Marcus Blackwell, Jr. is the Founder and CEO of "Make Music Count". Born and raised in Windsor, CT, Blackwell cites that he was strongly influenced by both music and math, contributing to his development of the "Make Music Count" program. "I began my musical journey when I was five, at the Artist Collective,a musical conservatory in Hartford, CT; this is where I first received classical piano training. I then added a jazz piano repertoire, which I would continue all throughout high school"
In addition to his formal training, Blackwell was also inspired by the church. "Attending church and participating in music ministry was central to my musical development. Through these experiences, I developed the ability to play gospel music on the piano from only listening to it and also learned how to play the organ"
At the young age of 16, Blackwell was chosen as the youth Choir Director at Archer Memorial A.M.E.
Additionally, as a child, Blackwell showcased a strong proficiency in mathematics. He would eventually parlay this love for math into aa mathematics major at Morehouse College, however this did come with hesitation.
"Although I was talented and excelled in math in school, I was hesitant to major in math at Morehouse. My hesitation came from a personal intimidation of the subject. It was always implied that math was a subject to be feared and not embraced. However, during my first year I read “The Eight” by Katherine Neville, that described a pianist composing a musical piece from math movements of a chess game. This was interesting to me and I believed that I could make a similar connection between math and music, but I would need the math background to do it. So I decided to go for it and major in math".
Blackwell graduated from Morehouse College with a B.S. in Mathematics and worked for GE Energy as a Lead Modeling Analyst while serving as the Music Director and pianist at Elizabeth Baptist Church. However, after three years with GE Energy and EBC, he knew he was ready to transition and begin fulfilling his dream of creating the "Make Music Count" program.
" 'Make Music Count' was created after I realized how exactly I learned to play the piano. As a pianist and organist who plays music by ear I realized that I built my music chords by applying mathematics versus simply listening and playing what I heard. I learn different notes and progressions to play by using numerical structuring and then match what I derived with what I hear in songs. I then realized that not only was this a way to teach aspiring musicians with no musical background how to play the piano, but also it would definitely get students who are intimidated and struggle in math interested in learning again"
Today, the Make Music Count program is being used in over 20+ schools, and is a method that can break down the barrier that prevents students from learning math.
"In my curriculum, math is immediately seen as fun because the end result after solving a math equation is playing music."