Marion native earns rave reviews in Colorado

In the seven years since he started playing the guitar, Mark Engler’s passion for creating music has never faltered.

In the past year, however, that passion has found an outlet in a band Engler co-founded, one now earning rave reviews throughout Colorado: Mind At Large.

“I think my main reason for creating and performing music is that it’s kind of a way to communicate on a higher, deeper level with a large audience,” said Engler, a 1996 Marion High School graduate.

This goal comes through in the band’s name, a reference to his belief in a collective consciousness.

Engler started playing music as a trombonist in the grade school band. He picked up the guitar in high school and taught himself to play it.

While still in high school, Engler began performing original music in area coffeehouses with his sister, Sheri. The pair, which called themselves “Moonbeam Tea,” played a folk-rock style with a slight “grunge” flavor.

“It was a lot of fun,” Sheri said. “We had a really good time with it and learned a lot about trying to break in the business in general. I can’t say we had high success at it, but we learned a lot.”

Mark took voice lessons while attending Central College in McPherson and worked for Imperial Graphics in Moundridge, a company his sister and her husband now own.

Mind At Large was born after Engler, working at a reservations outfit in Colorado, met fellow guitarist Andrew Dahlgren, 24.

Their friendship led to frequent jam sessions, and, after recruiting bassist Cody Ferdinand, 22, they convinced Andrew’s brother, Dan Dahlgren, 22, to move down from Wyoming and play drums for them.

Engler, whose vocal influences include Bob Marley and Dylan, is the lead vocalist, but the other members also have microphones and occasionally join in with harmony.

Engler has written most of the band’s lyrics, but the band composes the music together.

Their influences include the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, The Doors, and Phish, a Colorado-based group. Mind At Large occasionally plays cover versions of their songs, including several by Lennon and McCartney.

Mind at Large currently is based in Gunnison, Colo., about four hours outside of Denver, where they are recording their as-yet-untitled promo album, scheduled for release at the end of May.

The band plans to remain independent, playing at as many venues as possible and distributing their music over the Internet via their Web site.

“Our goal is to make our living making music in the next couple of years,” Engler said. “I think that we’re capable of doing all the things a label could do for us independently. By doing it ourselves, we can avoid any debt or obligation that would negatively affect the music in the long run.”

The band’s decision to move as a group from Gunnison to Fort Collins-where the potential for exposure is higher-is a testament to the commitment Engler, 23, and his group have made to their art.

This commitment might be summed up in the lyrics of “True Friend,” an Engler-penned song that made its debut two weeks ago at Gunnison’s Alamo Bar.

“…Music / sweet music / you are a true friend / no caution or question / fear you don’t mention….”

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