f My whole career, I’ve been a
builder. SOUND advice Marty Marks
Reprinted with permission. Arlene Bachanov '84 Sound Advice, Marty Marks Makes Memorable Music. "Lenawee Magazine" Spring 2016
ecoming a professional musician and music teacher was actually not where Marty Marks originally expected his career path would take him when he first went off to college at Oklahoma Baptist University. “I was enthusiastic about music, but I went to school to be a Baptist missionary,” he said. “But when I practice-taught, I decided music was where I needed to be.” And actually, Marks — who today wears many musical hats including being Adrian College’s director of bands, a freelance musician, and a military bandleader — doesn’t think the two fields are that far apart from each other. “I don’t see it as too far of a stretch between being a minister and being a musician,” he said. “If the ensemble really sounds great, that’s fine, but success and failure, in my mind, have been more about whether or not the individuals in my groups have been made to feel important — ensuring that everybody feels like they’re vital to the ensemble. That’s been my focus the last couple of decades.” The Oklahoma native grew up in a family that both loved and played music. He eventually came to specialize in clarinet and saxophone but admits that it happened “strictly by default.” As a youngster getting involved in his school’s music program, he decided he wanted to play clarinet — except, as it turned out, he had the wrong instrument in mind. He actually wanted to play the cornet. When he told his family he wanted to play the clarinet, it turned out that his uncle’s clarinet was stored up in the attic. “I was very disappointed when we opened the case,” and he saw that, rather than the shiny brass instrument he’d been expecting, it was a long tubelike woodwind. “And it was not actually a very good clarinet,” he added. “But I did the best I could with it, and it got me through school.”
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Marks came to Adrian College in 2004, after events in his personal life led him to change his focus while he was teaching school in Oklahoma. “I got divorced and I decided I couldn’t take life for granted anymore,” he said. “I had custody of two small boys, and I reevaluated my life.” So, he went to graduate school, which included a summer teaching fellowship at Northwestern University — where he met his future wife, Melissa. He went on to earn his master of music performance degree from the University of Central Oklahoma and his doctor of musical arts from the University of Oklahoma, and then he and Melissa, who had grown up in Michigan’s Thumb area, decided to move to Michigan to be closer to her family. Today, the couple and their children live in Onsted, where Melissa is the Onsted Community Schools’ band teacher. When he first interviewed for the Adrian College job all those years ago, “it seemed like a great fit,” he said. “My whole career, I’ve been a builder. I’ve taken over bands that needed repair.” And he did just that at Adrian College, building up a band program that had all of 24 students when he got there and now includes two concert bands, two jazz bands and the Bulldog Marching Band, which he started from scratch and whose recent accomplishments include marching in the 2016 New Year’s Day Parade in Rome, Italy. He also teaches orchestration and conducting. Along the way, he has earned the respect and friendship of faculty members including music department chair and director of choral ensembles Tom Hodgman.