Mark Varner – photo by Snap Jackson/Mark with his son, Marty
Mark Varner, prominent California bluegrass musician and active volunteer with state bluegrass associations, died unexpectedly in his sleep on September 4. He was at his long-awaited retirement home in Dangriga, Belize. Mark was 64 years of age when he passed.
Born in Everett, WA, Mark spent many years in Boulder Creek, CA where he played with a number of bluegrass bands. He served on the Board of the Northern California Bluegrass Society where he helped organize the Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival, and several others. Varner was also editor of the Society’s monthly magazine, Bluegrass by the Bay.
Eventually he moved to serve on the Board of the California Bluegrass Association, the largest such organization in the country. There he became editor of their monthly publication, Bluegrass Breakdown, where he remained until COVID shutdowns required them to move to an online version last year. Mark was also active with the CBA Talent Acquisition Group, which hires acts to perform on the Association’s annual Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley.
But his activity in bluegrass was not limited to an administrative role. He played both mandolin and guitar, and was a visible attendee at many regional bluegrass events and jam sessions.
In his day job, Varner was a consulting engineer, specializing in testing air and fluid systems for diving equipment.
Mark is fondly remembered by many in the California bluegrass scene as a fun, hardworking, diligent individual who always had time and a hand when anyone needed it. He was also a tireless advocate for the CBA, for bluegrass in general, and California bluegrass in particular. He will be severely missed.
R.I.P., Mark Varner.