Family deals with daughter's suicide by helping young musicians

Spending on music is 'what we would have done for her'

The parents of a middle school girl who committed suicide in 2008 are helping her live on by providing scholarships and instruments for aspiring musicians.

Scott Marvin and his wife Jane began the Devon Marvin Music Foundation in memory of their daughter.

Devon "was a beautiful musician, pianist and violinist, she'd been playing since she was 5," Scott Marvin said.

The foundation started small, by rebuilding the stage at Diablo Vista Middle School, where Devon played and practiced.

"After that, we decided to do scholarships," he continued. "Every year we do a minimum of three. Last year we did five and this year we did six."

Those scholarships are for a full week, with room and board, at the University of the Pacific Music Camp in Stockton. This year 27 students applied for the scholarships, and the Marvins hope to double that next year.

"A large part of the decision is made from the one-page essay they write of why they feel they are a good choice. We are looking for dedicated, passionate and committed musicians," Scott said. "We also try to read into the essay and look for students that may also 'pay it forward' when they have the chance."

Jesse Chen, an eighth-grader, wrote that he'd been studying piano for more than eight years and has been a percussionist for five.

"Music is very important to me and I would feel incomplete if suddenly it was unable to be a part of my life," he wrote. "To me, music isn't just a bunch of sounds formed together, but a language that can express, many times better than in words, how one thinks and feels."

Seventh-grader Bailey Manego quoted pop singer Ne-Yo, saying, "Music is the blood running through my veins."

A pianist and violinist, Manego said music "makes everyone feel enlightened and it just brings people to a state of happiness."

But providing scholarships isn't enough for the Marvin family. Scott also arranges repairs for damaged instruments so the music department can spend its money on other things, such as sheet music.

At the Monte Vista Keynoters auction this year, the Devon Marvin Music Foundation offered a dollar-to-dollar match, raised more money than ever, and bough five instruments worth approximately $12,000.

After a discussion with Chavonta Edington, Diablo Valley's music director, the Marvins bought a collection of instruments not usually found in middle school programs because of their cost or because they're difficult to play: two bassoons, an oboe, a euphonium, two single French horns and a double French horn, a baritone horn, a 3/4 concert tuba and four trombones -- two bass trombones and two f-valve trombones.

The new instruments were unveiled at a recent Diablo Valley Middle School concert.

"Everybody was ecstatic was about it when we came out. The kids were jumping up and down, out of their seats," Scott said. "They'll get to try instruments they wouldn't ordinarily have."

The winners of this year's scholarships were also announced at recent concerts. They are Nicholas Henderson, Anna Delsoffe and Manego, who attended junior high camp; Jonathan Lee, who went to high school camp; Chase Bergstad, who attended jazz camp; and Chen, who went to senior camp.

Scott Marvin said they hope to eventually expand their program to another middle school.

The Marvin family is accepting contributions through the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Checks should be made payable to the foundation, with "The Devon Marvin Music Foundation, No. 4166" in the in the memo line. Credit card donations are also being accepted through the Silicon Valley Community Foundation offices at (650) 450-5444.

The family has committed to sending at least three students to music camps in Devon's name "for as long as we can."

"We do this to help us with our pain and sadness," Scott said, "and to give other children an opportunity to do what we would have done for her."


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Posted by Beth
a resident of Diablo Vista Middle School
on Jul 26, 2011 at 8:19 am

It is not Diablo Valley Middle School. It is Diablo VISTA.

The Marvins are extremely generous with their donations to the music departments at both DVMS and MVHS. However, Mrs. Marvin's obvious display of her greatness and her lack of modesty during the DVMS Spring Concert made me feel a bit used, feeling as though I was an unwilling outlet for her obvious need of alternative therapeutic intervention from the tragic loss of her daughter. I do not know Mr. or Mrs. Marvin, but I felt as though their loss was being thrown on me on the exact same night that people were gathering for another teen lost to suicide. I was surprised the other girl, Ally, wasn't even mentioned while the gifts were being given to DVMS.

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Posted by A Parent
a resident of Danville
on Jul 26, 2011 at 9:01 am

What an amazing gift you are providing to our community! In addition, your unselfish ability to share the loss of your daughter and turn her passion into gifts is incredible. Suicide leaves us feeling lost. Your gift will hopefully reach someone who is thinking about ending their life and encourage them to tell someone. God Bless.

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Posted by Mimi
a resident of Danville
on Jul 26, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Devon was in the same grade level as my daughter at DVMS. Devon was pretty, well-liked and very smart, but she took her own life without any obvious warning signs. When this happened, it threw the DVMS community into grief and disbelief that this could happen so close to home. In loving memory of Devon, the Marvin family has been very generous in providing the music camp scholarships and supporting the music programs at both Diablo Vista and Monte Vista.

It may be that Beth is too far removed from Devon's death, but I think Beth's comments are ungracious to say the least. The Marvin's generosity is intended to benefit young musicians and it is a gift that is to be appreciated.

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Posted by Lily
a resident of Blackhawk
on Jul 26, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Scott and Jane, Thank You for all you did!!! Devon's spirit will always live among us!!!

As to Beth, with all due respect, I just wanted to say that if you only have hurtful things to say, then it's better to keep it for yourself. Because it only reflected your character and hurt your own integrity!!! I pity your poor soul!!

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Monte Vista High School
on Jul 27, 2011 at 2:27 am

Incredible heartbreak turned into an ongoing community focus on the actual needs of young students. Commitment of literally hundreds of hours, thousands of dollars, and countless personal interactions with concerned parents and others, even beyond the local community. The willingness to respond enthusiastically when so many are "too busy" to really care enough to step forward. Sounds like role model stuff to me.

I know Scott and Jane, all the background, and the people who have witnessed, felt, and understood their motivations. I know firsthand why concern for the Bayliss family, and the Diablo Vista students, led to the decision not to mention Ally that night. I have yet to understand why so many other "community members" watch so few do so much of the real work of the community, and still feel free to demonstrate their own lack of knowledge, concern, and humility.

Thank you Jane, Scott, and Mitchell! Thank you for honoring Devon's life in such positive ways! Please stay positive, and keep up the good work!

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Posted by Beth
a resident of Danville
on Jul 27, 2011 at 3:17 am

Dear Mimi and Lily,
It was not my intention to be hurtful. I just felt that given the community's circumstances on that particular night, with the tragedy of Ally Bayliss, I felt confused as to what was going on with the long show of giving to the school. Ally's and Devon's suicides hit very close to home for me and maybe I did not care to be part of the Marvins' personal healing process on that particular evening. I was already quite upset with the news of Ally Bayliss. And it so happened that the night before I DID have to intervene with a local family whose teen was also threatening suicide. So I am sorry if I sound as though I lack character and a soul, but I was overwhelmed emotionally on that evening and had little left. I DO very much appreciate the Marvins' generous donations. The timing that night... I am sorry, but it was just too much for me to sit through. And I am not so crazy about the process in which they are deciding who will and will not receive their scholarships. There seems to be too much personal judgment involved with whom they believe is or is not deserving of a scholarship. Maybe input from the DVMS and MVHS music directors should also be considered as part of the scholarship process. And, yes, I am far removed. My child was not at DVMS when this tragedy occured. And I do not know the Marvins. Beth

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Posted by Mimi
a resident of Danville
on Jul 27, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Dear Beth,

Thank you for enlightening me on the events that led to your initial posting. I'm sorry you had such a rough week! I think you will agree that, deep down, the true issue is teen suicide. We were all teens once, we know those feelings, yet we somehow made it through. But here we are, with teens who are feeling uncertain, depressed, desperate and suicidal. Why did they do it? How did we miss the signs? Why weren't we able to save them?

It can be overwhelming for a teen to cross over to adulthood, but somehow we need to repeatedly assure them that there is a wonderful future in store. There are so many life experiences and milestones to not miss!

The Marvins have turned their tragedy into something positive through music, and also through "reminders" that we need to be watchful and keep communication open with our children.

Beth, take care, and I hope things get better.

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Posted by Lily
a resident of Blackhawk
on Jul 27, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Dear Beth,

Thank you for your reply and the clarification on what led to your posting. Although it's not your intention to be hurtful, the message did come across to me as not so gracious or sensitive especially toward the Marvin family who has gone through the amount of pain that I myself as a parent can't even begin to fathom. Devon and Ally are the victims of teen suicide that we come to know, however there are so many others whose names we would never know. So the important issue is that we as parents be reminded that teens need help, understanding and support from not only their parents, but their friends, neighbors, teachers and people in their community like us. How we can reach out to their silent cry before it is too late is essential. We as a community need to address and get involved in this issue. To me the rest is not that all important. So let us focus on doing the right thing and encouraging each other to do the right thing. Let us have compassion toward each other. After all, we are very fortunate to live in a community like Danville.


2 people like this
Posted by Jane Marvin
a resident of Danville
on Jul 28, 2011 at 2:22 pm

The mark of a caring indiviual is when you encounter someone who you believe is in "obvious need of alternative therapeutic intervention" that you either attempt to understand and support, or you quietly respect their needs, regardless of how tough your own day has been. Catty, sniping comments are destructive and unnecessary.
I am sorry that you misinterpreted my passion and enthusiasm as a "display of (my own)greatness" and that you "arent crazy about the selection process". I will tell you simply that you do not understand.
The DVMS evening was to award scholarships and donate instruments. It was intended as a celebration. It was unfortunate that it occurred at the same time as Alliy's tragedy - an event that was emotionally overwhelming to our family also, making it so much harder to stand in front of that audience that evening. Perhaps you would have preferred I share what I really felt - shared empathy of the devastation and dispair of another mother who needlessly and tragically lost a beautitul, talented, precious child. To do so would have been wrong - and would have taken all the joy of achievement from those scholarship recipients. I chose not to do so.
By the way, by far the biggest factor in deciding who receives a scholarship IS the input of the music director and teaching staff of DVMS. Before you criticize and throw stones (that hurt deeply), please get your facts straight.
Our family will continue to give scholarships, donate instruments and support kids to build their self esteem, regardless of what you think our motives may be.

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Posted by Diane
a resident of Danville
on Jul 28, 2011 at 4:42 pm

I appreciate the efforts to work through emotions on this thread - and I applaud the Marvin family for their generosity in creating joy for other children given their own grief at losing a child.

Jane, thanks especially for getting Alliy's name right. My son knew Alliy in school and several of his friends were hit especially hard by her death. Somehow it feels right to be sure her unique way of spelling her name is with us, even if she is not. And - thanks so much for your passion and your willingness to continue to donate to children in need. What an admirable thing to do, and what a touching legacy for your daughter.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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