Published: 23rd February 2017
A lifetime of battling autism disorder couldn't stop this genius from starting his own music school
Hyderabad-based Samuel might have trouble expressing himself through words, but music is his favourite language. He now teaches vocals, keys and guitars at his own music school
Meet Samuel Ashish Marcus, founder and music trainer at the Ashirvad School of Music, Hyderabad. Fondly known as ‘Sammy’, this 27-year- old brims with joy and life. While his cheerful countenance might give the impression that life has been a bed of roses for him, the truth is that Sammy had to walk through a number of thorns to become what he is today.
At the age of three, his mother Annamma Marcus started noticing symptoms of autism like unresponsiveness. As an avid reader of ‘Reader’s digest, she once came across an article titled Dancing in the rain by Annabel Stehli. It was a collection of stories by parents of children with special needs. Although she didn’t exactly understand what was happening, she knew she had to find out and do something about it. Along with her husband Marcus, she took Sammy to Ashirvad, a Child Development and Research Centre, based in Chennai. At the age of three, Sammy was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum, a condition where you have difficulties in social interaction learning and communication.
“In the growing up years, he seemed to be content with his toys and cassettes. He never used to ask for anything we had to sense the need and provide, whether it is food or anything else. His hyper activities like running so much with flapping hands, spinning around, not playing with other children, sitting alone with his favourite duplos or legos and playing alone was difficult. His choice of food too was very limited, he enjoyed dal, rice and curd,” recalls Annamma.
Lord of the keys: Samuel Marcus is always at peace on his piano stool
Although Sammy found it difficult to express himself or communicate through words, he always enjoyed singing. He had a fascination for sounds, melodies and musical instruments. His sister, Tobey, a musician and singer started mentoring him in singing when he was seven years old. Sammy later learnt to play the guitar and Piano. Whenever opportunities arrived, his parents encouraged him to make use of it. Taking his passion to the next level, Sammy graduated in Music from Centre for Music Education, Bangalore Conservatory and completed 7th grade in Piano from Trinity College, London. Since then, Sammy has performed in various concerts across South India and has become a national inspiration, after being featured frequently in the media for his achievements. To top it all, he won the CavinKare exceptional abilities award in the year 2013 at Chennai.
His taste is music reflects his gentle nature. One of his favourites is ‘Maa’ from the movie ‘Tare Zameen Par’. He enjoys devotional songs, drawing inspiration from singers like Graham Kendrick, Don Moen , Paul Baloche, Ron Kenoly, Stuart Townend and patriotic songs particularly A.R.Rahman’s compositions. He has about 10 compositions to his credit in recent years. He also composed music for a poem ‘Oh Almighty’ written by former president Dr Abdul Kalam, and had the honour of singing it at a function where Dr Kalam was the chief guest.
A few of his notable compositions include I dance to a different tune which he performed for a conference on autism in Chico, California, Come Meet me at the Hooker oak and Walk alongside mom and dad holding my little hand which he composed for World Autism Day, 2015
The latest on his list of achievements is ‘Ashirvad School of Music’, founded by Sammy in March 2015, where he teaches vocals, piano, keyboard and guitar. His parents are delighted at this new venture. “Ashirvad at Madras was the first place that we went to with Sammy for professional assessment and help. ‘Ashirvad’ means blessing and we always have been grateful to God for His guidance and help. Our desire is to help Sammy to be independent and earn his living and pass on the passion of music to all those who want to be trained. He has exceptional music abilities. Even in the choir, they would seek his help to get the right pitch,” says Marcus, Sammy’s father.
Rap it out: Samuel Marcus sharing space with rapper Blaaze
Sammy continues to inspire children and young men and women with his attitude to adversity. Never one to wallow in sorrow, Sammy has chosen to make the best of his abilities and ensure he fulfills his dreams. A ‘true gentleman’, as friends call him, Sammy is known for his very loving and caring nature. He has his own style of fun, although he doesn’t grasp that much fun in the company of friends. “There is a mystical divinity in his expressions, especially through the songs he chooses to sing. He is very fond of people and has a clear sense of those who really accept him. He remembers their names, has a good sense of direction, dates and things. He will not forget things from the past and will repeat it to himself at odd times and start laughing,” says Annamma.
For this young gentleman, music means the world. “Music makes me feel happy and proud of myself,” he says. “Be disciplined, don’t run around(jokingly referring to his young students), focus, never stop practising and never give up” is his advice for young aspiring musicians.