Malibu High School Artist of the Month: Ethan Marshall

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A self portrait of Ethan Marshall is shown. Marshall played the trumpet in the Malibu High School band and is also a skilled vocalist. The recent graduate will be attending Pomona College in the fall. Contributed Photo

By Felix de Raspide Ross

Contributed column

Ethan Marshall is a 2023 graduate of Malibu High School, and throughout his illustrious high school career, he has invested his time and efforts into the art departments of his school. As a trumpet player in the band, a lead actor in theater, a skilled vocalist, and school Valedictorian, the impact he has made has been immense. Ethan will be spending the next chapter of his life studying linguistics and cognitive science at Pomona College. 

As May’s Artist of the Month, Ethan Marshall answers questions pertaining to music and his time in Malibu High School’s band. 

What does music mean to you?

Music has always been an escape for me. Something to do with my time that felt somehow transcendent, like I was learning something about the universe when I played. More than that, though, music was a way to feel and express things I never could using other means. Hearing musicians play music was a singularly profound experience for me, as if nothing else would ever move me as deeply as notes and chords could. More than just for myself, however, I see music as transformative on a global scale. 

In what way(s) does it allow you to learn and grow?

During all four years of high school, absolutely nothing has been more challenging than playing music. Musicians describe a sort of naturalism to their art, as if music can just flow in and out of them. While that may have been true in some respects for me, learning to play complicated music in talented ensembles was never something that came easily to me. With these challenges, however, I grew into a more confident musician. Learning to think and breathe with a group of other musicians taught me more about life than just about music, and music has absolutely shaped the person I am. 

In what sense does it define you?

Music has changed the way I look at things, both in an abstract but very real way. When I first discovered the musical worlds of the composer Maurice Ravel, I was immediately struck by his profound vagueness. There was nothing concrete or firm about his music; it never explained itself or gave the listener exactly what they wanted to hear. His music and its emotion seems to exist entirely in the mind of the listener. I fell in love with this type of music, and in turn I became changed by it. I began to see things more vaguely, without definite borders. I found beauty in things unsaid, the things you have to assume to be real. I think in this way music has defined my sense of self and of the world around me.  

How do you feel Malibu High School has been able to foster your love of music?

Malibu High has been vital in my music education. Teachers like Mr. Kibler of the band department have given me the outlet to play stimulating and expressive music every day. Working in the theater department and choir department has also allowed me to learn about these disciplines in turn, and Malibu High has never placed any restrictions on where my love of music could imprint itself. 

Is there anything you would change with the MHS music department? If so, what and why?

There’s a sort of collaborative indifference at Malibu High today. I’ve noticed a growing lack of interdisciplinary cooperation in students. It is becoming more often that I see students who would rather look down on members of other branches of music education than want to work together to create music alongside them. I think this sentiment is detrimental to the creative possibilities of interdepartmental music-making. If the orchestra, band, and choir students made music together, I have no doubts that it would sound as good as each ensemble sounds individually. 

What do you hope to fulfill with the music you play? 

Every time I play my instrument, my goal is the same: to create a space in which music is the only thing that matters. When listening to a live performance, the space itself changes. We go from being individual people with lives and sounds of our own into this isolated world where all that matters is the sounds coming from the performer. I hope to create these sorts of spaces with music, to give to people moments of rudimentary escape where all that exists is the sound and how it speaks to them. 

What is something you wish to impart with the reader about the importance of music in society?

Music, in all its forms, reflects the society around it. The music people make seeks to fill the void in the self and in the collective perspective, and when a society is not at rest, neither is its music. Make, listen, and share music that moves you. In this way we can better understand each other and use music as a conduit to understand the deep emotional bonds running through our society. Sharing the music we honestly love with those around us and making music in touch with everything we feel is how a society exists in a higher state of consciousness.