The playlist of Archbald native Marko Marcinko’s musical career includes multiple genres, but his true passion is jazz music.
That passion led him to developing an enduring summer festival in Scranton, the Scranton Jazz Fest, which begins today and lasts all weekend. This year’s festival does not require tickets to any performance, though donations are encouraged.
Since he was young, music has been a staple in Marcinko’s life. His father, Pat Marcinko Jr., was a performer and composer and a music educator, working at the Archbald High School, Scranton Central High School and the Scranton School District.
“We grew up hearing a lot of music in the house. My older brothers and sisters are musicians as well for that reason. It’s a musical family with a long tradition of being involved in music,” said Marcinko.
Marcinko’s earliest musical memory is his attempt to play a song he heard from television on the piano from memory. At age 4, he began taking piano and drum lessons, eventually branching out into other instruments. Now, he mostly plays the drums, keyboard, trombone and other percussion instruments. Marcinko was trained across the musical spectrum, including in music theory and harmony, as well as a slew of instruments.
Marcinko graduated Valley View High School in 1988 and then attended the University of Miami, where he studied music instrumental performance and jazz studies, graduating in 1993. Then, he founded a band called Active Ingredients, which toured in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Florida. Marcinko then went on to work with the renowned jazz trumpet player Maynard Ferguson for three years.
In 1999, Marcinko became a member of the Dave Liebman Group and Dave Liebman Big Band, an award-winning, Grammy-nominated jazz group, and worked with them for 20 years.
Marcinko is also the director of jazz studies at Penn State University’s main campus and continues to play with his own band, The Marko Marcinko Latin Jazz Quintet, and with other musicians across the country.
“As you’re going along, it doesn’t matter how old are or when you started, as you keep going and adventuring further into the music and with the music, you’re constantly growing,” said Marcinko.
Jim Buckley of Scranton has watched Marcinko’s talent grow over the years. He’s a family friend and a mentor of Marcinko’s, as well as a Jazz Festival musician and educator with the Jazz Camp for the festival.
Even during Marcinko’s early years, Buckley described Marcinko’s wonder surrounding all things musical.
“It’s like watching a sports athlete that was great in high school, great in college, and they just become a pro. They get better and better at their game, that’s what Marko is,” said Buckley.
Marcinko loves jazz in particular because it allows for the most creativity and offers a unique connection to the American experience.
“It’s truly American and a depiction of democracy. You see them (a jazz band) negotiate harmony, melody and rhythm, they play off one another, they share with one another. Democracy is supposed to be that way,” said Marcinko.
Outside Marcinko’s musical accolades, the Scranton Jazz Festival is incredibly important to Marcinko, not only as a performer, but one of its founders.
The Scranton Jazz Festival started in 2005 and, with the exception of last year due to COVID-19, and has been bringing music to the streets of Scranton ever since.
“We didn’t have a jazz festival in this area and many other cities in Pennsylvania all have jazz festivals. Scranton didn’t and it seemed appropriate to have this festival,” said Marcinko.
What started out as a one-day concert at Nay Aug Park quickly grew into a three-day festival encompassing all of downtown Scranton.
This year, Marcinko and those involved with the festival have created QR codes for festival goers to scan at different venues for information about sponsors, venues, what time artists are playing and information on artists themselves in lieu of a physical program book.
“We’re using technology to our advantage at this year’s festival, where we were never able to do that in year’s past,” said Marcinko.
The festival will take place through Sunday in downtown Scranton, with fireworks on Saturday. For a full schedule, visit www.scrantonjazzfestival.org.