From jazz singer to psychologist to balloon artist, Mark Weiss
seeks spiritual alignment.
by Matt Hanks
uperman may be dead, but the bizarro world is still spinning.
And its renaissance man is one Mark Weiss. How else would you
explain an individual whose resume reads as follows: counselor
with a doctorate in psychology and several published writings,
accomplished scat singer, expert Tibetan rubbing bowl player,
and creator of the worlds largest balloon sculpture. If youre
looking for rhyme or reason to his vocational muse, you wont
find it. But you will find a man who is driven, simply, by his
Two of the feathers in Weiss cap have their roots in his childhood.
While still in high
school he took a career aptitude test, The kind of test bankers
make their sons take to decide what theyll major in at Harvard,
he quips. The proctor who graded Weiss test told him that he
would excel equally as a therapist and a musician. She also told
me that if you have a talent and you dont use it, it will come
back and bite you in the ass, says Weiss. I really took that
|PHOTO BY DANIEL BALL
Mark Weiss with his Tibetan rubbing bowl (projected on its surface
are pictures of his balloon sculptures).
Weiss attended college in Los Angeles, where he wasted no time
in becoming a full-fledged hep cat. L.A. offered a fertile jazz
scene, and he spent most of his nights as a gigging trombonist
and bass player. But Weiss discovery of his true musical calling
was both a necessity and a happy accident. He picks up the story,
For some time at that point I had been taking these long road
trips with a good friend of mine who was also a jazz musician.
To pass the time, and also to get in a little practice, we would
sing our respective parts to a few jazz standards that we knew.
Thats how I started scat singing, from a lack of instruments.
As bad luck would have it, it was also around that time that Weiss
developed a rather serious case of arthritis. He took all these
merging factors as a sign: I sold my trombone and bought a bunch
of psychology books
and started to get serious about my singing.
But aptitude tests and health problems still dont explain how
Weiss career paths intersect. Hes the first to admit that they
may not intersect at all. Weiss chooses his words carefully. The
proper term would probably be align. If theres a place where
this alignment shows up the most, its around spirituality. In
therapy I work with people to find a sense of meaning in their
lives, which is essentially a spiritual goal. The ultimate goal
is not just to be okay. The ultimate goal is to go to a higher
level of well-being. Clients [of mine] that know Im a scat singer
see me as having a very full life. They see that Ive reached
that higher level.
Weiss began scat singing publicly about 20 years ago. Hes performed
everywhere from large concert halls to small wedding receptions.
Over time hes honed his craft and introduced new elements into
his repertoire, one of the most interesting being the Tibetan
rubbing bowl. The Tibetan bowl is a large, thick stone object
about 18 inches in diameter. When its periphery is rubbed in a
certain manner, it emits a deep yet piercing drone. Weiss recalls,
The first time I heard it, it just knocked me out.
Of course, everyone has their moments of inspiration, but Weiss
turns those moments into life-long pursuits. No impulse is beyond
indulging, so long as it takes him to that higher level of spirituality;
a plane where not just a couple but all of his pursuits align.
He jokes that his idea for balloon sculptures began as an exercise
in representational art. It looks exactly like a worlds biggest
balloon sculpture. Never fails. But over time (hes been assembling
these sculptures for more than 20 years) Weiss has found a grounding
in psychological theory for this massive undertaking usually
a day-long project that requires anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000
balloons. It has a lot of application to the idea of peak experience.
Most people believe that we learn by plodding through life in
a certain linear progression. But theres also a process where
we learn an incredible amount very deeply, in a very brief period
The balloon sculptures can be like that. It can teach
equality between adults and children. It can teach that you simply
cant do certain things wrong.
The same can be said, it would seem, of Weiss life. Hes been
true to his own talents, and whats wrong with that? If theres
one thing Ive learned, its that everyones a teacher, he says
reflectively. You cannot not be one. You can basically be a teacher
for love or a teacher for fear. Thats really the only choice
you have in life. Everything else is an outcome of that choice.
Mark Weiss (with the Tibetan rubbing bowl)
Willing Workers for the Lord banquet
Saturday, December 6th
Days Inn, Getwell at Lamar
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