There are so many layers of information when it comes to traditional sitar music. A hardworking musician named Will Marsh is on the path of demystifying them all. He understands deeply the cultural and historical aspect that involves the construction of the instrument, the forms or theory of the music that deals with mechanics of how it is played, and finally, stories or poetry from the tradition. Will Marsh has found that the combination of his speaking with a musical demonstration is very effective in not only communicating but also training others. He has also taken a lot of interest in exploring music for meditation, fusion-crossing cultures in music and the incorporation of the sitar in new music styles.
Marsh has held lectures and demonstrations regularly at universities to talk about topics ranging from music composition drawing from world styles to improvisation and adapting sitar styles to guitar. But he had to start somewhere. Growing up in Northern Michigan, a youthful Marsh fell in love with music and practiced playing the guitar 10 hours a day. Consequently, he developed compelling skills in the composition of classical music and jazz. “It became clear in my early teens that music was my path,” Marsh recalls. “I was a rock star at junior-high talent shows, playing Jimi Hendrix solos with my band, guitar behind my back.”
Pivoting Toward Indian Music
After attending the renowned Interlochen Academy of the Arts as a guitar major, Marsh was accepted to the California Institute of the Arts and it was there that he says “the music of North India and the sitar especially drew me in like a magnet.” That was during his first semester. Marsh would later change his major to World Music and spent a lot of time practicing the sitar. This deep-dive into Hindustani music shaped Marsh’s artistry in a great way.
Will Marsh has been a dedicated student of the sitar since 2006. He was initiated into the rich classical tradition of North Indian music by Ustad Aashish Khan, who is also the eldest son of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, while a student at the California Institute of the Arts. Marsh’s commitment to this art form made him a member of a new generation of serious Indian musicians from the United States. He also had the privilege of studying with sitar masters Roshan Jamal Bhartiya, Tushar Bhaita and Shakir Khan.
Marsh made his first trip to India in 2016, where his playing was greatly accepted and he was celebrated as a sitarist. He has since made it a tradition to travel to India every year, where he performs and continues to learn. Something that keeps Marsh deeply connected with India is the large network of musicians he has created there over the course of time. “The music that I compose is highly unique as it draws from my extensive training in both Western and Indian music,” he says. “After a couple of trips to India, I realized I also wanted to work with the instrument (Sitar).” Marsh is deeply taken by the way the sitars are hand-crafted by families going back many generations. “I found a good trustworthy maker and launched the Will Marsh Music store in 2018.”
Leveraging Technology to Inspire A New Generation Of Artists
Marsh teaches Hindustani music both in the US and India where his music has been featured on stages in Kolkata, documentary films, yoga retreats, and albums by Grammy-nominated artists. Apart from being an internationally celebrated sitarist, Marsh has also recorded with Grammy Winning producer Brian Vibberts, and for Grammy Winning Pop Icon Belinda Carlisle. He has over 10 years of experience as a professional touring musician. His mastery of many musical styles allows Marsh to jump into any musical situation and up-level the tune. As one of few Westerners to become fully proficient in traditional sitar music, Marsh easily shines onstage with a captivating fluid melodic improvisation. His vision is not only to carry on a tradition that is over 1000 years old but also to have his own exciting voice in Hindustani. Will Marsh brings refined melody, imagination, and devotion to all facets of Hindustani music, thus acting as a bridge between ancient culture and modern technology.