Christian Martin’s journey to Binghamton University has taken him from Arizona to Maine-Endwell High School to Temple University, back to Arizona and then to Jamestown and Cortland.
But it is an association with North Dakota that has brought the senior his greatest success.
Martin took second in the 2011 Edwin Fissinger Choral Composition Prizes, a national choral composition competition based at North Dakota State University, after seeing a flyer that the Music Department posted.
“Since I had a choral background, I took a shot at it,” said Martin, a 27-year-old music theory and composition major. “I had written some choral music in high school, so I had an understanding about how to do it.”
Music has always been a part of Martin’s life. His father is a pastor who plays the guitar, while is mother has a piano performance degree from Syracuse University. In grade school, he attended the Arizona School for the Arts and played piano, classical guitar and sang. He also was a member of the Phoenix Boys Choir and traveled to China, England and Ireland for performances.
After leaving Temple University for financial reasons, Martin set up a small recording studio in Arizona and produced hip-hop and pop records. One recording was for a young singer named David Hernandez.
“I realized a few years later that he had made the top 12 of ‘American Idol,’” Martin said. “I have some tracks of him at home in my library. That’s really cool. … Before I worked at the home studio, I joined a rock band – the Loveblisters – based out of Tempe. I got to go on tour to Mexico, California, and on a cruise called Rockin’ the Seas. I got great life experiences in Arizona.”
Martin eventually made his way back to the Northeast, settling in Cortland and commuting to Binghamton University in the fall of 2010. Martin’s award-winning composition, “Walls of Glass,” is a setting of the text of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 5 and was inspired by his grandmother.
“While I was studying the music portion, my grandmother went into hospice,” said Martin, who added that she has since been released and is doing well in Arizona. “During that week, I was reading through the sonnets and Sonnet 5 stuck out. It talks about the linear human life as opposed to the cyclical seasons. She was the inspiration at that point for the setting of the text and it took off from there.”
Martin wrote his theme while riding with his wife (“I scribbled it down on college-rule paper,” he said.) and received guidance and advice from music faculty members such as Bruce Borton, Paul Goldstaub and Christopher Loy. He later submitted the printed composition to the Fissinger Competition, but had no expectations about winning.
“I was even more surprised when I found out that the (first-prize) winner was a faculty member,” said Martin of Indiana State University’s Nancy Hill Cobb. “I thought I was competing against students!”
“I enjoyed the piece: It is compelling and well written for the ensemble,” Loy said. “He is committed to the art of composition and I look forward to his future contributions.”
Martin said he plans to attend the national premiere performance of “Walls of Glass” at North Dakota State in the spring. (The Harpur Chorale also will perform the composition this fall.) Martin credits the Music Department and its care of students for much of his success.
“I see genius in Christopher Loy. I see genius in Paul Goldstaub,” Martin said. “Professors are interested in what we are doing. (Loy) took time before and after class to critique pieces, as did Professor Goldstaub. They have time for us. I never really found that at other universities.”
Martin, who hopes to remain at Binghamton University for graduate school, wants to teach theory and composition at the graduate level. But Martin, who now works three jobs outside of class in the Cortland area, enjoys more than music at Binghamton.
“I’ve always liked taking classes outside of the music school,” he said. “Here I’ve gotten to take digital photography, sociology, psychology. Every course I have taken has been interesting, engaging and challenging. I think I’ve come a long way since I started here.”