Marvin Sparks serves as the Itinerant Instrumental Music/Percussion Specialist for the North Forest Independent School District, and faculty member in the Jazz Department at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. Professor Sparks previously served as Director of Jazz and Percussion Studies at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, and Director of Percussion Studies at University of Houston-Moores School of Music, and developed Latin percussion ensembles at Eastern Illinois University, and Kastner Intermediate School in Fresno, California.
Marvin Sparks has done extensive research on the African influence in Cuban music and has studied with master percussionists including Oscar Sully (an African master drummer), Famoudou Don Moye (percussionist with the Art Ensemble of Chicago), John Santos (ethno-musicologist in Latin Music), and Cuban percussionists Carlos Aguilla, Fermin Nani, Roberto Vizcaino, and Migeul Nodal. His research has been conducted at Eastern Illinois University, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, the DuSable Museum of African American Art and at Centro Nacional de Escuelas de Arte in Havana, Cuba. Sparks has studied drum set concepts with Ndugu Chancler, Freddie Gruber, Ed Thigpen and classical percussion concepts with Tom Siwe, Johnny Lane, and Sam Denov.
As a performer, he has worked in various genres of the music industry, including the Chicago Civic Orchestra, Broadway Musicals; The Wiz, Ragtime, Titanic, King and I, and Will Rodgers Follies: Jazz Artists; Max Roach, Joe Henderson, Sandip Burman, and Ernie Watts: R&B and Gospel; Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, Mattie Moss Clark and the Clark Sisters, Shirley Caesar, Lakewood Church Orchestra and James Cleveland. Sparks has recorded over 200 commercials for Radio and TV as a writer, player, and producer.
As a soloist and clinician, Professor Sparks has presented at the International Association of Jazz Educators, Texas Bandmaster Association, Texas Music Educators Association, Percussive Arts Society International Convention, Caribbean Studies Association International Convention, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Mid-West Band and Orchestra Convention, and served as a staff member of the United States Percussion Camp. Presently, Sparks freelances in the Houston area primarily with the Calvin Owens Orchestra and Metropolitan CME Church. He is an educational consultant for Sonor Drums, Sabian Cymbals, Vic Firth Mallets and Sticks, and Latin Percussion.