Ward Marston

Pursuing a life-long interest in music, Ward Marston is a successful jazz pianist, dance band leader and recording engineer. He has appeared at the Cafe Carlyle filling in for Bobby Short and played for four years at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. As a dance band leader he has performed at the White House and played for private parties from Hawaii to Turkey. Marston is also a pioneer in the field of audio restoration winning a Grammy, the prestigious Gramophone Magazine Award for Historical Vocal Record of the Year (1996) and The ICRC Award for Historical Instrumental Record of the Year (1998).

Born blind in 1952, Marston began playing piano at the age of four. He attended the Overbrook School for the Blind from 1956 to 1964 where his formal musical training began. At the age of twelve he attended public school. During these years he continued his musical studies in both piano and organ and formed his first jazz group in 1967. As a teenager, he spent a summer in France studying organ with Pierre Cocherau. Following a stint in radio while a student at Williams College in Massachusetts, Marston began to develop skills as a recording engineer. These skills led to work for Columbia records, The Franklin Mint and Bell Telephone Laboratories, where in 1979, he restored the earliest known stereo recording.

Today, Marston brings his distinctive sonic vision to bear on works released by his eponymous label and other record labels including Naxos. He feels very fortunate to enjoy the tremendous accolades from the press and buying public. He enjoys his work and adopts a simply philosophy. To quote Mr. Marston, "A lot of transfers of old recordings simply make them sound like old records. What I try to do is to make them sound like live music. I always attend as many live performances as my schedule permits; it is of utmost importance to keep the sound of live music in my ears." Mr. Marston also has a great affinity with performances and performers of the past. "Interpretation is a key difference between musical performance of today and the turn-of-the-century. Adelina Patti, the greatest diva of the 19th century, made recordings in 1905 at the age of sixty-two. She performed during a time when a singer's personality was an integral part of a musical performance. For the past fifty years, it has become increasingly taboo for singers and instrumentalists to allow their individuality to interfere with today's constricting views on musical interpretation. I do not disparage all performances of today, though I am wistful of the past and thankful for the recordings."

It is Mr. Marston's love of past performers and performances that has lead to his forty-year passion of collecting recorded sound. Although his collection is 30,000 recordings strong, it is still a very personal collection. It contains cylinders, discs and LPs; instrumental, vocal and orchestral performances, though the majority is vocal, acoustic discs. Each item has been hand-picked based on personal interest. The collection is not meant as an archive but has grown steadily over the years. The present size of the collection surprises Mr. Marston since he knows the collection intimately and never has purchased a record without the expressed interest of hearing a particular artist or piece of music.

Mr. Marston continues to perform throughout the United States with his dance band nearly every weekend of the year and plays jazz whenever he can. He lives outside of Philadelphia with his fourth Seeing Eye dog, Vinnie, and his record collection.