Many don’t know that the first instrument Columbus native and world-renowned musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk played was a water hose.
His sister, Candice Kirk-Howell, recalled their mother taking Rahsaan to rummage sales and him finding an instrument that made a similar sound to blowing into a hose.
Rahsaan lost his sight at a young age, but he didn’t let that hold him back. Famous for combining sounds by playing instruments simultaneously, Rahsaan was a lively and well-respected jazz musician who played around the world. A stroke in 1975 forced him to play with one hand, and a second claimed his life in 1977, at age 42.
Local businessman and radio personality Jack Marchbanks was intrigued by Rahsaan’s story while doing research for a public radio station in 2006. He connected with Rahsaan’s family, still living in central Ohio, and helped spur the idea for creating a scholarship fund to help other musicians.
“This is purely a people’s scholarship—just word of mouth, and people making small donations to help others achieve their dreams.”
“One of the things Rahsaan wanted to do was teach people, especially young people, about jazz,” said Jack.
In 2008, with money raised from friends and family, they established the Rahsaan Roland Kirk Scholarship Fund to support Columbus City Schools’ high school seniors who plan to attain an undergraduate degree in music or fine arts.
“This is purely a people’s scholarship—just word of mouth, and people making small donations to help others achieve their dreams,” Jack explained.
Tatum Flemister, a percussionist and graduate of Fort Hayes Career Academy, was the 2013 scholarship recipient. A student at Berklee College of Music in Boston, he is pursuing a career doing what he loves.
“I’ve been playing as long as I can remember,” Tatum explained. “When I got my first drum set at three or four years old, that’s when it went from me banging to make noise to starting to make music.”
Tatum, who also plays piano and trumpet, recognizes he has something in common with the late jazz great—an independent spirit.
“I don’t consider myself to be a conventional drummer,” he said. “Me going against the grain and not doing everything everyone else does musically is similar to Rahsaan.”