Ozan Marsh. He was a legend. A wonderful father and a phenominal pianist. Until the very end he practiced daily. Until only months before his passing the piano was open and played, until one day when he carefully closed the lid and the keys dissapeared...for another day
he said and smiled as the piano keys dissapeared.
His passing was not so quick, but he endured...endured to a point where he took my hand, and looked straight into my eyes and said "I love you..." in a very clear way...nothing else. He passed the next morning calmly in his sleep.
For me it was difficult to see my father who was like a dear brother to me pass away. I know things are better for him...over there on the other side, that Great Concert Hall where people are good, and the critics fair. It was unfortunate for this country that he was not given all the things he so wanted and deserved. But he was a modest man, and tried in every sense to make a modest person out of me. Perhaps it is kindness in the end that deserves its reward. He was a kind man regardless how people could have said in passing or criticised. He was a God fearing man who lived his life and worked hard. Ozan Marsh instilled this in his son.
He passed away March 15th 1992 at Phoenix Memorial. The days after were tough, and little reprieve from people giving condolences. I was alone at that point and I certainly felt that void that was leveraged my way. I knew him too as a lonely man with a wonderful humor and ability, gift and talent to nourish the piano and bring forth beautiful music.
My father and I were like brothers especially since my mother passed away. People never realized how close my father was to me. He taught me a great deal about the career and about life in the arts, the pitfalls and the higher elements. He of course was a world renowned concert pianist-the same with my mother. My father gave me piano lessons every week and was as critical with me as with the best of his students. Sometimes the piano lessons would go on for hours..but this had one condition, and I observed this. (I was not really to play for other students..or get involved in their workings...understood, conflict of interest...quite reasonably) He was a wonderful person to know and one of a very powerful and sound man, who could be a great General or Captain. His word was his bond.
It was however, too bad what he saw towards the end of his life. He was better at 70 than 27 but the concerts didnt come in as much and he grew frustrated. Ozan Marsh often grew angry at the experiences around him feeling that many of the situations were unfair or political. In every attempt for himself or his students he tried to make the best possible light out of any condition often watch politics play their part in the small city environment of Tucson, and try every possible way to give more than could be expected to the culture at his University and to the city. He did this at Chautauqua too. He saw to it personally that many of his students would receive scholarships, sometimes spending hours and hours on the telephone trying to get sponsors. If anyone could make a miracle it seemed to be my father. Of course he sometimes found it like pulling teeth, but he happily tried to make the best of the situation, whatever it may have been as it was possible. Im positive, and remember well how he went way..way out on a limb for his students. I remember him well for his courage with me. He was the greatest father anyone could have...beyond public life. He was working on tremendous projects in his private life, but few acknowledged them.
In his last years he seemed rather deeply discouraged in the way the culture, in general, was moving. He was a man of philosophy that generally was shy about giving his specific viewpoint, perhaps due to his public. He often seemed general and aloof, but on the other side, beyond the public he had very sound values and viewpoints. He was a visionary in many realms and had an imagination that did not cease to be enthralled in everything from astronomy to the way music could be performed. He visualized a new symphonic platform that included the most elaborate of electronic instruments in a new place in a soon to be electronicly sophisticated world. Of course there were people who disagreed with him. During his last years he went to work on a project called Nova Orchestra- an electronic digital symphony platform that is so very similar to various experimental platforms that are making their debut today! Nova Orchestra or Orchestra Nova was a device that he dreamed about and worked out in various sketchbooks away from many. Of course during his time they didnt understand much of the platform that he was envisioning. A Dr. Kolosic from the University of Arizona worked with him on a prototype of the digital orchestra. Living with my father was a wonderful experience! The man as a pianist as well as his ideas where altogether phenominal. Up until the very end he was a man of imagination, technique within that imagination, and a great humorist as well as a needle-like punster that could rivet any phrase, and seemed to know the character of people well inside and out, sometimes with too much accuracy. He gave me a lesson about everything in life whether it be art or those long lessons where he punched holes in my music, ways of playing and simply turned it around in record time! (If I wanted it-whether it be a lesson or a lecture--he would smile, give a serious face, smile and then wink---and then an hour or so later -I would see what could be done with a matter of severe focus, and he was a man of measurement and keen calculation, but also of a wonderful light heart- How simple some things can be if one really focuses upon a subject, and then relaxes)
Unfortunately he had a rather sad feeling about music in those last months we spent together. He was often deeply upset about the loss of reflection in modern music as well as the performers relationship to his instrument. He did realize that the world was changing too fast into a world of somewhat rabid commercialism, and somewhat at loss, the art which seemed sucked under fast to the call of the almighty dollar (which he used to joke about) He always was a General in my mind knowing specificly what things were what along an assembly line of great disguises put out in reference to popular culture. Somewhere I think he had seen it all before and recognizing a repeat was easier for him due to his focus. He was happy I did my art and found tremendous satisfaction in this subject for me. He was rather uneasy if I jumped into questions about the music field which he compared to a minefield of self centered focus as to many singular viewpoints that lacked general rules.
I dont think you want to go here- he often said- talking about the piano, the often uneasy life of performing, practice, education and teaching. He was a consummate artist and a pianist who still to this day is difficult to find any reasonable fault with- (I still listen to his recordings and wonder- why in the hell he was not known more than he was!) "That is the field!" He would say. "Not that there are so many tremendous artists out there....there are...its too often that they cannot be heard! Its a problem with the culture,and the media- he would mention. I so concur, now a fold of time-20 years later and listening back as well as seeing what today is art may not have been selected 50 years ago in the same league. In music and art it is much the same. It is not about technique but rather about commercial administration, how things are seen or names are made. I did just enough in my own music to witness so many things as to wonder if any artist of a good calibur could make it through the current screen of popular art-art for the masses. "That is the field" I now concur (2010 as if 20-20) knowing what I have seen as well as what I have felt during my career (which has been very good and in some ways extreme (if a person would actually sit down and read the records of my own biography)! But this is "that field..today" It is not 1939, 1955, 1975 or 1985- The world of music has changed! Some of our most historic performers are no longer playing performances...and why? "Look and see!" said one reference, a man who I knew as a fine performer in Prague. "There is a reason behind this!" said another fellow who I met who taught, was a fine pianist but admitted he did not perform regularly anymore---but not that he didnt practice, he did! "Call me a year in advance for a concert one is sure to remember..." I was astounded when I heard him! "Brilliant pianist" was a pale word!
Im sure that the souls of the excellent go to a higher bridge in the universe no matter what their medium upon passing. Its never about fame, and its not about money! Its about something called honor. Excellence has an honor that cannot be described and is "real pearl". Those who know what I am talking about know, and fancy footwork never clears experience on a very high level. I am lucky to have had such guidence of a master. We should all search for that finer path of excellence within us---it is uniquely our own! Im sure my father in some ways is as much with me in spirit these days as I personally trudge through the commodity of perspective and of social worth that our society has provided. No it is never about fame--it is about doing, loving, being and giving your perspective for some future generation to have as a "golden age!"---This is the aspect of the legend.