Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Spotlight: Marcus Rose

Violist and Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Marcus Rose is a 17-year-old musician from Louisiana with a warm and easy-going personality. To hear him play (and attendees of our November show in Baton Rouge did), it would be easy to believe his musical accomplishments have come without challenges. In reality, without the help of three special benefactors Marcus probably wouldn’t be where he is today.

Marcus on From the Top, November 2010

One of the strongest influences in Marcus’s musical life has been his grandmother. It was at her insistence that he began playing the piano at age 4. After that, he started studying the viola in elementary school, remembering “the first time I picked up a stringed instrument, I knew it was the thing for me.”

Marcus’s grandmother has supported his musical career by financially contributing towards audition trips and summer camps, though perhaps of greater importance is her emotional support. “She’s the one I can always count on being excited…equally excited as I am when I win something!”

But Marcus isn’t just getting support from his family – a fellow musician’s mother has also lent more than a helping hand in Marcus’s musical development. “I’m really close to [Mrs. Crawford] because she’s always been there for me.”

Mrs. Crawford has helped Marcus apply for and subsequently receive multiple scholarships, including the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and From the Top. Her support has enabled Marcus to get important training through access to programs like the Sewanee Summer Music Festival.

Marcus’s dedicated support system further extends to his private teacher, Borys Smolaga. Says Marcus, “Mr Smolaga is an amazing man and he’s been incredibly generous. Last year we were trying to build resumes for colleges and he said, ‘You need a good resume. We’re going to look at local competitions and we’re going to enter them.’ But I’d never really done any competitions!”

When it came time for his first competition, the First Annual Texarkana Concerto Competition, Marcus couldn’t find a ride to the location. Mr. Smolaga stepped in and not only provided transportation, but also hired a pianist out of his own pocket so that Marcus could have an accompanist. “He volunteered to take me…it was an all day thing and he calmed my nerves.”

Marcus is completing his senior year at Caddo Magnet High School in Shreveport, Louisiana, and has a clear view of his future.

Here’s an excerpt from the beautiful thank you letter he recently wrote in response to being selected for the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award:

This past year has unveiled a series of unimaginable events that impacted my life, mainly concerning contributions from your generous establishment. When I was notified of my being a recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, I was literally floored with no words to express my heartfelt gratitude. My grandmother continues to remind me that without this award, there was no absolute way I would be able to make it to even one of my dream conservatories for auditions, let alone college visits. That all changed with one letter in the mail.

I still cannot believe how lucky and blessed I was to come across such a charitable and generous foundation that supported not only mine but thousands of others’ growth in music. Your kind acts are truly those of miracle workers. You will never know how deeply thankful my family and I are because of you working miracles in my life. I promise to continue pursuing my dreams…and advocating classical music wherever I go, ensuring that I will make you proud with my every success. I hope that your foundation continues to prosper and work miracles in at least another thousand young artists’ lives.

Marcus appeared on Show #222 in Baton Rouge on November 2, 2010. Listen to the show on our website. In 2011, he was accepted to Oberlin Conservatory, New England Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, and the Juilliard School. In mid-April, he signed the intent to enroll in The Juilliard School, which included a full scholarship.

“This is the school I’ve dreamed about since I started viola! And I got my dream teacher! I’m still in shock. It doesn’t feel real! Because of [the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s] help I can truly attend my dream school, advance my education, and live the life of a professional musician.”