Marshall C. "Marsh" Anders Jr., a retired music teacher, pianist and church organist who headed the music department at McDonogh School for nearly 50 years, died Nov. 15 of a stroke at the Brightview Mays Chapel retirement community.
He was 90.
"Marsh was quite amazing. He was at home with classical music, jazz and all of the American standards. He could play any song in any key. He was incredible," said Philip A. Olsen, who is head of choral music at McDonogh's upper school.
"He was not only a musician but was a master teacher. He was beloved by the students, who had nothing but superlatives, love and affection for him. We will miss him and his music," said Mr. Olsen, who has been on the faculty of the Owings Mills private school for 22 years.
Mr. Anders continued playing music until his late 80s as a member of the Sentimental Journey Orchestra, a Baltimore big band. "He was a highly respected musician in Baltimore for 70 years," said Dr. James A. Quinlan, a retired internist who directs Sentimental Journey.
"He was a wonderful jazz player but was also an accomplished musician. And at his age, he was still practicing three to four hours a day. He always wanted to get better," said Dr. Quinlan.
The son of an accountant and a homemaker, Marshall Clay Anders Jr. was born in Baltimore and raised on Garrett Avenue.
"Our father sort of played at the piano and violin, and early on he had ideas about what careers he wanted his kids to follow," said his brother, Roland Anders of Elkridge. "So he made sure that my brother was given music lessons."
In a 2005 interview with McDonogh Magazine, Mr. Anders said, "At age 10, I decided this is the only thing I could possibly do in my life." He went on to become not only a music teacher, but a church organist, choir director. and cocktail and nightclub pianist.
While attending City College, where he was drum major, Mr. Anders also played music four nights a week in a Baltimore nightclub with the Lou Lombardo Orchestra.
After graduating from City in 1939, he earned a certificate in music from the old Kaspar School of Music in Baltimore.
He later earned an associate's degree and teaching certificate from what was then Essex Community College and a bachelor's degree in 1971 from Goddard College. He did graduate work in music at the Peabody Institute and the University of Maryland, College Park.
While serving in the Army Air Forces during World War II, he was a member of the Skylighters Army Air Corps Band, performed with the Sedalia (Mo.) Symphony Orchestra, and met his future wife, Trudy Moulton, who was a Women's Army Corps air traffic controller. They married in 1947.
After the war, the couple returned to Baltimore, where Mr. Anders was a member of the Zim Zemarel Orchestra, taught at the Freitag Music School, and gave private piano and voice lessons. He also performed on various moonlight cruises aboard Chesapeake Bay excursion boats.
He accompanied many notable entertainers, including Chico Marx, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, his brother said.
From 1948 until 1988, he was organist and choirmaster at St. John's-Huntingdon Episcopal Church in Waverly.
"Marsh was just enthusiastic, and he knew how to keep amateurs interested in singing. And he had one of the best choirs in the diocese," said John E. Roach, who was a member of the St. John's-Huntingdon choir from 1970 to 1978.
"He was very patient and could get people to perform, even those who were less gifted. He got them in tune. He did a very fine job, and at the end of our practices, we always sang a few pop songs," Mr. Roach said. "And then we would go someplace for a beer and a sandwich."
For 50 years, Mr. Anders summered with his family in Wildwood, N.J., where he played piano at restaurants and nightclubs.
"He'd play Saturday night in Wildwood and then would drive to Baltimore to play at St. John's on Sunday, and then drive back to the beach," said his daughter, Viki L. Anders of Manchester.
In Baltimore, he played for many years at the old Love's Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge at Charles and 25th streets.
In 1964, Mr. Anders began his 47-year career at McDonogh School, where he rose to head the music department.
"By the time he retired in 2011, Marsh had directed every single musical group on campus, given countless private lessons, and run the entire Music Department," said the McDonogh Magazine profile.
Noreen Lidston, who was head of the lower school, said in the article that "Mr. Anders has meant the world to three generations of children. With complete joy and unending kindness, he has taught pre-firsters how to play the kazoo, trained students to become concert pianists, and everything in between."
"He had a long, long influence here," recalled Mr. Olsen, who said the school was putting together a George Gershwin medley for Mr. Anders' memorial service. "Marsh just loved Gershwin," he said.
One of Mr. Anders' longtime private piano students was Paige A. Unitas, who lives in Lutherville.
"He was a great teacher and very patient. For me, when I was learning to play piano, the lesson books could be very boring, but he would say to me, 'Pick out something you want to play,' and he'd help me learn it," said Ms. Unitas. "He wanted you to enjoy playing the piano."
From 2001 until last year, Mr. Anders was a member of Sentimental Journey Orchestra, a 17-piece ensemble that practiced weekly and played at area nursing homes, retirement communities and hospitals.
The longtime Towson resident enjoyed fishing and watching stock car races and "The Charlie Rose Show," family members said. He was a record collector and also maintained a lively interest in current events and politics.
A memorial service for Mr. Anders will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in the chapel at McDonogh, 8600 McDonogh Road.
In addition to his daughter and brother, Mr. Anders is survived by two sons, Paul Anders of Ellicott City and Alan L. Anders of New York City; a sister, Lee Woolford of White Hall; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His wife of 44 years died in 1991.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun