Mark Withers performs old music and creates new music working alongside the widest possible range of musicians. He has collaborated with numerous orchestras and opera companies in his own country and abroad. As a clarinettist and saxophonist playing both period and modern instruments, he has appeared with groups such as Orchestre des Champs Elysées, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Orquestra de Cadaqués, where Mark was a member from 1988 to 2001 working under conductors such as Sir Neville Marriner, Gianandrea Noseda and Gennady Rozhdestvensky.
Mark designs and leads creative education and outreach projects as well as training programmes for artists working in the field. He has directed work for, amongst others, Accentus, the Association of British Orchestras, the Association of French Orchestras, English Concert, English National Opera, Fundació “La Caixa”, Glyndebourne, Insula Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Royal Opera, Academy of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Théâtre du Châtelet and Ulster Orchestra. Mark has helped to establish new creative education programmes with ensembles including the Hallé Orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and the Orquesta Nacional de España and he currently directs ongoing programmes with the London Symphony Orchestra, the String Quartet Biennale Amsterdam and the Festival d’Aix.
Mark's initial training was at Cambridge University and the Guildhall School of Music and embraced mathematics and social psychology as well as music. As such, it is no surprise that much of Mark’s work breaks down barriers between disciplines. He was at the centre of the four years of the LSO's education activities at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. Projects there ranged from the creation of film scores to work at a WWII transit camp with participants coming from the widest possible segments of the population in Aix and Marseille. A particular highlight was “Boras”, a piece devised with choreographer Thierry Thieu Niang, that was based on lullabies from the Comoros Islands. The piece was created for the 2012 Aix Festival and reprised in London in 2013. Mark continues to work with the Aix Festival, particularly looking at developing skills in young professional artists. “Creation” (2009-10) and "Sleeping Sense" (2016) with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment saw Mark working in tandem with scientists from Oxford University. The COVID-19 pandemic did not halt the creative process and in 2020 Mark directed the audio-visual "Kindness Contagion" with LSO Create. In 1993, Mark’s Gamelan programme with the Hallé Orchestra was awarded a Gold Medal by Queen Elizabeth II for work of lasting value to the community.
Mark has a special interest in music for people with sickness and disability. He has had periods as a resident musician at the Royal Schools for the Deaf in both Margate and Manchester. Since 1998 he has directed the LSO’s programme of work for children in London Hospitals. From 2000 to 2004, he was also a member of staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London where he worked with children with cancer and heart conditions. Since 1995, Mark has been an advisor and lead musician for the charity, Jessie’s Fund, providing music for disabled and life-limited children throughout the UK. Jessie's Fund's work includes both long-term residencies and training and Mark directs their training programme for hospice and special school staff.