What sort of background do you have in shooting? What got you interested in the shooting sports?
My father is a lieutenant with the West Bloomfield police department. He’s been involved in competitive shooting since before I was even born, and the shooting sports have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My dad taught me and my brother to shoot safely and accurately when we were young, and he would often bring us to his police pistol matches so we could watch him compete. They wouldn’t let me compete in the matches until I turned 12, but by the time I turned 14 I had beaten most of the other police officers who worked at my dad’s station!
You’ve been to several National Matches now, sometimes shooting alongside your dad and brother. How did you get involved in shooting at the National Matches, and what’s it like being able to shoot with your dad (who is also an excellent marksman) and your brother while you’re there?
I first came to the National Matches when I was in the 9th grade, entering my first match with a beat up old M1 carbine that my grandfather loaned me and earning a gold medal right out of the chute. This experience got me hooked on competitive rifle shooting, and the National Matches have been a yearly occurrence for the Stout family ever since. Shooting alongside my dad and brother really feels natural at this point, and I suppose that’s because competitive shooting has always been a family affair for me. It’s something unique that my family does together which has kept us close as my brother and I have grown older. I’ve never felt any pressure from my dad to compete at as high a level as I do, just the pride and joy of a father who gets to share something he loves with his boys.
Going back to the 2018 National Matches, you had an incredible showing―a National Record and a number of High Junior honors. What kind of expectations or goals did you set for yourself coming into this year?
This was the first summer I had ever worked full-time, and as such it was really tough to find time to practice. I came into the matches feeling pretty rusty, but with a mindset that I was just going to do my best and have fun. Oddly enough, I tend to perform well in matches that I have low expectations for. I didn’t put any pressure on myself this year to shoot a particular score in any of the matches, and I think this allowed me to relax and focus on what I needed to do. I concentrated on my fundamentals of breathing and trigger control, and didn’t let myself get distracted by thinking about what my scores were in between stages of the matches. Before I knew it, I had broken my own junior record in the M1 Carbine match, set a new junior record for the M1 Garand match, and taken High Junior in the 1903 Springfield and M1A matches. Not bad for my final year as a junior shooter!
What’s your favorite part about the sport of competition shooting and being able to compete at the National Matches? And what is the most challenging part?
My favorite part about shooting the National Matches is the history and authenticity behind them. The best marksmen in our country have been proving themselves in competition for over a century―a tradition which I feel proud to be a part of. You also meet the nicest people at the matches. Every year, we run into family friends at the matches and swap stories. It’s neat to see that people from very different walks of life can be united by the spirit of competition.
“The atmosphere in The Big House is absolutely electric,” Mark said of Michigan’s football stadium.
By far, the most challenging part of the matches for me is the mental game. If I’m not careful, it’s easy to let myself fixate on shooting a particular score. There are times where I’ll get distracted by one bad shot, and that distraction will then cause the rest of the match to go downhill. I just need to force myself to take a deep breath and concentrate on what I’m doing at the moment in order to shoot my best.
Now outside of shooting―have you always been interested in music?
I joined band in 6th grade. Every 6th grader in our school was required take at least one music class, and most of my friends chose band, so I figured I would just do it for fun. Within a year, I was regularly sitting first or second chair in the trumpet section, and I started to realize that music became more fun as I got better at it! I attended summer music camps, auditioned for All-State honors bands and took private lessons to push my playing to higher and higher standards. I immersed myself in music, and it became a defining aspect of my life. Music has always served as a constructive release from the pressures of school for me. It has also helped me to kindle friendships that have stood the test of time. In short, I wouldn’t trade the memories I have made in band for anything in the world.
How did you become involved with the University of Michigan Marching Band?
Mark knew from the time he got his first trumpet that he wanted to be a member of the Univ. of Michigan Marching Band.
The day I went to the music store to buy my first trumpet, my mom (who also studied at Michigan), showed me a video of the Michigan Marching Band (MMB). I thought “Wow, it would be so cool if I could be part of that someday!.” From then on, I knew that this was where I was meant to be. I practiced hard in high school knowing that I wanted to audition for the band once I got accepted. I tried out for the MMB the summer before I started college and had to wait until August before finding out that I had gotten in. Ever since then, my involvement with the MMB has been one continuous stream of happy memories and hard work. Performing in front of 100,000 fans in the biggest football stadium in the country is no small undertaking, and the band practices, rain or shine, to keep up with a busy football season schedule. It keeps me busy, to say the least. Every once in a while, I’ll stop and think about the fact that I’m so lucky to be living a dream I’ve had since I was 11 years old. My experiences in the MMB have shaped my growth as a person over the past three years, and I thank God every day for letting me do something that I love so much.
Michigan had a decent season this year―what’s it like being at the games?
The atmosphere in The Big House is absolutely electric. Regularly performing in front of 100,000 people has been the thrill of a lifetime and is something that I still struggle to put into words. I didn’t know much about football before I joined the MMB, but I’ve picked up on the basics because it’s really fun to watch when our team does as well as they’ve done this year! My favorite memory from this year is from our home game against Wisconsin. Before each game, the band runs out of the stadium tunnel and onto the field for our pregame show, an experience that many liken to being shot out of a cannon. The roar from the crowd for this game was deafening. It was a night game, and performing under the lights of the stadium made the whole atmosphere seem almost surreal. The crowd was really fired up for that game, and Michigan won by a solid margin. I had the special privilege of being part of a small detachment of the band that walked around the stadium and played for the crowd. It was fun interacting with the fans and seeing the joy that the band brought to people!
Sorry, we have to go there―please talk a little bit about that unfortunate Ohio State game.
That was a really hard day for all of the Michigan Marching Band. One of our staff members passed away the morning of the game, and we got news of her passing right before we left for Columbus. She had been with the band for 40 years and was adored by everyone, but with such a busy day, there wasn’t really time for us to mourn her loss. We all put on a brave face and did our jobs believing that it was what she would have wanted, but such a loss to the MMB family really put the outcome of the game into perspective. I hated to see our team lose like they did, especially because I think Michigan vs. Ohio State is the most important rivalry in all of college sports. At the end of the day, football is just a game. Everyone in the MMB looked out for one another that day, and we all got home in one piece, which is all that really matters as far as I’m concerned.
What are you going to school for, and what will you be doing the rest of the year now that the football season is over?
Now that football season is over, I’ll have some time to rest and catch up on schoolwork and sleep before our bowl game trip at the end of December! I’m currently studying mechanical engineering at Michigan, and I usually have to take a pretty heavy course load in the winter to make up for the time I put into Marching Band during the Fall. I’ll stay involved in music during the Winter by playing in the University concert band which meets twice a week. I’m especially looking forward to this summer, where I’ll be interning at BorgWarner Automotive! BorgWarner is an industry leader in automotive powertrain systems, and I’m very excited to learn as much as I can about automotive engineering while working there.