My mom is currently downsizing her life, and recently she asked if I would go through our family record album collection to see if there were any vintage records I wanted to keep. I love LP’s, so I took on the project with no hesitation and with gleeful anticipation.

I sequestered myself in my sisters basement and began exploring Dad’s cache of recording history. My dad was a radio announcer before he became a minister, so his collection was extensive and filled with unusual variety. From Nat King Cole to Barry Manilow, Glenn Miller to Elvis Presley, he had a little bit of everything from a radio career that spanned more than 50 years.

One box in particular stopped me in my tracks. It was filled with albums that I treasured as a youth. I was an unusual kid for even in elementary school. I would listen to classical albums and soundtracks in my Dad’s collection. There was Rubinstein playing Chopin waltzes, Robert Shaw and MESSIAH, Rhapsody in Blue, and the Best of Mozart. Each album I pulled from that box brought back a golden moment of discovery for me as I recalled those early days.

Then I pulled “THE” record. My favorite album ever! The Beethoven Choral Fantasy with Leonard Bernstein conducting and Rudolph Serkin at the piano. The first time I heard this recording it blew my 7 year old mind. I was obsessed with this album!

The Choral Fantasy is a very unusual work. It is a piano concerto of sorts for piano, orchestra, and choir. The finale, like the more famous Ninth Symphony, has a grand hymn theme very much like the ODE TO JOY! The edges of the album were worn almost bare from my young hands handling it.

As my mind traveled back to those early times, I could remember imitating a conductor and pretending to be a concert pianist as the music soared. I loved pretending! To dream, believe, become!

The aspiration of being a musician began with this album. In this one work was choir, piano, orchestra, and a great hymn-like tune. This combination became my sonic sanctuary. Now looking back, I realize how much the Beethoven Choral Fantasy influenced my future. I live each day as composer at the intersection of piano, choir and orchestra, music and message dancing together.

Be careful little ears what you hear! The sounds you hear might just change your life.


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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