Inspiring Excellence-An Interview with Marshall Hawkins

July 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm Leave a comment


Marshall Hawkins, jazz faculty

Take a seat, grab a cup of tea, and spend a few golden moments with Jazz icon Marshall Hawkins. Marshall has taught Jazz at Idyllwild Arts, in the Academy and Summer Jazz Programs, for 26 years. He also helped start the Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines event 18 years ago. Carrying on the tradition of excellence just as Idyllwild Arts Jazz alumni have done for many years, his current students are seeing great success. They recently placed first in the AAAA High School Combo competition at the Reno Jazz Festival.

The interview begins:

Many times, your students refer to you as their mentor; an amazing teacher. What have you learned from the students of Idyllwild Arts? First, no one shoe fits all. I try to be cognizant of knowing the student in the deepest way possible.  The key is, if you listen, the student will tell you what is needed.

Q. What makes your teaching style so successful?

A. Students come with the passion but they are not always aware of the avenues to figure out things for themselves. I am a disciplinarian when it comes to social issues but with music, I give every freedom.  What I really love about a new student at Idyllwild Arts is that I have the necessary time to give one on one instruction. Eventually, they get to the level where they can integrate with the experienced students who then become their teachers.  At first, they are afraid of hitting the wrong note. This inspires them to study; figure things out. Art is trial and error. I delegate, choose leaders and assignments but the students choose the songs. They spend their own time putting together the songs and then I shape it.  Eventually, every student takes the audience on a journey with their music. There is transference of energy from the artist to the audience and vice versa. This is the same with love.

Q. What do you remember about being at American Idol when Casey Abrams was on stage?

A. First thing is that Casey is a natural talent. He has walked into my classroom with practically every instrument you can think of, including a sousaphone. His attitude is “off the charts” great. At Idol, I remember the only thing that mattered was the moment. All energy was focused on uplifting Casey.  I remained quiet but was conscious of being spiritually connected with everyone in the room. It was Casey, it was the world, it was Jazz. I know that many people in the room felt it. Steven Tyler gave me a silent salute; across the room, I nodded back.

Q. What distinguishes Idyllwild Arts musicians from others?

A. Our musicians tend to be selfless like Casey ‘09, for example, or Daniel Sazer-Krebbers ’02.  They set their sights on the grand prize called MUSIC. Others are Evan Christopher ’87, one of the four top clarinet players in the world; Sam Karam ‘91, first 5-year student at Idyllwild arts Academy and later attended Juilliard; Jason Jackson ’89 a two-time Grammy Award winner and fantastic trombone player; and Vesselin Gellev ‘95 an accomplished violinist and pianist. Then there are Graham Dechter ‘04, Nora Germain ‘09, Michael Barnett ‘05, Jacob Scesney ’11, and Caleb Hensinger ‘11. They are all good examples of musicians living a selfless life in the spirit of love.

Q. What is your current favorite song?

A.I love many genres but for most of my life I have been working on the song, “All the Things You Are”. This song made Jazz popular. It’s an old standard adapted and changed into Jazz. Standards are unique as they relate to several generations at one time. The song is complex but beautiful. I have been working on it, off and on, for about 48 years; as long as I have been playing bass.

Q. Who is your favorite Jazz musician?

A. I have a few favorite musicians; first is Ahmad Jamal, one of the great Zen masters of jazz piano and the second is Miles Davis. It was Miles’ rendition of Porgy and Bess that first inspired me. Later John Coltrane and, last but not least, Shirley Horn. Shirley groomed me to be the musician I am today. She is well respected from across the planet; a musician’s musician. She taught me how to persevere, to understand the lifestyle, to be truthful to my emotions and use absolute sensitivity.

Q. Who is Marshall Hawkins?
A. He’s adventuresome.  Marshall has toured throughout the US and world. He loves to fish in the wilds of Alaska, Gulf of Mexico, and Chesapeake Bay.
He’s humorous. “Without music, the world would Bb” is one of his favorite quotes.
He’s a professional. Marshall has been a bassist and professional Jazz performer since 1964. He has performed with pros like Miles Davis, Shirley Horn, Roberta Flack, Richie Cole and Eddie Jefferson to name a few.
He’s an ambassador. His efforts help raise thousands for Idyllwild Arts Foundation students, and other educational programs about Jazz music for elementary and secondary school students. Marshall was selected by the Goethe Institute of Los Angeles as the only American musician in attendance at the conference to represent the United States, Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines, and the Idyllwild Arts Foundation.
He’s a teacher.  John Newman, Dean of Students and fellow tennis player, says, “Marshall understands how to teach young people about music and how to teach them about life. He knows a lot about the importance of art in education and the vital interconnectedness of art to our lives. Most of all, he is a lovely and caring human being, someone who gives selflessly of himself to help make others’ lives more special.”

Entry filed under: alumni, Arts, Music Stuff. Tags: , , .

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July 2012


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