David Martins

David Martins, Music Performance

“Having a professional music program at such a high-level university is exciting.”
As a young man, Professor David Martins loved music —especially the clarinet— which he played professionally as a teenager. He excelled at math and science as well and planned to go into medicine. But when the head of his future department laughed off a question about playing in the school band —when would he have time?—  Martins left the entrance interview and told his father he wanted to audition for music school. His father's response was what every student with a passion wants to hear: "Fine. You have to do what you want to do."

Martins has gone on to do exactly what he wanted to do: play and teach music. After completing his undergraduate degree at the Eastman School of Music, he was set to become the principal clarinetist in the Symphony of Sao Paulo until a visa hold up left him looking for other options. A friend mentioned the brand new masters of music performance starting up at the University (then the University of Lowell) and Martins became one of the first two students in the program.

While studying for his degree, Martins also became an instructor, progressing from a clarinet teacher in his second year to the chamber ensemble, band director and finally a full-time professor in '82. Now, he helps students fulfill the same passions for performance and education he has.

"Our students are some of the best I've ever had," says Martins, who has taught at several prestigious institutions over the years in addition to UMass Lowell. "Many are first generation college students and they want to learn as much as they can. I often see them in the audience when I'm performing professionally because they're seeking music outside of the classroom."

Since he’s been in their shoes in the same halls, Martins appreciates the hard work his students put into their studies.

"Music majors need to be dedicated. They have classes like other students but they also have ensembles and those take a lot of practice," Martins says. "When their friends finish their work and go have fun, they need to practice."

As a former student who almost missed his chance to perform due to class rigors, Martins enjoys getting students in other majors involved in campus-wide ensembles.

"Even if they're involved in other areas, they still have performance experience and can keep their passion for music going," says Martins. He has several stories of students changing majors to follow their instrument, including a physics graduate student who switched to music performance after joining the wind ensemble. Again, Martins' father was right.

Martins has watched the music department grow over the years into a healthy program with four majors and a faculty talented as both educators and musicians. The University's proximity to Boston and other music hubs means that he often plays with co-workers and former students. 

His favorite performance memories cover his impressive regional and international schedule: from his first performance at Carnegie Hall to a small venue in St. Petersburg, Russia.

"Glinka Hall is an ornate, beautiful space built under the czars," he says of the performance with Alea III. "The Iron Curtain had just fallen and we were some of the first western musicians the audience had seen. They clapped loudly in sync after we performed and it was a bit frightening, but we had 10 curtain calls, so they must have liked us."