Apparently the bird community knows that the Scotts are hummingbird-friendly.
For three consecutive years, Tammy and I have enjoyed the unsolicited presence of a hummingbird nest on our back patio.
I happened to spy this season’s kiddos leave the nest for their first flight. It’s a fun process to watch. The youngsters are tentative at first. But within an hour they soar to their destiny.
As I recently met with voice and piano teacher Marion McKenzie Evans, I was struck by the parallels to a bird’s first flight as she described nurturing her student’s growth and confidence.
“I’m an encourager,” she beamed. “I believe God gave me that gift and I utilize it through music. It’s a joy to see students achieve more than they thought possible, and then go on flying to reach their potential and then some. I want to inspire people to love music as much as I do.”
And that is the mission Marion pursues at her own Redlands Music School, 233 E. State Street, Suite 3.
The back window of her studio has a view of Redlands Boulevard. She’ll sometimes wave when she spots me grabbing lunch at Burger Town. We first met at the Redlands Bowl in 2002.
It was my privilege to produce and direct “The Sound of Music” there that year and she played Sister Berthe.
Her voice is stunning and remains so — with a range from alto to first soprano.
It’s no wonder to me why aspiring young singers and veteran performers alike seek her out for instruction.
An associate conductor for the Community Chorus of Redlands, Marion draws from a deep well of experience as she teaches.
In addition to performances at Redlands Bowl, she has been featured in over a dozen major Broadway musicals at the Rialto Community Theater, Redlands Opera Theater, the Heartland Players and LifeHouse Theater.
“Roles I’ve really enjoyed have been Mrs. Higgins in ‘My Fair Lady,’” she said. “I’ve also loved playing Nettie Fowler in ‘Carousel,’ Cousin Hebe in ‘HMS Pinafore,’ and the roles of Sisters Berthe and Margareta — as well as Mother Abbess — in my favorite production, ‘The Sound of Music.’”
Marion has also appeared in “Brigadoon,” “Pajama Game,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Mary Poppins.” “My dad said he knew I was a singer by the time I was three years old,” she recalled.
“My parents were very supportive. From the ages of 4 to 11 I was enrolled in ballet, tap, piano and singing lessons.”
Marion fondly remembered how her mother encouraged her. “Mom would say, “I’ll dry the dishes if you’ll sing and play piano for me,” she laughed. “Well, that beat drying dishes any day!”
Her dedication paid off. “By age 11 I sang my first solo in church,” she said. “Later, during my high school years in Bellflower, I joined the marching band and played a tenor drum. I enjoyed performing during halftimes at all the football games.”
Marion’s passion led to a major in music, with vocal emphasis, at California Baptist University.
“I won a scholarship from CBU,” she confided. “I appreciated that affirmation of my talent and it was a great blessing.”
She went on to earn a master’s degree in Church Music at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, where she was appointed an adjunct instructor.
In the early years following her education, Marion became a music and youth director.
She later married a pastor and assisted with music ministry in the San Francisco Bay area.
“When we subsequently moved to the Inland Empire, I began serving as choir director at Del Rosa United Methodist Church,” she said.
“I continued in that role for 27 years.” Now she devotes her time to teaching voice and piano while also performing locally. “It helps to be a practitioner of what I’m teaching,” she observed.
“Music is fun and it’s good for the brain. I love helping people who may be unsure of their talents suddenly spread their wings.”
Sir James Barrie, the writer who gave us “Peter Pan,: made a declaration about flight. “If you cannot teach me to fly,” he wrote, “teach me to sing.”
Thanks to Marion Evans, countless local students soar in their singing.
For most, it becomes a fulfilling non-stop flight to rival any hummingbird.
Wayne R. Scott is an award-winning writer, producer and director who serves as president of LifeHouse Theater, Redlands.