Watching the video of Mark Hoochuk’s moment on stage at the Girard Academic Music Program’s February fundraiser, with The Business behind him, anyone can see this 17-year-old is going places. His nominator, Chrissy Woosley, said the whole room was on its feet when his “Billie Jean” performance concluded. The resident of the 2500 block of South American Street has already produced two albums on his own, writing all the music himself. Before enrolling at the illustrious Girard Estate school for performing arts, he was honing his skills at the George McCall Elementary School, where he was awarded the 2013 Dramatic Arts Award and received a Philadelphia Young Playwrights award for a play he wrote. He hopes to attend a college where he can continue to study music and performance, and has lent his pipes to a handful of volunteer efforts – singing Christmas Carols at ShopRite, in the Christmas show at school, volunteering to sing at hospitals to enliven the spirits of sick patients, and participating in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service to hand out pamphlets on the leader’s life.
His neighborhood seems to have embraced the young man partly due to his courteous behaviors and care for the bullied. Mark won’t stand for peer abuse, his nominator says. And, above all, he’s endured severely upsetting circumstances at home. His father, on December 16, 2014, suffered a double brain aneurysm and found himself in a coma after major brain surgery. Woosley says he stepped up and stayed by his father’s side every minute in the hospital and helped his mother with whatever she needed around the house. His dad’s not the same post-surgery, and he and his mother work double-time to care for him. Despite stresses at home and working on his own music, he’s worked harder than ever to bring his academics to A- and B-level achievements. This coming year, he’ll be putting together his own show for the GAMP community, complete with dancers, drummers, guitarists and pianists, all with Mark’s coordination and direction. It’s sure to solicit another standing ovation. – Bill Chenevert