Mark Summer grew up in Los Angeles, California playing piano, guitar, and, starting at the age of nine, cello. From the beginning he was very interested in alternative genres, playing in a rock band called The Purple Testament, later known as The Plague as a teenager. Summer studied cello with Edwin Geber of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, then with Edwin’s wife Gretchen Geber, and graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music, continuing his studies with the Geber family with Stephen Geber as a cello performance major. After conservatory, Summer went on to secure a spot in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for three years. Looking for alternative genres, he left the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra playing in an assortment of alternative ensembles until, while in Winnipeg, Summer met violinists Darol Anger and shortly after he was invited by David Balakrishnan and Darol to join Turtle Island, and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1985 to perform permanently with the band. He has played with that ensemble ever since. In 2011, Mark made his solo concerto debut with the Alexandria Symphony, performing David Balakrishnan's Force of Nature, written especially for Mark. He currently resides outside San Francisco in the town of Novato, California.
Besides the thriving Turtle Island Quartet, which has now has fifteen albums to its credit, Summer has played with many other crossover artists. He was a member of the Jazz Chamber Trio with pianist Alon Yavnai and Grammy-winning clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera which played primarily Latin jazz. He has also composed many pieces for solo cello, including Kalimba, and Julie-O, (both the solo and duo versions), the last of which has become very widespread and popular among many cellists. He has also arranged pieces for solo cello including 'Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming, and Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing".