Even in a crowded cafe on a Friday afternoon, Mark R. Parker ’12-’13 stands out with his pea coat, perfectly coiffed red hair, and composed demeanor. This—being different—is Parker’s trademark.
“He’s like a walking pratfall from an early 2000s sitcom,” says James P. Fitzpatrick ’12, Parker’s roommate of three years and former president of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals (an organization to which Mark also belongs). Parker describes himself as the “degenerate” kid with a weird accent who used to have a mohawk.
Growing up with his mother in North Yorkshire, a small town in northern England with “lots of sheep,” Parker never imagined that he would come to the United States for college. Harvard was the only American school to which he applied, and he did so because of his familiarity with “Legally Blonde,” he says. Media attention about his admission to Harvard and rejection from Oxford University despite perfect predicted grades for the A-level sparked a discussion over the underrepresentation of public school students in elite British universities.
Parker arrived at Harvard wanting to study mathematics, having obtained a reputation as a math genius in Britain. By his sophomore spring, though, his interests had changed. “All I think about is music,” he says. Even though Parker had not taken a music class since the eighth grade, he became one of just 20 music concentrators at Harvard. Since then, he has studied jazz drumming at Berklee School of Music, undertaken roles as research assistants under prominent professors in the music department, played in several rock bands on and off campus, and served as the music director for four musical theater productions.
Parker likes to do things differently, and it has usually paid off. His rock band was the first student rock ensemble to play at Cultural Rhythms, alongside Shakira. As music director of “Chicago,” he helped bring student theater to Club Oberon, a professional venue for theater and nightlife in Harvard Square, after the production was rejected by the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club. Now, his main project is a nihilistic hardcore punk band called “Hedge Fund,” whose lyrics float between “Star Trek” and Greek mythology and which has played all over Boston, D.C., and New Jersey.
“Regrets are stupid,” Parker says, sipping on his second double espresso in under an hour. “Either do something, or stand by your decisions.”
For Parker, these decisions include subscribing to nudism in his room, a decision that he made after reading an obscure Japanese philosopher. They also include living in a 20 dollar Wal-Mart tent in his common room last fall in order to cultivate some privacy, and taking a semester off to work in a small village pub and serve warm ale to people and their horses.
Fitzpatrick has no doubt that Parker is the person to know before the Apocalypse (or at least another Harvard-wide blackout), partly because of his ability to hail down a Cambridge police car for a free ride to the Quad.