Mark Usvolk has his hands in a lot of different pies.
At an early age, Mark aspired to become an architect, but after his mom told him an architect that she had interviewed warned him that the profession paid poorly, Mark decided to shift gears and become a musician instead; arguably one of the worst paying professions in the modern world.
That sort of sound reasoning eventually led to other dubious decision later in his life when he and his wife, Roni decided to buy a run-down deli in Stone Ridge, NY and turn it into a Café, featuring live jazz. According to the most recent data, jazz is the least popular type of music in the United States followed by Dubstep, by far the worst music genre to date, consists of random noises from people screaming for hours on end. Some people ask, “what’s the difference?”
By now, Mark has demonstrated a remarkable lack of good judgement, at least in terms of sound business decisions. Does he eventually wise up? Read on…
Between 1972-1978, Mark attended North Texas State University (as it was known at the time) located in Denton, Texas, an hour north of his birthplace, Dallas. While attending NTSU, Mark maintained a job in Dallas teaching guitar, something he’d done since high school.
Upon receiving his degree in music, Mark joined an excellent 7-member funk/jazz/disco band comprised of other North Texas musicians and toured the western U.S., until eventually landing in Tucson. If one happens to land in Tucson during the winter and gets work as a musician, it’s as close to paradise as you’re gonna’ get. Until summer that is, when that pesky good judgement issue arises again.
One fine day, Mark realized that most likely, he’d never find a suitable wife/girlfriend on his musician/teacher’s salary, and he decided to give the architecture thing another look. He got the chance in 1986 to join forces with his cousin, Sandy, who was living outside of Woodstock, to build a house in Stone Ridge. Next, Mark built one on his own, learning how to design and build on the job. Ten years passed during which time Mark swung a hammer during the day and taught himself how to draw building plans, frame complex roofs, deal with construction guys while maintain a relationship. Did we mention that Mark met Roni and they were married on Cinco de Mayo, 1990? It appears that at least that particular strategy worked, Mark wasn’t a working musician during that time.
That changed in 1994 when Mark and Roni, along with their two dogs, Bert and Colonel, threw everything into a moving truck and with nothing lined up, headed back to Tucson to see what would happen. You know, just for grins. Roni immediately got a good job with State Farm, leaving Mark free to play music (the salsa scene was very strong), teach and eventually land a gig at a small architectural firm designing and producing CD’s (construction docs) for around 100 commercial and some residential projects. By that time Mark had additionally done maybe 100 residential projects on his own and had built a dozen or so homes.
Building slowed down in Tucson around 2010, so Mark decided that would be a good time to produce a video series of roof framing tutorials called VelociRafter using a computer-based 3D modeling program called Revit, along with a 64-page color booklet that teaches how to frame roofs using math. It’s also a good way to teach math concepts (geometry and trigonometry) in an applicable way. The problem is that most construction workers could give two hoots about learning math. In response, Mark developed an excel-based calculator that solves the roof cutting problem without having to learn any math. Anyone who wants a copy one should contact Mark.
Life in Tucson was going so well, Mark and Roni decided it was time to spoil it all by buying the Country Deli from her mom, Lydia, so in 2006, they loaded up the truck again, this time with their two cats, Morty and Zelda (Katz) and head back to Stone Ridge where the rest is history.
Mark landed a sweet gig(s) working with architects Kurt Sutherland, William Brinnier and together with his own clients, Mark has successfully completed around 300 residential projects in Tucson and upstate NY. It should be noted that Mark is NOT an Architect (hence MARK-ITECTURE), since he never went to school for it, but he basically does everything an architect does, plus he knows how to build, is proficient with Revit (the most advanced BIM program ever created), does real-time computer renderings and charges a lot less than most registered architects do. Yes, his plans get stamped and permitted.
In addition to architectural related activities and curating/hosting live music at Lydia’s, Mark still performs on bass with a couple of different bands, Bob’s Your Uncle (dance and R&B/pop band) and his sextet performing Mark’s original compositions with some extraordinary musicians. You can hear them from time to time at Lydia’s Café (where else?).
If you haven’t by now had enough of Mark Usvolk, you can check out his television interview with Thurman Greco (CLICK HERE)
or his radio interview with Rita Ryan (CLICK HERE).
Authors note: Anyone fooled by the use of third person in this or any bio, raise your hand. I guess it gives the presumption of modesty, since the biography is supposedly being told by an objective observer. Ha!