High school choirmaster receives recognition for his excellence

Michael Martin leads the Hilliard Darby High School Choir which started in 1996 with just 18 women and one student. Credit: Courtesy of John Jewett

Over 25 years after graduating from Buckeye, former Ohio State student Michael Martin brought more prestige to the Ohio State School of Music.

In October, Martin, choirmaster at Hilliard Darby High School, received third place in the American Prize Award for Excellence in Conducting Award in Choral Music. Martin said he founded the Hilliard Darby Choir when the school opened in 1996.

The American Prize Awards are a national, non-profit competition where schools submit entries to receive prizes, but nominees cannot nominate themselves, Hannah Sterman-Wilson, assistant conductor of Martin and an Ohio State alumnus, noted. Not only did Martin come out of the competition with an award, but also the Hilliard Darby Symphonic Choir, winning third place in the Ernest Bacon in American Music Award, which rewards the best performances of American music by ensembles and individual artists around the world based on submitted recordings, according to the Ohio State School of Music website.

“Dr. Martin had submitted footage of him directing. And then that was evaluated in terms of conduct and overall musical performance, things like that. And then it was with other people who would have been sent. Said Sterman-Wilson.

Martin said he graduated from Ohio State in 1994 with a doctorate in music studies, where he studied with Robert Shaw. While there, Martin worked with Shaw in various Ohio State choirs and workshops to improve his art.

“He was a disciplinarian, but his methods of sense rhythm, song counting and the human heart coming together to create art in real time was an experience like no other. I think about him every day that I teach, ”Martin said in an email. “He changed my life, often offering wisdom and wise advice to a young student.”

Martin uses that wisdom and expertise to help his students, Sterman-Wilson said. Martin has established a reputation of prestige for the Hilliard Darby choir, and that reputation helps counter young singers who get into their heads and don’t perform to the best of their ability, Sterman-Wilson said.

Sterman-Wilson said Martin’s excellence helps her and her students succeed.

“There is an expectation. And the kids who come into the program know the Darby Choir because it has a reputation. Some of them are more okay with it when everyone else is doing it, ”Sterman-Wilson said. “If no one was singing, you don’t want to be the first person. If everyone’s singing, then it’s if you don’t sing, it’s weird.

The ensemble has grown to over 250 people with a variety of backing vocals, including male, female, symphonic and concert choirs, Martin said. The original choir in 1996 had a total of 19 people: 18 girls and a boy.

The prestige that Martin established in Hilliard Darby drew Sterman-Wilson to the program in 2014. During their time together, the two became very close, Martin said in an email.

“Hannah brings a different perspective to our program. She is passionate about her craft and has introduced many different styles of music to the program, ”said Martin. “She has been a wonderful addition to the department, and we agree with the quality of music education.

The relationship goes both ways. Sterman-Wilson said she learns from Martin’s daily practices and continues to help her become a better singer and teacher.

“I feel comfortable that he comes to help me in my gesture of direction, but also, he does not step on me. And we can do things the way we like to do them. So that’s a really good thing about him, is that he made me more confident in my teaching, ”Sterman-Wilson said.

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