Make-A-Wish and Starbucks Surprise a Teen Musician

Robin Estabrook cried for three days after a doctor told her what was wrong with her eight-month-old baby who had been weak and sick.

Her son Marc was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Difficulty breathing and frequent lung infections are the most serious symptoms of the genetic disorder.

“Our lives changed overnight,” said Robin, who is a nurse. “Back then the life expectancy for someone with cystic fibrosis was 20 years. Now it’s about 40 years. We knew Marc would face a lifetime of challenges.”

“No parent wants that for their child,” added Dan Estabrook, Marc’s father.

What the Estabrooks didn’t know at the time was how determined Marc would be to lead a normal life despite his diagnosis, and that at the age of 18 his love of music would lead him to a rare accomplishment. Marc’s original compositions are featured on Starbucks in-house music mix alongside established artists such as Nora Jones, Fiona Apple, Jack Johnson and Sarah McLachlan.

“This is better than a wish come true. It’s the beginning of a dream come true,” said Marc Estabrook from Tacoma, Washington, who describes his style as being a “new age twist on classical music.”

Marc’s goal of having his music professionally recorded and made into a CD was achieved thanks to the Alaska and Washington chapter of Make-A-Wish®. The organization grants the wishes of children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions.

In August, Marc performed his music at a CD signing party arranged by Make-A-Wish. The celebration included a limousine ride to the venue and a red-carpet welcome. But that’s not how the story ends. It’s where Marc’s dream for a music career begins.

Jill Walker, vice president and controller in Starbucks accounting department, also volunteers with Make-A-Wish. She gave Marc’s CD to the team within Starbucks that curates the music heard in the company’s 20,000 stores around the world.

“I listen to about 20 albums a day. Marc’s compositions stand out and I liked the vibe instantly,” said David Legry, a product manager for Starbucks® In-Store Entertainment. “I thought his music would be a nice fit for the season. It has a mellow feel that makes a good contrast to the hectic nature of this time of year.”

Two of Marc’s songs – “Hummingbird” and “Set Free” – were added to the playlists for all Starbucks® stores in the U.S. and Canada this month. Next year they’ll “go global,” Legry said, and will be included in the music selections played in Starbucks® stores in Europe, Latin America and Japan.

Marc’s music comes from his heart. He composed “Hummingbird” for his grandmother. “Set Free” has a more personal meaning. That’s how he feels when he’s able to escape through his music.

He endures twice-daily treatments to cope with cystic fibrosis. One involves wearing an inflatable vest that wraps around the chest. A generator creates rapid bursts of air that make the vest inflate and deflate against his chest. The vibration helps to loosen mucus in his lungs.

“I practice piano while doing the treatments and get lost in the music,” Marc said.

“It is mind boggling to hear how talented he is,” said his father Dan. “I’m very lucky because every night I get to sit in my chair after work and hear a concert in my living room from Marc and his younger brother Matt who is also a musician.”

The fulfillment of Marc’s wish of recording a CD, and the surprise of having his music played in Starbucks® stores, has had an unexpected benefit. Most of Marc’s high school peers didn’t know about his cystic fibrosis because he never wanted to talk about it. Now he’s more open about his physical challenges and hopes he can inspire others who are struggling with genetic disorders.

“Sometimes I get depressed and sometimes I have tough days, but music keeps me going,” he said.

And his dreams keep growing. Marc would like to have one of his original compositions used in a movie.

“Maybe a chick flick,” he said with a smile, “or a Transformers movie. That’d be good.”

Listen to more of Marc Estabrook's music here.

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2024 Starbucks summer highlights