When I was young, we lived for a while with my grandparents. My mom was a nurse and my dad was a seminary student, so this was a real blessing for us. One holiday season my “mam-maw” let me help decorate the Christmas tree. Out came boxes of treasured ornaments, many of them handed down and filled with special memories. One box contained some very beautiful glass ornaments that sparkled with jewel tone luster and fine details. Carefully lifting these from the box she thoughtfully proceeded to place them on the back of the tree and the side that was against the living room wall.

“Mam-maw, why did you put those pretty ones in the back? No one can see them back there.”

“Those are for the angels,” she replied with a twinkle.

Her response was magical! I never forgot that little Christmas ritual, and to this day special ornaments are hung at the back of all Martin Christmas trees.

Some things we do as church musicians go largely unnoticed, and often unappreciated. Many non-musicians cannot imagine the amount of preparation and behind-the-scenes work that goes into curating a thriving church music program. Many of the things behind the scenes are just as important as those that receive public recognition. Some of your most important ministry offerings are done in secret and are cherished decorations for the heart! Remember those faithful rituals, those sacred “ornaments,” are for the angels!


Joseph Martin, a native of North Carolina, earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. Subsequently he earned a Master of Music degree in Piano Performance at the University of Texas, Austin. Joseph taught for five years in the Piano Pedagogy Department of the University of Texas. His piano teachers include Jimmy Woodle, David Gibson, Amanda Vick Lethco, Martha Hilley and Danielle Martin. While at Furman University, he was accompanist for choral director and composer Milburn Price and, inspired by his teaching, Martin began to compose.
He is a member of the staff at the Hal Leonard Corporation and Shawnee Press, Inc. as Director of Sacred Publications, with responsibilities for overseeing the editorial and creative direction of the company and also coordinating the recording and production aspects of future sacred publishing efforts.
Joseph has performed solo piano recitals and has been the featured artist with symphony orchestras in the United States and Mexico. As winner of the Nina Plant Wideman Competition, he performed with the Guadalajara Symphony Orchestra. His solo recital in Ex-convento del Carmen was broadcast nationally throughout the country.
Joseph is Artist in Residence at Concordia University in Austin, Texas where he lives with his wife Sue, and his children Jonathan and Aubrey.

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