Introducing Choral Conductor, Pianist, and Composer, Michael Martin

Dr. Michael Martin with the New Albany Symphony Orchestra

Dr. Michael Martin with the New Albany Symphony Orchestra (credit James DeCamp Photography)

By Debbie Feiler, marketing director for the New Albany Symphony Orchestra

Michael Martin is the conductor of the New Albany Symphony Chorus, director of choral activities at Hilliard Darby High School and director of music at New Albany United Methodist Church. He’ll be busy this season conducting pieces the Rose Run Fest Opening Night Concert on June 7. He lives in Dublin with his wife, Carolyn, and son, Noah.

Debbie: When did your love of music begin?
I fell in love with music around the age of seven. My mother sang in a company chorus for the state of Ohio under the direction of Carol Marty (former faculty at Capital University). The group recorded several media records of which I listened to on repeat and was enamored. So, that’s what really planted the seed. My father and uncles also sang for fun in local barbershop groups.

Debbie: Tell me about Ohio State and your time with the Men’s Glee Club.
I enrolled at the Ohio State University as a music theory and composition major, where I had the opportunity to be part of the Robert Shaw Institute from 1990-94. Robert was a multiple Grammy Award-winner and was also conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus for many years. We studied and performed major works, and I was his accompanist and go-to assistant during that time. I also studied piano under Earl Wild, a multiple Grammy recipient for piano. I very reluctantly attended a Men’s Glee Club rehearsal when my friend had talked me into going. After that first rehearsal, I was hooked. The conductor at the time, James Gallagher, asked me to be accompanist, which I did in addition to serving as assistant conductor for 18 years.

Dr. Michael Martin with the New Albany Symphony Orchestra

Dr. Michael Martin with the New Albany Symphony Orchestra (credit James DeCamp Photography)

Debbie: I understand you’re an accomplished composer.
Mike: Yes. During my time with the OSU Men’s Glee Club, I was asked to do an arrangement for “Send in the Clowns” for our performance at an American Choral Directors Association conference. I was not a huge fan of the song but followed through with my version which we performed beautifully. Within two weeks, there were over 62,000 pre-orders for that piece with Warner Brothers, and it still sells to this day. My compositions are published with Alliance Music, Lawson Gould and Alfred Publications. And I’ve been asked to compose for various honor choirs and festivals throughout the Great Lakes region.

Debbie: Do you prefer being a performer or being a conductor?
Mike: I love preparing works for conductors like Luis Biava and all the work that goes into conducting a big group of 200 voices and musicians. He takes our combined vision and elevates it to its highest potential. It’s quite emotional to witness the final product when it’s executed. Last spring after Luis and I led the New Albany Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in their performance of The Messiah, I was speechless for hours. It was an amazing, powerful afternoon.

Dr. Michael Martin with Christopher Purdy

Dr. Michael Martin with Christopher Purdy
(credit James DeCamp Photography)

Debbie: Is it difficult to pivot from leading teen voices to adult voices?
Mike: Teen voices are much different than those at the collegiate level and beyond. The tone is very different, and with age a voice’s elasticity grows more rigid. But I actually love the pure sound produced with the blend of younger and older voices together.

Debbie: What’s the best thing about the Columbus art scene right now?
Mike: Post pandemic, it’s great that everyone is peeking their head out the ground to come back and feel the personal connection to the arts that we lost. So many people were skittish of performing or attending concerts, and I’m so glad we’re getting back to in-person performances.

The New Albany Symphony Orchestra and Chorus will embark on a European tour June 16. See Mike conduct at the Rose Run Fest Opening Night Concert on Wednesday, June 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the New Albany United Methodist Church, and at Summer in Germany, on Saturday, June 10 at 8 p.m. at the Hinson Amphitheater in New Albany. Visit newalbanysymphony.com for tickets and more information.

This article is part of a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council as part of the Art Makes Columbus campaign. Explore a calendar of events, public art database and artist stories at columbusmakesart.com. To learn more about GCAC grants visit gcac.org.



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