Mark Armstrong was born in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne but brought up in Amersham where he attended Dr Challoner’s Grammar School. took a degree in Music at Oxford University and attended the postgraduate course in jazz and studio music at the Guildhall School of Music, gaining an LGSM in Jazz.
Mark’s playing career has included a wide variety of styles and genres. He was a member of Clark Tracey’s Quintet for seven years, recording two albums, The Calling (2003) and The Mighty Sas (2006) and played regularly with Clark’s father Stan Tracey, recording with Stan on his final quintet album The Flying Pig (2013) and with Stan’s big band live from the 2006 Appleby jazz festival as well as performing with the big band at the 2009 BBC Proms. Mark’s work as a sideman has also seen him playing Latin Jazz with Robin Jones’s Sextet, Mainstream and traditional jazz with the Pasadena Roof Orchestra and bebop with Peter Long’s Gillespiana in which the Times’s Alyn Shipton described his playing as “pirouetting through Gillespie’s breaks quicker than a hummingbird’s wings” and John Fordham of the Guardian described him as “the solo star of the outfit”. Mark was nominated in the best trumpet category of the 2007 Ronnie Scott Jazz Awards. Mark still performs regularly as a jazz trumpet player: as a member of the Ronnie Scott Jazz Orchestra and in his own quartet, which released the Album Coastbound in 2010.
Mark’s career as a conductor began at Oxford where he helped to resurrect the Oxford University Big Band. After joining the National Youth Jazz Orchestra he was asked by founding Music Director Bill Ashton to act as his assistant, a position he maintained for almost 15 years before being appointed as NYJO’s Artistic and Music Director in 2011. Since this appointment the orchestra has recorded its first studio album for many years, The Change, and appeared at the 2012 BBC Proms concerts: one of the few Proms to be televised that year, and the London Jazz Festival in 2012 and 2013.
Mark’s additional education work includes his position as Jazz Professor at the Royal College of Music, which combines academic lecturing and practical coaching and tuition, lecturing in composition at the London Centre of Contemporary Music, and teaching the trumpet at James Allen’s Girls’ School. Mark is also a jazz moderator and trainer, and both main panel and jazz examiner for the ABRSM.
Mark is a past winner of the BBC Big Band Competition arranging prize, and many of his big band compositions can be heard on recent NYJO albums. A recent commission, the Solstice Suite for big band was performed at the 2009 North Sea Jazz Festival. He writes a wide range of arrangements and compositions from choral music to symphony orchestra.
Mark lives in South East London with his wife, conductor Elinor Corp and children Rosie, Henry and Lucy.