Mark Spence, Freelance Musician and Music Teacher

Comments (0) Day in the Life

Mark’s days as a music teacher are a melodic mix of tutoring drums, instructing percussion, writing music and directing bands across the Hastings.

Right now he’s also busy preparing young musicians for the Big Band Blast, which kicks off on Friday 2nd June, showcasing local talent and visiting high profile entertainers.

“I teach and play drums. A lot of drums. I teach privately at both St. Joseph’s Regional and MacKillop College, as well as run my own private studio, Coastal Drum Academy,” said Mark.

His days are kept busy at the Catholic High Schools with senior and junior percussion ensembles, and he writes and directs the cross-campus drum line, the Port Macquarie Vanguard.

“I am the percussion instructor for the Year 5 music program at St. Columba Anglican School, and teach the side drummers for the Hastings District Pipe Band.”

The music keeps playing after hours, as Mark spends many weekends on the road playing guitar and singing with his own indie-garage-pop outfit, Royal Chant.

Mark believes if you do everything with passion, curiosity, and humility, you can’t go wrong. He describes himself as a massive drum geek. From the age of 11, he studied music and took to the stage with advanced performing organisations.

This study took him to Georgia State University, studying English Literature and Jazz Percussion.

On arrival in Port Macquarie, Mark credits two people for recognising his training as a freeline jazz drummer and offering him a stepping stone to where he is now. Sharon Green, director of bands for St. Agnes’ Parish Secondary Schools, and Geoff Kearns from Coastal Music.

“It’s very important to remember that playing music and teaching music are entirely different things,” said Mark.

“You’ve got to know your instrument inside and out, and make a concerted effort to stay up to date with new aspects of playing and teaching.”   

For Mark, teaching drums often involves moments of pure joy. He also has some fun by making kids do push-ups at drum line rehearsal when they make a mistake.

“Most important of all, we have to listen: to what the students are telling us, either verbally or non-verbally, and always keeping in mind that our job is to give them an achievable goal to reach and then help them find the ways and means to do it.”

The best part of his day is when he sees a student improving right before his eyes.

“I love Wednesday afternoons, when we have our drum line rehearsal and the sound is massive and everything is clicking at a high-calibre. It is really quite impressive.

“There’s something about Port Macquarie that has made me never want to leave – the beaches, the size of the town, the pace of things. You can stay really busy and involved if you want, and there’s always something exciting to do.”

The weekend of the 2nd June will have something for everyone, with 30 big bands, four stages and free entertainment, so Mark recommends getting out to feel the beats of the Big Band Blast. More info at


5:45am – Walk Daisy along the breakwall, go skating at the skatepark – if there’s not too many young whipper-snappers around to make me feel my age.

7:30am – Percussion Ensemble Rehearsal at St. Joseph’s Regional College or MacKillop College, or Concert Band Rehearsal at St. Joseph’s Regional.

9:00am – Private lessons at St. Joseph’s Regional or MacKillop.

10:00am – On Thursdays I have adults ballet class at Coastal Dance, then teach Year 5 Music at St. Columba.

3:30pm – Private Lessons at my personal studio space, Coastal Drum Academy. Wednesday is Drum Line rehearsal.

6:00pm – Monday nights I teach young drummers from Hasting District Pipe Band.

6:30pm – Wednesday is social tennis comp at T’s Tennis.

7:00pm – Rehearsals with Royal Chant some nights.

9:00pm – Cook dinner and read until falling asleep.

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