Music Instruction

MS_instruction-page“Mark has a passion and talent for teaching – he sincerely enjoys getting through to the student, and is talented at gearing his explanations to the knowledge level and learning style of the student.

He cares about your progress, and is very approachable – you never feel stupid telling Mark that you do not “get” some aspect of music. He clearly enjoys finding a way to get through to you so that you can progress.”
Carolyn Joyce – professional vocalist, theory student

PhilosophyI believe in crafting an individualized program for each student. Whether you are an absolute beginner or a professional musician, we will work together to help realize your goals. There are often many different ways for the mind to process new information. I encourage my students to use whatever method of thinking that works best for them.

  • Areas of study
  • Reading the grand staff
  • Piano technique and exercises
  • Theory
  • Chord and scale relationships
  • Vertical and Horizontal Harmony
  • Harmonic analysis as applied to tunes
  • How to read a chart
  • Improvisation concepts and exercises


Mark’s interest in the piano began in the Chicago area at the age of seven, learning familiar melodies from friends and listening to his older brother Fred practice. The rule in the Simon house was no lessons before age ten; however Mark offered to do extra chores in exchange for being able to start lessons at age nine with Ruth Greene.

Mrs. Greene offered Mark his first insights into theory and chord structure. Mark would often re-arrange endings, frustrating his teacher. She told Mark “If Mozart had wanted it played that way, he would have written it that way!” She was very supportive of Mark’s interest in composition and improvising, allowing him to perform one composition or improvised piano piece along with one piece of classical music at the piano parties she held for her students.

Sadly, Ruth Greene died while Mark was sixteen years old leaving him in search of a new teacher. He settled on lessons with Lillian Simone (who studied directly under Bela Bartok) and her son Nicholas. Lillian would check in on Mark once a month, while her son Nicholas would train Mark weekly. In this environment, Mark developed a solid foundation in technique and interpretation.

While playing with the Evanston Township High School jazz band, Mark decided to study with jazz piano teacher Alan Swain. Mark loved these lessons and worked hard to achieve new heights in improvisation and jazz piano concepts. At this time, Mark started attending a summer jazz camp at the University of Illinois. Mark’s talent was quickly recognized by the faculty who encouraged Mark to sneak out of the dorm after lights-out to participate in their after-hours jam sessions. Many members of the faculty are currently prominent players on the Chicago jazz scene.

Soon after graduating high school, Mark moved to Portland Oregon and instantly became an integral part of the award winning jazz program at Mount Hood Community College while holding down a three night a week jazz quartet gig downtown. Over the past thirty years Mark has performed with many of the most prominent jazz performers in the Northwest.

Feel free to contact Mark if you wish to know more about his teaching or to schedule a lesson.

Mark Simon – (503) 239-6207 | email

“Mark tailors your lessons to meet your personal goals. He has such a thorough understanding of piano and theory that he can easily select exercises that will build the skills you need (if you are willing to work!)”
– Carolyn Joyce


“Jochi is a 9-year old piano student who has been taking lessons from Mark Simon for about a year now. I drive him twice a month from the Hood River area because we could not find a suitable jazz instructor in our vicinity. Mark teaches Jochi advanced jazz theory with great patience and enthusiasm. He inspires Jochi through exercises, theory, and the works of the great jazz masters. His lessons have improved Jochi’s composition and improvisational skills. Mark recently taught him to play and improvise on Miles Davis’ “So What” and Thelonius Monk’s “Straight No Chaser.” which Jochi went on to perform at local fundraisers. Jochi is an advanced and prodigious musician who needs a bit more sophistication than the average nine-year-old piano student. Mark has provided this. He doesn’t talk down to him and makes each lesson a game and a challenge. Jochi anticipates the days when we drive to Portland to see Mark. I enjoy watching Mark work with Jochi and find the lessons interesting also! I would recommend Mark Simon to any young jazz musician who has the drive and talent to tackle jazz piano.”
– Celyne Camen, Jochi’s mom