Phoenix Refugee Brings Talents To Rim Country



Fleeing the heat and traffic is a familiar story among the reasons Valley of the Sun residents become refugees in the Rim country.

Marjorie Maxwell, a music teacher with 45 years of experience, moved to Payson in 2001 from Phoenix for that very reason.


Marjorie Maxwell

Almost as soon as she unpacked her bags, Maxwell began sharing her musical talent, cultivating local aspiring pianists. She also joined local instrumental groups, including a jazz band and the former Rim Civic Orchestra.

Maxwell's interest in music was fostered from an early age. Her mother, a church pianist, started Maxwell's study of music when she was 10.

Over the years, she took up different instruments, building an impressive repertoire that now includes woodwinds, strings, and keyboards. She can play anything from the most complicated arrangements of "It Is Well" to peppy jazz and Big Band tunes, and even famous classical pieces like Mozart's fast-paced "Rondo alla Turka".

Understandably, her musical talent and versatility has taken her places, from Washington to Scottsdale.

Maxwell's teaching career began in 1959, and since that time, she has guided and inspired hundreds of musicians of all ages, at one point carrying a load of 60 students a week. "It was a full-time job," she said modestly.

One former student stood out in Marjorie's memory as being a rare child prodigy: a boy named Michael Sample.

"I taught (Michael) for several years," she said, remembering how the boy went on to perform on stage such complex pieces as the hymn arrangements by piano legendary Dino Kartsonakis.

Maxwell's students aren't the only ones in the spotlight: she's been on stage many times herself.

"I played (harp) in a group for my church orchestra in Phoenix, and for the last 23 years I've performed with them. They do productions for Easter and Christmas," she said.

Her vast experience in music has given her time to form her own ideas about music and teaching it. When asked how learning music could be beneficial to school-age students, she replied, "Music is mathematical, and there are certain equations, like for (forming) a major chord."

To Maxwell, music is a language, and should be taught as one would teach French or Spanish.

"People can get by without learning to read and write in this life, but it's difficult," she said. "You can get by just listening to music, and moving with the beat, but you get by a whole lot better if you have a basic understanding of what music is, and begin to read it, play it, and hear it."

In teaching music, she employs three main methods: ear training, sight-reading, and improvisation, or, taking the familiar fundamentals and expanding on them.

As a music teacher, Maxwell wants to leave this legacy with her students: "Music was a ministry, and not just a position. I feel that God gave me (music) to use it wisely, and that I should do that for my students."

She said she hopes her students will see her as, "a minister of God through music."

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