Musical fixture Dave Marston dies of rare disease

Musical fixture Dave Marston dies of rare disease

ASHLAND — Barely 24 hours after a two-day benefit concert raised more than $25,000 for his medical bills and the support of his family, well-known Rogue Valley musical director and chorale leader Dave Marston died of a rare brain disease.

Afflicted the past four months with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Marston died in home hospice care at 9 p.m. Monday. He was 56.

Tami Marston, his wife of 20 years and mother of their two children, Sarah and Rose, said that, after his passing, "I tried to imagine a world without Dave and it's not possible because he is here in our children and in everything we do musically."

Marston, a fixture on the Rogue Valley music scene for decades, led his family in many performances, including his last, "Gems of Broadway," in early May at Southern Oregon University's Music Recital Hall.

Over his long musical career, the energetic Marston was music director for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and led the Siskiyou Singers, the Beatles cover band The Nowhere Men, The Ancient Men, the Rogue Valley Peace Choir, the Children's Peace Choir and choirs at Methodist, Congregational and Havurah houses of worship in Ashland.

Most of these groups and others performed at a fundraising concert Saturday and Sunday at the Historic Ashland Armory, raising $25,000 to $26,000. The proceeds will go toward more than $20,000 in medical bills and for support of the family, which has children in high school and college, said Larry Marshall of Marshall Fundraising Management, which did pro bono work on raising the money.

On the Marston family Web site at, Tami Marston posted the note that "Tami, Sarah and Rose had a profound visit with him "¦ on Friday, where he not only smiled and shared a tear, but used his hand to strum his own 'air guitar' and complete the Marston Family Singers one last time."

"The groups (at the benefit) gave an incredible amount of love, warmth and joyous singing," said Marshall. "It's what Dave was all about. He was the busiest and most hard-working musician in the valley and his memory and legacy will surely live on in this community."

Allen Kenner, director of the choir of Havurah Shir Hadash, said Marston encouraged him both in interfaith choir work and in sight-singing (reading music). Kenner will carry on these traditions, teaching sight-singing at 4 p.m. Fridays at Havurah, with proceeds going to the Marston family.

Lynn Sjolund, director of Rogue Valley Chorale, which sang at the benefit, said, "Dave did a lot of wonderful things for a lot of people in this valley."

As the benefit concert went on, wrote Tami Marston, "I have no doubt in my heart that Dave was with us all at the Armory to receive and give back all the love that flowed to him in those concerts."

On Sunday, after the benefit concert ended, the family joined Marston to tell him "of the beauty of the event" and to celebrate Father's Day.

She wrote, "He's so clearly and absolutely present in the spirit of everything he gave in his life — every person he loved, taught, mentored, gave support to; every gift of music and empowerment he bestowed upon his friends, his family, his community; every note he sang, played or conducted that entered the hearts of people receiving the gift he was giving them."

There will be a concert this summer in the Lithia Park Band Shell, at a date to be arranged, to raise money for the financially "still struggling" family, said Marshall. Marston's brain tissue will be donated to research institutions working with the incurable CJD, he added.

The family will have a "paint up, fix up" weekend in July, at a date to be announced, to get the family home ready for sale.

Donations may be made via or to the Dave Marston and Family Fund, Rogue Federal Credit Union, P.O. Box 4550, Medford, OR 97501.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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