The Lasting Impact of Arts Education – One Students Story

As part of the Opening Nights Educational Outreach Program, Lincoln High School hosted guitar students from Leon High School, Raa Middle School, and Swift Creek Middle School for an in-school performance by International Guitar Night, a professional group of four guitarists playing a variety of musical styles. The four guitarists performed to an enthusiastic audience of students, with one of those students being Lincoln senior Cory Marsh.

Cory started playing guitar as a freshman as part of the Lincoln Guitar Program under Dr. Eric Robles and developed a deep love of jazz over the last four years. As a junior, Cory heard “Two Bugs and a Roach” by Earl Hooker and “Swing to Bop” by Charlie Christian. It completely clicked with him that jazz would be the musical path he would follow.

Robles said, “The big step was when Cory learned the shapes that allow you to play all over the guitar; that’s when he started to use them to improvise and imitate his favorite jazz player, Charlie Christian. Two summers ago, Cory sends me this video of what he’s working on. Just a short video of him improvising over a ‘jazz blues’ progression, and it was easy to see he ‘cracked the code’ to improvising and connecting ideas that I was never able to do.”

Cory became transfixed as he listened to the virtuosic playing from International Guitar Night. He asked Dr. Robles if he thought they would let him play for them. Cory ran to the guitar room, grabbed his instrument, and, when he returned, sat down with Canadian jazz guitarist Jocelyn Gould. She sat down and traded solos and chord comping with him, acknowledging some of her cohorts when she heard an idea he “stole.” or referenced.

This one-on-one experience sent Cory’s enthusiasm into high gear. Mrs. Gould suggested he audition for the Summer Jazz Institute at the Brevard Music Camp in North Carolina. Cory was accepted, awarded a scholarship, and spent two weeks learning from renowned jazz educators like Branford Marsalis, Randy Napolean, Rodney Whitacre, and Luther Allison. When asked about his experience at Brevard, Cory said, “It was like heaven on earth being there. I loved not being the best player in the room and being around all this incredible knowledge. It was the perfect place to learn about the right things.”

Through the educational outreach of Opening Nights at FSU, Cory made musical and personal connections that have impacted his future. Cory has realized that he wants to be a music teacher and teach everyone the joy of music he has experienced first-hand, saying, “Jazz is a communal music; you don’t just play it for yourself.”