Updated: Menlo Park native wins Grammy as fusion band guitarist


At the recent Grammy Awards show in Los Angeles, before Taylor Swift snagged the "Album of the Year" award, Menlo Park native Mark Lettieri took the stage to accept a Grammy as a guitarist with the instrumental fusion band Snarky Puppy.

The band along with the Netherlands Metropole Orkest (orchestra) won in the category "best contemporary instrumental album" for their album "Sylva."

The win was the second Grammy for Snarky Puppy; its first was for "best R&B performance" in 2014 for "Something," on which Mr. Lettieri worked as a guitarist and arranger.

The Grammy Awards event, held Feb. 15, was "kind of a circus," said Mr. Lettieri, a composer and producer as well as a guitarist.

He started playing the guitar at age 11, before joining a band with his friends. He performed gigs at the high school, he said in an interview, and at local teen centers and Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, now Menlo Church. In his senior year, he played guitar for the Menlo-Atherton High School Jazz Band, led by Frank Moura.

After he graduated from M-A in 2001, he attended Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, where he pursued another of his interests from high school: track and field. Soon after arriving, he discovered a thriving local music scene.

By the time he graduated with a degree in advertising, he said, he had more opportunities to pursue a career as a guitarist than in advertising, so that's what he did.

Mr. Lettieri continues to reside in Fort Worth, though Snarky Puppy is now based in Brooklyn, New York. Snarky Puppy, he said, is a "chameleon," and delves into a wide range of genres. Its website describes the band as an "eclectic, unclassifiable jazz/funk/global collective."

He recommends newcomers to their music start on YouTube. The band got its name from band leader Michael League, who stole it after his brother told him it would have been his band name had he ever started a band. They just released an album called "Family Dinner Vol. 2," which features collaboration with David Crosby of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Mr. Lettieri also accompanies other musicians, including Erykah Badu, Tamela Mann and Phillip Phillips. He is currently on tour with Christian gospel singer Anthony Evans.

He is also working increasingly as a solo artist. He has written, recorded and produced two albums called "Knows" and "Future Fun." In April, he plans to go on tour in Europe with "The Mark Lettieri Trio" and a Dallas-based jazz/funk/fusion band, "The Funky Knuckles."

He says he's working on balancing the demands of accompanying, playing in a band, and his solo work.

To kids or M-A students considering pursuing a career in music, he says, first, "always make sure you're having fun doing it." Second, he says, "be prepared to make a lot of sacrifices and not sleep."

"It's not an easy life but it is a very rewarding one," he said.

Editor's Note: A previous version of the story incorrectly stated that Mr. Lettieri had a scholarship for Track and Field.

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