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Lamont Parent Profile: Mark Ostrowski

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Ian Wisekal

by Ian Wisekal

Profile  •
Mark Ostrowski and Kathleen DeNoma, with their sons Kevin and Michael

Mark Ostrowski and Kathleen DeNoma with their sons Kevin and Michael.

Mark Ostrowski wasn’t troubled by the prospect of his son, Kevin (BJCM ’25), pursuing a jazz performance major. In college, Mark had studied history, while his wife, Kathleen DeNoma, majored in French. “We’re familiar with the idea of studying things that people don’t typically associate with money,” he quipped.

Though originally from Pennsylvania and Illinois, Mark and Kathleen moved to Houston in 1994. For nearly 25 years, Mark has worked in education, currently serving as an eighth-grade history teacher. When I offered him my sympathies for teaching middle schoolers, he replied, “You have to understand where they are in the process of growing up to be able to survive.”

In their own growing up, the Mark and Kathleen were surrounded by music. Although the month of recorder lessons that Mark attempted as a kid “didn’t take,” in his words, he often attended symphony concerts with his parents; Kathleen studied cello, French horn and piano in her youth. Kevin’s older brother, Michael, played saxophone; between them all, as Mark told me, “Music was a pretty regular constant in the household.”

The bug bit Kevin at an early age. When he was three, during a trip to Home Depot, as Mark recounted, Kevin started pounding out the beat to Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” Another shopper approached them and said, “Hey, I know that song!” Years later, Kevin began studying piano and saxophone and started writing his own music. When I asked why Kevin chose the saxophone, Mark told me that Kevin’s brother had played it. Smiling, he said, “We encouraged the saxophone since we already had one.”

When it came time to look at colleges, the Ostrowskis noticed that almost all the big, in-state schools in Texas pushed their music education programs. Lamont, by contrast, was focused on performance and had a strong jazz program. The family got in touch with Prof. Art Bouton, at that time the chair of jazz studies, who shared that his students not only found work after graduation, but even began playing gigs while still in school. This reassurance made it easier to choose the performance path at Lamont. Since their search took place during the pandemic, the first time the whole family saw DU in person was during Kevin’s orientation week.

Since then, the parents have enjoyed in-person trips to Denver and the ability to livestream concerts without leaving home. “We’ve watched lots of livestreamed performances and we’ve enjoyed all of them,” Mark said. In particular, he noted the range represented on stage: grad students performing alongside undergraduates, jazz standards and brand-new tunes sharing the program. On one jazz ensemble concert, Kevin wrote two of the tunes that his group performed, and other students contributed music, as well. “That was a lot of fun to see,” said the proud dad.

Off campus, the family enjoys heading into the mountains and soaking up the urban perks, like coffee from Corvus Coffee Roasters. “We love Denver,” said Mark. “It’s a different flavor from Houston.” They almost always make the trip between home and school by car, both for practicality’s sake (transporting Kevin’s keyboard) and for the sake of tradition. In the summer, the Ostrowskis have regularly clocked in between 4,000 and 6,000 miles on road trips.

Although there is less time for those summer excursions now that the kids are older, Mark sees this is as a good thing. Just as Prof. Bouton had predicted, “Kevin is already playing gigs,” Mark told me, both in Denver and back in Texas during breaks. “It’s a testament to the quality of students that Lamont brings in and to the quality of the program.”

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