World Class Malibu Musician Chooses a Life of Volunteerism

Mark Stevenson (right) with his girlfriend, Emily Besch, at the LAFD graduation ceremony

His musical talents have been showcased at prestigious Walt Disney Music Hall and, at the age of 25, he’s already performed Mozart’s Requiem in Vienna, Austria, the city the famous composer called home.

Mark Stevenson, who was raised in Malibu, still plays trumpet professionally—recently with the Lennon Sisters—but has chosen a life dedicated to helping others as a new Los Angeles firefighter. 

When he was 18, the 2012 Malibu High School graduate took a ham radio class at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station and started volunteering with the disaster communications service group.  That led him to serving four years with the Volunteers on Patrol program in Malibu.  It was during that period he was completing his undergrad degree at UCLA, majoring in classical music performance. Stevenson had always been a standout performer at MHS, where he was often featured as a soloist under then-band director Bill Bixler. Bixler beamed on the podium in 2012, announcing the young trumpet phenom received a scholarship to the highly selective university to study with professor and trumpet virtuoso Jens Lindemann.

While at UCLA, Stevenson worked part-time as a dispatcher for the campus police department.  “That became interesting to me. I was getting tired of taking phone calls when other people were going on EMS calls,” Stevenson explained. So, in 2015, he became a certified EMT working for an ambulance service with stints from Inglewood to his hometown Malibu—then he finally decided to become a firefighter. 

But things got busier. 

“People at the Malibu Search and Rescue Team came to know me through my volunteering with the Sheriff’s Department and realized that I had become an EMT,” Stevenson said. “Typically, MSAR doesn’t take civilian volunteers. The requirement is one must be a Reserve Deputy.” So, while juggling full-time EMT work with 24-hour shifts, undergrad studies and volunteering with Malibu VOP “there was no way that I could go to the Reserve Academy on top of it.” Because Stevenson knew the area and operations so well, along with his EMT experience, he was brought onto MSAR as one of two civilian volunteer specialists at that time. He volunteered with MSAR for three years and, in that short period, won a major award for saving a life.

Two years ago, off-duty driving through the San Fernando Valley one evening, Stevenson witnessed a pedestrian get hit by a car. The force was so dramatic, the victim was thrown across an intersection. 

“As a MSAR, we’re called all hours of the day—365 days a year,” he recalled. “So, we keep our equipment in the back of our cars. Fortunately, I had all my medical equipment.” Stevenson rushed from his car to find the victim barely breathing—clinging to life. He was able to ventilate her in the middle of the intersection until the fire department arrived. He asked bystanders to create a barrier from oncoming traffic. 

“I was talking with a 911 dispatcher on speaker phone while I was breathing for her,” he recalled. The last he heard, the victim was on her way to recovery. The MHS alum received the California Emergency Medical Services Authority Lifesaving medal for his heroic effort.

As a new firefighter, Stevenson is on a mandatory leave of absence from MSAR due to a probation rule. In other words, his new employer doesn’t want him injured. He says he’ll be back with MSAR though as soon as possible. 

“It’s something I will do for the rest of my life,” the new firefighter promised. 

Stevenson recalled an overnight search with MSAR where he “bush-wacked from the top of Corral Canyon” all the way down for seven hours in darkness to find a lost hiker.  The hiker eventually self-rescued. 

The former Malibu little leaguer said, “I’ve always been a team player.  

“As I got older, there were less opportunities to be part of a team,” he continued. “It’s special, in the middle of the night, when your pager goes off and you don’t know who from your team you’ll meet at the station and instantly your team goes out to solve a problem. Whether it’s going to look for somebody who’s lost or a medical emergency—there’s nothing like it where you get that adrenaline rush and you go make somebody’s day better. 

“There are few things more rewarding than that,” Stevenson reflected. “And to do it for free—it’s a privilege—to ride in helicopters—use the best equipment possible to do your job. We do it with a smile on our faces. It’s extremely rewarding to go out there and make somebody’s day better.”