By Eden Ashley Umble for PhxSoul.com
Marvin Scott has the beatific air and warm smile of someone who loves what he does. As the Program & Community Engagement Director for Rosie’s House, he changes the lives of Phoenix kids through music. An undeniable bright spot in the community for 25 years, Rosie’s House provides free afterschool music instruction, including instruments, to underprivileged children from kindergarten through high school. Over the years, 10,000 kids have been their program, which offers piano, guitar, strings, winds, choir, chamber music ensembles, digital music and mariachi, taught by highly accomplished teachers and professional musicians. No wonder Scott radiates joy.
Scott considers himself a Phoenician; his family moved here from the Bay Area when he was two. The musical lightning bolt hit Scott when he was nine. Seeing his 10-year-old cousin Vincent play the saxophone at a family reunion changed everything.
“I thought it was the coolest thing in the world,” Scott says, beaming. “I looked at my dad and said, ‘Whatever that is that Vincent’s doing, I have to do that.’”
His father, “being the incredible man that he is,” Scott says, went all in, enrolling Marvin in 4th grade band, and buying his son his own horn. Scott felt instantly at home, staying in band all the way through high school.
“I loved it,” Scott exults. “Playing the saxophone was what I did. It was my thing.”
Basketball was another passion, although his plan to pursue it in college was dashed by his being height- challenged. Scott decided to “move this music thing forward. I hung up my sneakers, and really dove into music, into playing saxophone, and I’m so glad I did. It was an incredible college experience.”
While studying music in college, Scott got a chance to teach kids saxophone at a small local nonprofit called Rosie’s House, then in its third year. Everything aligned: Scott was considering teaching as a profession, and with encouragement from his revered saxophone instructor, Scott took the leap. Teaching music proved to be an ideal fit. Scott taught saxophone at Rosie’s House from 1999-2011, while getting his Bachelor’s in Elementary Education at ASU and teaching in the Phoenix Elementary School District at the same time. His two decades as an educator have taken him to some exotic places, including five years teaching English in Istanbul, Turkey. Scott returned home to Phoenix in 2016 and eventually the irresistible pull of Rosie’s House drew him back, where he’s been in his current role for three years.
In its first 25 years, Rosie’s House has grown exponentially to meet the needs of the community’s children. Dwindling art & music programs at Title I schools have made the elegantly structured, all-inclusive program offerings at Rosie’s House more valuable than ever to grateful families and several generations of students. What started in a little house benefiting “30, maybe 40 kids, tops,” as Scott remembers the early days, has steadily grown. These days, there are 500 students enrolled in Rosie’s House classes at any given time (the program quickly outgrew the original little house at 17th & Van Buren and moves to gradually bigger locations have helped Rosie’s House expand over the years).
Many kids study more than one program area, and the average time a student spends in the program is five years – during which time their families are involved too, with parents volunteering in classrooms, during recitals, and more. The diverse musical curriculum is set by the teaching staff, ranging from classical to jazz, mariachi and beyond.
As if brain development, musical excellence, self-confidence, and the teamwork that come along with music study weren’t enough, Rosie’s House also offers youth development to its students, emphasizing higher education, and helping families navigate the FAFSA application to prepare for college, which Scott knows is crucial.
“One statistic we love to promote is that 97 percent of Rosie’s House’s graduating seniors each year are going on to college or university,” he says proudly, in stark contrast to the statewide average of 55 percent of Arizona high school seniors who enroll in college.
Scott and the dedicated team at Rosie’s House will be sharing big news about a permanent home in a new state of the art facility this fall, and their strategic plans for continued growth mean they’ll be changing the lives of even more Phoenix kids with every passing year.
To learn more about Rosie’s House and how you can support this wonderful music academy, please visit rosieshouse.org.
|Marvin Scott (left) and the dedicated team at Rosie’s House will be sharing big news about a permanent home in a new state of the art facility this fall.|