitan State University

B.M Composition, SUNY Purchase

Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, Metal, Blue, Reggae, Folk, Bluegrass

My teaching philosophy is that everyone can learn music. I started out being self-taught when I was 9. Since then, I have learned music from many great teachers such as Carmen Carrozza, a world renowned classical accordion performer and pianist; as well as countless other private teachers and professors. I use a mixture of their teaching to create my teaching style. 

 I have been teaching private music lessons for twenty-six years, taught music in public schools for four years, and do accompaniment for colleges and universities as well.

In my professional work as a musician, I am a guitarist, jazz pianist, composer, and spent seven years as the organ player for the Colorado Avalanche (including the 2022 Stanley Cup).  My composition work includes film scoring “Dinosaurs Take Flight,” a touring dinosaur exhibit, and composing/music directing an annual melodrama in Silver Plume, Colorado with folk legend George Downing.  As a performer, I have played touring rock bands, punk bands, gypsy jazz groups, and jazz quartets, trios, and duos.  I played guitar for a solo show in the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe Festival (the show won “Best Solo Show” at the Denver Fringe in 2021), and I have provided music for high-end events across the country.  I’ve also worked as a session player on many recordings, and studio guitarist for PBS.

I have a music composition degree from SUNY Purchase, a music education degree from Metropolitan State University, and a masters in Education from Concordia University.

My business stands out for both my many years of experience as a teacher, and my work as a professional musician.   I believe one impacts the other, and I am passionate about helping my students reach their goals in music.

When did you begin playing Guitar, and why?

The first instrument I learned was guitar.  I started playing guitar at age 9. My brother had a guitar that he bought; a super awesome black electric guitar. He told me not to touch it, so of course when  he was away at school I would play it. One day he came home early and caught me playing it. Instead of being mad he said, “Let me show you how to hold it and  play something.”  I thought to myself, “Wow, this is so fun. I’m going to do this for the rest of my life.”

What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?

I started playing piano at 16.  I thought I had a strong enough hold on guitar that I could use piano to build on another rhythm instrument. Then I started playing classical piano and jazz piano, and while I play rock and other styles, classical and jazz are my main interest. I used piano to get better at guitar and visa versa. Playing piano helped out my bass playing, too. I got into rock bands and Latin music on bass. 

After playing the bass I really wanted to ride drum parts so that I can bring them into my bands and tell the drummer exactly what I want it so I learned how to play drums. 

I played a lot of ska music in high school and they have saxophones and trumpets and trombones so I wanted to learn how to play those instruments in order to write for those instruments. 

I started playing the violin because I wanted to write violin and piano sonatas. 

Once I learn the violin I really wanted to write music for string quartets and that’s when I got into Cello and Viola. 

When in my K-12 teachers licensure we went over all of these instruments and I had already known enough about them that it was easy for me to teach Violin, viola, cello, bass, trumpet, trombone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute clarinet, oboe, and the percussion instruments.  

What are your personal goals as a musician?

I enjoy playing music like a snapshot of history. I was in a 20-40s Gypsy jazz group playing guitar. I like also enjoy composing. I recently finished writing violin and piano sonatas.  My next project is writing a hard-bop trio album.

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?

Correct staccato playing on piano with dynamics during fast runs.

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?

I had a teacher that with one helpful demonstration showed me how to play staccato notes correctly. I was shocked how easy it was to play and control dynamics much easier when playing from the triceps instead of the wrist or fingers or elbow. That changed the way I played piano forever.

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument

Playing the third movement of the moonlight sonata. I remember that was the piece that got me into playing piano. I wanted to learn it so bad, and it was so difficult.  It took me years! But I learned it and playing something as difficult as that piece made other pieces easier.  The next difficult piece I learned was another Beethoven piece titled the Waldstein sonata.

What is your biggest musical achievement?

I think playing the organ for the Colorado Avalanche was the biggest achievement–playing in front of 18,000 people a night, and millions when the games were televised.

Favorite thing about teaching?

I love when a student gets a difficult musical idea and you can see the lightbulb go off. I call that the “Eureka” moment!

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?

I don’t believe in talent. I believe in hard work and lots of practicing. If you are amazed with how a piece is played and you find yourself saying, “I could never do that,” remind yourself that these are humans playing music. It took them a lot of time to get where they are, and with diligence you can get there too. 

Personal music projects:

Deja Swing was my last band in Denver. You can find videos on YouTube and we are on Spotify. 

Before I left Denver I recorded 3 jazz songs with a singer. I used to play in Bianca and the Fly Boys; a 16-piece swing band, and a quartet, Moxie. I just got back from performing with my wife in Edinburgh at the Fringe Festival. She wrote a one-woman musical I played guitar for.  My next project is a hard-bop album I’m working on completing next year sometime.


Philly Music Lessons specializes in connecting students of all ages and skill levels with great teachers in the Philadelphia and Main Line areas.