Crossing the musical bridge with a helping hand

Mark Cross at Los Angeles Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif. On Sep. 6, 2023. Photo by Luis Quintana.

Mark Cross was invited to do a guest lecture on commercial music and music production at Pierce College last spring. After hearing of a full-time opening he decided to apply. He is now the school’s newest professor for the music department committed to his student’s success and contributing to the growth of the music department. 

Cross has a diverse background in the music production industry. He has teaching experience from California State University Northridge and Berklee College of Music in Boston. Cross has worked on several albums and scores for several films. Some of which have been Oscar-nominated.

Cross’ goal at Pierce is to prepare his students for a career in the music industry, specifically in commercial music in case they find themselves working on music for different forms of media, such as a show, video game, film or an album for a celebrity.

“The main goal of the music department and I think Pierce here in general is student success,” said Cross. “We are preparing the students so they can transfer to another school to pursue higher education. Also, because we just so happen to be five miles from the entertainment capital of the world.”

Professionally, one of Cross’ biggest achievements is his work on the Disney Pixar movie “Cars.” 

“I worked on the score and songs for the movie ‘Cars,’” said Cross. “Randy Newman was the composer and we would record the orchestra and whatever he had written. When I think of ‘Cars,’ that was a year and a half of my life because it is animation. The animation was just stick figures and sketches. It was like a storyboard, and then we would score maybe a third of the movie.”

Cross expressed how interesting and fun it was to see the movie develop from simple sketches to more distinguishable cartoons every time he would meet with Pixar to work on the soundtrack for “Cars.”

Cross has contributed to the music program at Pierce by helping set up the tools, resources and inventory after moving to the Village from the Music Building, as well as being involved in the music and school programs. 

Department Chair of Music Wendy Mazon shares Cross’ involvement at Pierce before officially becoming a professor on campus.

“He’s already gone above and beyond in several situations,” Mazon said. “He has come to the Super Saturday recruitment events, and he has worked really hard to get our computer lab up and running and ready to go for the students.”

Mark Cross at Los Angeles Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif. On Sep. 6, 2023. Photo by Luis Quintana.

Apart from the experience, Cross also has a certain personality and set of skills that makes interactions with students and other staff very easy, and overall contributes to student success.

“He is student-friendly, he is easily approachable, and he has a very good demeanor with students and with his colleagues,” said Mazon. “We want to get the best instructors for our students not just because of their accolades and their accomplishments, but also their personality and demeanor. He just really wants the best for Pierce College and the student experience in his classroom.” 

Music major Dontell Jenkins feels like Cross’ teaching style has been able to provide insight for what it is like to work in the music field.

“He gives us the fundamentals of knowing what it feels like to be recording on a mic and record sounds and integrate the beat and loops and hooks into music,” Jenkins said. 

Cross’ teachings have already started to have an impact on students. Mazon believes he has the potential to continue to do so based on his past work and reputation.

“I really think that his contributions are going to help build our commercial music program,” Mazon said. “I think for the students, based on him sharing his own experiences and knowledge, it is going to help them get jobs in the workforce.”

Cross believes there is room in the music department to expand and improve. During his time at Pierce, Cross has come across many of the equipment that was put in storage during the move from the Music Building to the Village He has already made suggestions for future courses and certificates that will help students.

“The thing about the music department is, it is a really solid department and there is a lot of opportunity for growth and everyone in the music department is very excited about that,” Cross said.