Music to the ears for this undergrad University News

By: Ann Brock

Kofi Martin              Kofi Martin
How does an 11-year-old boy choose a musical instrument that will define his life, cut a career path for him and earn him national acclaim even before he finishes his undergraduate degree? For Kofi Martin, it was easy.When he was in the sixth grade, a teacher played recordings featuring various instruments.

“I liked the clarinet rendition of Peter and the Wolf, and when I looked at the performer’s name, Prokofiev, and saw my name, Kofi, in the middle, I knew the clarinet was for me,” Martin said. 

Martin, a 22-year-old senior majoring in clarinet performance, started receiving recognition for his musical ability while he was in junior high school. He received numerous awards, including The Instrumentalist Magazine Musicianship Award and Merit Award and was named Bandsman of the Year for two years at his high school in Jonesboro, Ark.

At the U of M, he was awarded the Presser Scholarship, which is given to an outstanding junior music student for musical ability as well as contribution to the music program. He has served as a student ambassador for the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music.He also is a member of the Helen Hardin Honors Program at the U of M, which recognizes top students.

In spring of 2008, Martin interned in public relations with the National Endowment of Arts through The Washington Center for Academic Internships and Seminars. He then was accepted as a fellow with the Arts and Business Council of New York’s Arts Management Program and had an internship at WYNC Public Radio, where he worked in Community Engagement and Audience Development.

To add to his impressive resume, he will play at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts this spring.

Additional experience includes teaching at Christian Brothers High School and the U of M.

With excitement to beat the band, Martin tells of his globetrotting plans for the future after graduation.

He would like to study in Ghana, West Africa, and then in a European school, maybe Paris. Eventually, he’d like to teach clarinet at a university.

Martin sees himself as being more than a performer.He says he wants to make a difference in jazz.

“We know the great performers, and we’ve heard their recordings, but it’s what they have done for the art that remains,” he said. Benny Goodman has been a big inspiration for him— not just because he was a great jazz clarinetist and had a wonderful ear for improvisation — but also for what he did for the jazz movement and cultural issues of his time.

“He did so much for the field of music, and that’s what I think I want to do,” Martin said. “I don’t know exactly how that’s going to happen, but I hope I’m going in the right direction.”

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Last Updated: 12/21/12