Secret lives of our profs

Jamie Gajewski

Last Halloween, Professor Mark Urness dressed up in a lobster costume made by his mother and lectured to a class of ten Mark Urness clones of varying heights and genders. This year, Professor Urness dressed up as Darth Vader, perhaps to prove once more that the bass has a dark side, or perhaps because his stature creates the perfect Darth Vader silhouette.
Professor Urness, an assistant professor of music and teacher of string bass, came to Lawrence in 2003 and does not plan on leaving anytime soon. He finds Lawrence to be a great fit, with Lawrence’s focus on individualized learning mirroring his personal teaching philosophy.
Professor Urness teaches his students to make decisions rather than force technique. “I teach them multiple ways that successful bassists approach fingerings and stance.” Rather than forcing students to assimilate to a specific method, he provides tools to aid his students’ habits.
Originally from Platteville, Wis, Urness attended the University of Northern Iowa for his undergraduate education and obtained his Master’s of Music at the University of Cincinnati. As a freshman at Northern Iowa, Urness took a course called “Humanities” that resembles Lawrence’s Freshman Studies program.
Although Professor Urness has not been able to teach Freshman Studies due to the insanity of the Conservatory, he has given the lecture on Coltrane’s “Alabama” for the last three years and harbors hopes of teaching the course next year.
Urness’s studio boasts 10 bassists from both classical and jazz backgrounds. He describes the group as, “a nice mix of different players.” Unlike other Conservatories, the studio is not solely comprised of bass performance majors. However, Urness would like to see a few more performance majors in his studio in the future and hopes to increase the studio to 14 players.
Recently, Urness has played two concerts at Red and White with Lawrence’s own Dane Richeson. Urness admitted that it is “nice to have a place in town other than Lawrence to play at.” He is also working on a solo jazz CD that he hopes to have out by springtime.
When not teaching or practicing, Urness spends time playing with his four-year-old daughter and caring for his two-week-old son. He also represents the Conservatory on the Public Occasions Committee, which selects Convocation speakers and Honorary Degree recipients.
In ten years, Urness hopes to still be teaching at Lawrence. He feels very fortunate to be part of the faculty at an institution that challenges him with a creative energy.