The documentary, "Two in a Million" captures the extraordinary story of talented musicians Dave Marston and Robin Lawson whose premature deaths from a terrifying disease sometimes described as “Alzheimers on Speed” have left a surprising, international legacy that extends from Japan’s Hiroshima to England’s Guernsey Island.
Born on different continents both men trained as classical musicians and then explored divergent musical genres in their chosen hometown of Ashland, Oregon. Although their paths seldom crossed, their lives are inexplicably linked by a remarkable coincidence: their deaths within weeks of each other from Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD), an extremely rare, non-contagious brain disorder.
Statistically CJD affects one-in-a-million people. Ashland’s population is about 22,000.
Currently in production by Three-Part Harmony Media, the documentary highlights Dave and Robin’s creativity expressed through their multiple roles as musicians, teachers, directors, actors, mentors and activists. Dave---whose passion for baseball was also legendary---became well-known for his beloved Beatles band, the Nowhere Men; Robin was celebrated as the Englishman proficient in American jazz.
Often described as Renaisssance men, both were renowned participants in Ashland’s live theatre, cultural events and political life. But their audiences---and their influence---went well beyond America as their careers took them to Asia and Europe where they performed and taught. Dave Marston took the first American choir to Hiroshima to sing at the memorial there; Robin Lawson returned to his country of origin, England, to share his enthusiasm for American Jazz.
Each had the rare gift of the ability to move huge audiences with their performances and yet quietly change the lives of the individuals who were their private music students.
Robin and Dave had friends who were filmmakers and writers, these people have made it possible to produce this wonderful documentary. Their work is all "in-kind" but will need the benefit money for traveling, buying the rights to Beatles music, replication costs and distributing the documentary to film festivals, libraries, music and medical schools.
Music and Hope are the two elements in this film that will warm your hearts.
Project location: Ashland, OR
(above, the Nowhere Men, Dave's Beatles cover band)
My personal connection: I loved the Nowhere Men band and saw/heard them several times, especially at the Grilla Bites sessions on the Plaza, where everyone from toddlers to ninety-somethings - all sexes and preferences; people alone or together in various combinations - sang out the words of Beatles songs along with the band, and dancing spilled out onto the sidewalk. For me, those evenings of communal joy embodied the essence of Ashland, my town, and why I'm living here. (I'm getting teary as I write this.) At the bottom of this post I've embedded a rare video - part one of a live performance (though alas not at GrillaBites - I doubt they could have squeezed a camera in, there), and links to the other two parts.
This post is mostly about Dave; as for Robin, I wasn't as personally aware of him as of Dave - we do have so many fabulous musicians in this area - but after he died and I learned more about him, I realized I'd seen him perform too, at the Camelot, and remembered those performances well.
Music is a big part of life, and in this town and valley, which is for some reason a magnet for creative people, that means much live performance and a lot of participation. Dave and Robin were catalysts for talent, and it was too sudden and too big a loss for this small community when both musicians were struck down so suddenly and in such an unlikely way.
And so a group of friends set out to make a short documentary about these musicians. (Yes, filmmakers live here too.) They kicked it off, and also some scholarship funding to support music students, with a wonderful fundraiser ($10 ticket, as I recall, and if you couldn't afford that they offered to help) at the Standing Stone. It featured a great many students of both men and it was amazing to experience the variety and quality of talent they'd nurtured. That event, too, embodied the idea of Ashland, for me. It's not just a tourist town, there's a real community here.
Music still goes on here, and activism too. Which is, I think, a proper tribute to the community-building these two fellows did in their too-short lives. As Holly Near said in her song about Victor Jara, "You can kill a man but not a song when it's sung the whole world round."
to follow up:
http://www.twoinamillion-movie.com/ (you can hear interview clip there)
On YouTube I found a three-part vid (by edcrosay) of the Nowhere Men (Dave Marston, David Gabriel, Joe Cohoon and Brent Norton) performing at the Britt Ballroom in 2007 - not quite the orgiastic experience of the Grilla Bites shows, and it doesn't make you properly deaf, but it captures something at least of the charm and skill of the band. Here's part one:
Here are parts two and three: