Student Spotlight: Mark Butto

By Beth Casteel

The whirring sounds of a coffee machine and the call of orders broke the peaceful atmosphere surrounding the students sitting at Viking Grounds.

Mark Butto, a freshman performance major with a specialization in jazz percussion, walked into the crowded café. After taking a seat, he eased his way into a half-hour conversation about his life at Cleveland State University.

He’s a busy guy. As a freshman music major, there’s a lot he’s still figuring out. Yet, he seems like he’s got a good grasp on what’s needed for his day-to-day life.  

“It’s tough, and it’s really hard to balance. Not only performing and practicing, but classes and academics as well. It’s almost impossible,” Butto said. “It’s definitely a transition from high school, but I’m just trying to have fun with it.”

While he’s busy, he allocates his time, balancing all of the activities he’s currently involved in.

As of right now, he’s in the Cleveland State Pep Band, where he plays drums during basketball home games, the jazz band and he also plays in a band for the school’s bible study group, Cru.

“I saw the Cleveland State Pep Band while I was in high school, maybe middle school, [and they are] the only pep band I’ve seen other than mine,” Butto said. “[I thought to myself that] when I go to college, I really want to do pep band, and oddly enough, I ended up here, I auditioned for the pep band, I got in and it’s fun.”

Butto doesn’t entirely come from a musical background, but he does credit his brother for teaching him to play the drums when he was 6 years old. In addition to growing up with his brother playing, he also grew up watching other people play in church.

“I do a little bit of [recording] with my brother,” Butto said. “We have a little band back home that we record with. We make contemporary church music. We’ve been recording in our basement — my brother’s been doing it for years.”

It wasn’t until he was around his freshman year of high school that he decided to pursue music as a career. Like with any major, he’s experienced a certain degree of questioning if it’s something he really wants to do with his life.

While Butto understands the difficulties of breaking into the music industry, he’s confident that things will work out in the end.

Butto is constantly trying to improve in any way he can to make his break into the music industry easier. He spends at least four hours a day listening, playing and watching music, as suggested by one of his professors.

He has a respect for all types of music, often listening to genres he may not particularly like, just to become a more well-rounded musician.

When he graduates, he plans to take his music career to an unconventional place: the ocean, working on a cruise ship.

“I want to play on cruise ships for a couple years. After that, whatever happens — maybe a gig in the city,” Butto said. “I really want to travel and just see the world while I can. Get out there, get playing experience, meet people, gain connections, just see the world and have fun. I’ve heard good and bad things about the cruise ship thing, but I want to go for it.”

Until he can pursue his goals of playing on a cruise ship and traveling, he’s trying to get more involved with the Cleveland music scene.

In order to do so, he goes to jazz clubs and jam nights to see his professors perform. While he’s not involved as much as he’d like to be, he tries to soak up any knowledge that he can get from people who are.

As a musician, he’s constantly learning, taking what he’s learned and  applying it to what he’s doing now.  

Butto hopes to one day start a jazz student organization to further support the music program and allow more students to play together here at Cleveland State.

“I come from a really small town, called Garrettsville, Ohio, and there’s not much there at all. [Cleveland’s] definitely different,” Butto said. “I feel like I’ve always fit better in the city, with  the drumming and stuff. I just love the culture.”

While he’s not completely sure of what the future will hold, he’s excited to find out and learn more along the way.

“There are a lot of drum teachers that are accessible to me [here],” Butto said. “I want to try to get lessons with as many people and meet as many people as I can.”

Mark Butto 2 (photo courtesy of mark butto)

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