Mark Wardlaw


Mark Wardlaw dreamed from an early age, growing up in Sacramento, of becoming a musician. As a teenager, he started a rock cover band with some friends that, as he put it, “actually made money.” He was hooked. Several years later, while working on his Bachelor of Music degree at California State University, Sacramento, Wardlaw was hired to play in the show band at the California State Fair. Playing with Steve Allen, Florence Henderson and several other acts at the Fair changed his life. In 1982, after studying in New York City and then earning his Masters at the University of Washington, he and his wife and son moved to Santa Rosa, where he has held the position of second clarinet chair since 1984.

Though he enjoys the privilege of playing the masters, his musical pursuits extend far beyond the concert hall stage. Jazz has always been his favorite genre of music, and the reason he started playing saxophone in high school, while concurrently learning flute and guitar. His interest in multiple wind instruments has enabled him to do many kinds of musical work as a doubler or tripler. Wardlaw has performed for theater groups over the years, including as a member of the band at Transcendence Theater Company since 2014, where he plays side by side with his son Jordan. His various jazz pursuits include performing with the Gypsy Jazz Quartet “Le Hot Club Jazz.”

Wardlaw retired in June 2019, after 30 years as the instrumental music director at Santa Rosa High School where he conducted bands, jazz bands, orchestras and more. In addition, he did several stints as the jazz band and symphonic band director in the Santa Rosa Junior College’s music department.

A portrait of Mark Wardlaw and his clarinet