Guitarist/songwriter urges children to ‘Be the Bridge’

by Matthew G. Solovey, Editor, Hershey Chronicle

There seems to be a bit of Mark Wesling in William the Monkey. William, the subject of one of Wesling’s songs on his new album, “Be the Bridge”, was rather a serious fellow, wearing a tie and vest, marveling at the buildings around him. As the story goes, “He’d see buildings and skylines and so many doors/ filling people with ideas galore/ So many directions he could go/ each an opportunity to increase what he’d know.”

At one time, musician and songwriter Wesling was like William, considering the directions he could go while being a suit-and-tie fellow himself. A native of St. Louis, Miss., he started a career in the not-so-creative financial industry. Wesling followed in his father’s and brother’s footsteps. “I’m very good at math and science,” he explained. But his love of music pulled him in another direction.

“I knew that I was getting so much support,” he said. “I decided when I was in my late 20s that I wanted to pursue performing and teaching full time.”

So with the encouragement of family and friends, Wesling went from the world of numbers to the world of notes and rhythms. Wesling has been a music teacher in Central Pennsylvania for the past seven years, teaching students age 6 to 70.

A teacher with Campbelltown Music Academy and at his home in Hershey, Wesling has drawn inspiration extensively from his young students – and his seven nieces and nephews – for the creation of “Be the Bridge”. For example, the song “Chocolate Milk” was inspired by his niece Renee, who asked Wesling to write about her favorite drink.

When it came time to find a vocalist, Wesling sought out local talent Liza Kawaller. “She’s very involved in local acting, and has volunteered a lot with Hershey High School musicals,” Wesling explained, “She did a great job with the narration, singing the songs in a very dramatic, narrative way. She was very professional.”

His first CD, “Dream Dance”, was a collection of familiar classical pieces mixed with classically-inspired works he penned. “I put something together that was a nice showcase for jobs – a calling card,” Wesling said.

When it comes to writing, he doesn’t have a set process. “I have this sense,” he explained. “I don’t say ‘I’m going to write.’ I’m inspired and have a melody, or maybe a phrase. I’ll sit down and maybe write a chorus or four or five verses of a song.”

After “Dream Dance”, he set his sights on the holidays with a release of Christmas Waiting, featuring four original songs. The title track was inspired by “a child going to bed and dreaming about the next day and being near the baby Jesus.”

“Be the Bridge” was written to be enjoyed by both children and their parents. “This project was created to provide positive images of school and family relationships and importance of working together to help others,” he said. “I financed the whole project,” he continued. “It was sort of a leap of faith. I’m very proud of it. Every song has a good message. It helps teachers a lot.”

That leap of faith was worth it, Wesling said. “Music has inspired me to lead a creative and full life,” he explained. “It is one of the greatest gifts given to us. I enjoy producing new music and helping students progress through their efforts and am blessed to be able to make a living in music.”

In the future, Wesling hopes to expand the characters he’s created, like William the Monkey. Possibilities include cartoon videos and stuffed toys. Wesling also includes a data file on each CD to print out chords and lyrics for use in teaching. All files are in PDF format.

“A lot of music teachers have some guitar background, so they can play along with the kids,” he said.

“Be the Bridge” can be purchased at Borders Books and Music in Harrisburg, by calling (717) 534-2380, or from Wesling’s website, www.markwesling.com.

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