Youngster strikes a chord for charity

At age 10, Myles Marcus is one of Ashland's youngest recording artists, and he's using his passion for music to help others enjoy one of his other passions in life — eating.

Myles spent the last two years recording the 14-track CD, "If Music Be the Food of Love," and decided to donate half of the proceeds to ACCESS Inc, which operates 19 food pantries in Jackson County.

"I eat almost every minute of the day, and I can't imagine not being able to eat," he said.

"It's true; he's always hungry," his mother, Sara-Lynne Simpson, added.

Myles, a fifth-grader at Willow Wind Community Learning Center, learned about the need to help the hungry during a food drive in his third-grade classroom. Later, he read an article about ACCESS describing an older woman who had to choose between food and medicine.

Myles' own grandmother pays more than $600 per month for prescriptions and would be in a similar situation without her family's help, his mother said.

"She's a great cook," Myles said, recalling a fondness for his grandmother's blue Jell-O.

By his calculation, each of the $12 CDs will provide 36 meals to local families. ACCESS can provide 6 pounds of food, or six meals, for every $1 donated.

"We do all kinds of fundraisers, but this is a unique one," said Logan Bell, development director for ACCESS. "To have a child really think about something outside of Nintendo is very unusual. ... Sure his parents had input on it, but the bottom line is, it was his deal."

Myles still enjoys playing video games, building models and hanging out with his friends, but he has also been taking voice lessons since age 2 and piano lessons since age 4.

The songs on his CD feature Myles singing and playing songs on the piano ranging from classical to folk. They are listed in order of chronology, beginning with "Greensleeves-Scarborough Fair" and ending with a piece that Myles composed last year.

He wrote "Surviving Caldera Rapid on Upper Klamath River" about his first trip down a Class V rapid at age 7. The melody becomes increasingly ominous as it moves from Class I to Class V rapids, and climaxes when he runs his hand down the length of the keyboard to signify the largest drop in that stretch of river.

"Caldera had a 22-foot drop straight down into a bowl of water, but I loved it," he said.

Myles recorded the album at The Grove in Ashland with the help of Bob Di Chiro, who volunteers at the recording studio for youth twice a week. Any Ashland student can sign up for one recording session per month.

"As far as I know Myles is one of the first kids who came in on his own that had done something to help others with his music," Di Chiro said. "He did a stellar job. He does sophisticated stuff: The piece that he wrote, the composition piano piece, is very, very deep. Even if an adult wrote it, I would think that it's a very interesting piece."

The CD is available at Paddington Station and Music Coop.

"We carry any records that any local person makes; we won't turn anybody down. But this was just a cool little project," Music Coop owner John Brenes said. "To encourage him in what he's doing, first of all music and second of all his passion and care about other people, that's the kind of thing you want to see in young boys and young people for that matter. That was my main impetus."

The other half of the CD's proceeds will go toward further musical training for Myles. He would like to compose music for video games and movies, similar to some of his favorite scores in "Star Wars" and "James Bond" films. He has written five original songs so far.

Myles doesn't have plans for a second album anytime soon, however. His next project is the duet "Pie Jesu," with his sister, Helen Thea Marcus, a senior at Ashland High School. She wants to hold a benefit concert for well construction in developing countries for her senior project.

Staff writer Julie French can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or

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