Words from a Waldman: More Than a Client

Mark Fletcher was so much more than a client. I met Mark in Starrucca, Pennsylvania at Sports and Arts Center at Island Lake in the summer of 2003. Island Lake was the camp that I went to from 1994-1996 as a camper, 1997 as a Counselor-In-Training, 2001-2002 as a guitar/bass/rockband teacher, and 2003 as the music department head. Working at ILC is what gave me the courage to move out to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music, and if you do the math, I’ve spent over a full year of my life at Island Lake, so you can only imagine how important it was to me and so many other people. It was not a typical summer camp by any means, and its campers were far more alternative than its competitor facilities. I think that that is what drew twelve-year-old Mark to ILC; he was a true artist and he knew his calling at such a young age.

In addition to having every sport under the sun, Island Lake had a circus department with multiple flying trapezes, a magic school with accomplished working magicians as its teachers, a horseback stable with qualified jockey instructors, and many other atypical camp programs including a “Rock Shop” which was more about music and less about geology. I went to Island Lake as a teenager and the very first time that I played the guitar in front of an audience was at one of the camp rock shows in 1995. It changed my life trajectory, and working there was one of the most fundamentally important decisions that I ever made. I met Mark as the “Rock Shop” department head and I was immediately impressed with his depth of knowledge on music that existed long before he was born in 1990.

At Island Lake, you choose your entire day, and along with a little misfit crew, Mark chose to spend more than half of the day’s hours at the “Rock Shop”. Mark loved The Ramones, NYC culture, and toilet humor. He was ambitious even as a pre-teen, and played in a band at home called Sham-poo; I still get a kick about that name. He was a talented bassist, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter, and we kept in touch over AIM after the summer ended and I moved to Los Angeles.

LA was super good to me when I moved here, and I quickly joined a band called The City Drive, signed a major label deal in 2004, and became a full time working musician. Campers like Mark were over the moon about this fact, and I could always count on packed tri-state area shows any time we toured the East Coast. After I quit The City Drive and started another project called Lido Beach, we would often share the stage with Mark’s newer band Shapes, and another former camper’s band called The Static Jacks. It was surreal, super cute, and extremely rewarding to do such.

Time marches on, and people drift apart, but sometimes for non-negative reasons. Mark and I briefly lost touch at the earlier part of this decade, but I kept up with him on social media, and admired his work ethic with his newer band Heeney from afar. After Heeney hung its hat, it morphed into a new project called Stringer, and I pivoted into a new career as an artist manager.

Mark reached out to me one late night on Facebook and vented about his frustrations as a mid-20s rocker who was thinking about a career pivot as well. We reconnected in person at a bagel shop in New York City when I was there for business, and he still had the same spirit that he did in 2003. I was glad that living as an adult hadn’t clouded his true passion; he was just down and out about his band’s lack of “success”. Mark played me an unreleased Stringer song then called “Alexa” (eventually renamed to “Through The Walls“), and I was blown away. Like blown away, blown away. Mike Cubillos, a prominent publicist/friend, and I had recently discussed co-managing a project together, and the band we originally connected on didn’t work out. I brought up working with Stringer to him, and he was a fan. After having a phone meeting with Max Kagan (Stringer’s co-frontman/guitarist), Riley Zimmer (Stringer’s bassist), Johnny Spencer (Stringer’s drummer), and Max Verrelli (Stringer’s attorney), we made an offer to co-manage the band together. Eventually it came to fruition and my former camper became my current client. Talk about full circle!

Things moved pretty quickly for the band. Stringer got better press than it ever had before, the boys signed a record deal to release its LP, My Bad, with Wiretap Records (home of Audio Karate, Radar State, and many more great bands — shout out to Rob Castellon), and the band booked two dates on the prestigious, yet sad last run of Warped Tour last summer (shout outs to Kevin Lyman, Steph Mirsky, and Leah Urbano).

One of my own personal life highlights was playing guitar for “Through The Walls” with Stringer at the MA and NY Warped dates. Talk about full circle: part two! Recently we learned that Stringer confirmed a slot at Pouzza Fest, a pretty major rock festival in Canada (shout out to Sarah Litt of Paquin Artists Agency). Sadly, Mark passed away a few months before it was to happen at twenty-eight years old.

The last time that Mark and I spoke was very brief, like his life, but also extremely endearing (like his life). He texted me a picture of an old Lido Beach shirt, and I replied back “love”. That was it. Short and sweet. We found out that he left this earth that next weekend, and I’m still in shock. I think I always will be.

Mark was much more than a client: he was a little brother, a beautiful soul, and an obscenely talented musician. He will be missed forever.

mark and scott waldman
Waldman (left), Fletcher (right) at the Knitting Factory in 2006