July 8, 2013 • 01:30:51 a.m.

Old Town instructor headed to St. Charles’ House Pub


Mark Dvorak (Photo by Eric Young Smith)

He has been called “Chicago’s official troubadour.”

Folk singer and songwriter Mark Dvorak will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 7, at The House Pub, 16 S. Riverside Ave., St. Charles. Dvorak will perform as part of The House Pub’s acoustic showcase, hosted by St. Charles resident Mike Alberts since 2010.

Information is available by calling The House Pub at 630-945-3479 or visiting

Kane County Chronicle reporter Eric Schelkopf had the chance to talk to Dvorak about the upcoming show.

Eric Schelkopf: What should people expect from the show?
Mark Dvorak:
I like to mix it up. I’ll do some originals, but I love old pop songs, like the things that Fats Waller used to play, and Gershwin and stuff like that.

And I’ll bring my banjo along to do some traditional banjo tunes.

ES: You’ve taught at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago for more than 25 years. What made you want to be a teacher there?
Well, I was a student at Old Town in the ’80s. I liked music, like a lot of young people, and friends of mine were in different bands, and they were going to be rock stars and stuff.

I always liked the sound of acoustic instruments, and a friend of mine invited me to join her for a class at Old Town. I liked being there, and I thought, “Maybe I can get good enough and teach here one day.”
I had actually started some classes out here in the suburbs, and was teaching privately in my home apartment. I was trying to gain experience to ask for a teaching job at Old Town, but as it turned out, they called me.

I was lucky enough to get in right when the school was in the beginning of its reemergence. So, I was able to grow as a teacher and as a working artist as Old Town grew.

ES: What are the first things you try to teach your students?
What I try to convey in all of my classes is that music is fun, music is for fun.
It’s fun to play with others and sing with others. It’s such a basic human activity.

I try to keep everybody’s feet on the ground.

ES: How did you get involved in folk music in the first place?
I like the term folk. It’s a very fuzzy term, and that’s one of the things I like about it.

I love traditional songs, but I also love new things too. When I was a kid, John Denver, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Gordon Lightfoot were on the radio.

Bob Dylan was one of my favorites, and still [is] one of my favorites. I discovered Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly, and I felt like I was kind of home, and that music has always been the kind of thing I return to.

I’m very comfortable with this music as an avenue for the way of expressing myself. What I loved about folk music was the narrative, the inherent storytelling of it.

I feel close to it. A potter works with clay and a painter works with oils and watercolors. I like to work with acoustic instruments.

ES: You’ve been called “Chicago’s official troubadour.” Do you take that as an honor?
I sure do. There was a guy who was a mentor to me, Fred Holstein, that was his nickname too, and before him, Winfred “Win” Stracke, the founder of Old Town.

I feel connected to artists with an enduring spirit. I try to live up to it.

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