Coaxing beautiful sounds

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Brian Martinez conducts the Southeastern Women’s Chorale during a holiday performance at the First Baptist Church in Hammond.


Brian Martinez, Vocal Music Education major, Department of Music and Dramatic Arts

Alissa Mercurio Rowe, Director of Choral Activities, Vocal Area Coordinator



Just as a signer’s hands create words for those who cannot hear, a conductor’s hands coax beautiful sounds from singers -- gesture by meticulous gesture.


Brian Martinez and Alissa Mercurio Rowe

At a choir concert dress rehearsal, Alissa Mercurio Rowe observes as Brian Martinez conducts the Women’s Chorale.

“Sing the tone he is making with his hands and his arms!” Alissa Mercurio Rowe instructs the 17 students in the Women’s Chorale, who are following the musical lead of Brian Martinez, a senior vocal music education major from Montz.

As Martinez follows the music and the singers follow him, Rowe concentrates on his upheld arms, stepping in quickly to reshape the position of a hand, restrain the too vigorous motion of an arm. Watching, listening, it becomes rapidly clear that conducting is a skill an art -- that must be carefully honed.


“Brian is absolutely gifted,” said Rowe, director of choral activities and vocal area coordinator of Southeastern’s Department of Music and Dramatic Arts. “He is naturally musically intuitive. He gets it; he knows how to read the group.”


Martinez has been tapped by Rowe several times to direct one of Southeastern’s three choirs -- the Concert Choir, Women’s Chorale and the University Chorus, which joins its voices in concert with the community Northshore chorale. Rowe extended a similar invitation a request not likely to be declined to Cali McQueen, also a senior vocal music education major.


The student conductors do not get extra credit for their considerable time and efforts just priceless real-life experience.


On the threshold of his student teaching semester, Martinez knows the experience is invaluable. After completing his student teaching and obtaining his bachelor’s degree in music education, he hopes to follow in Rowe’s footsteps.


Brian Martinez in "Too Many Sopranos"

Although his career goal is centered on conducting, Brian Martinez also enjoys performing and has appeared in many Southeastern Opera-Music Theatre Workshops.

“I love to teach, I love to conduct. My goal is to be a college level conductor,” said Martinez, who has also performed numerous roles in Southeastern Opera-Music Theatre Workshop productions. Ironically, in one of his most memorable roles at Southeastern -- Gabriel in the comedic opera “Too Many Sopranos” he uttered not a sound until he brought down the house with one final choicely delivered line.


Just as his hands silently guide Southeastern singers, it was his comedic miming and motions that directed the audiences’ laughter.

Even after he achieves his goal of taking up a conductor’s baton, “I would also like to still perform,” Martinez said. “Being able to do opera and musical theater and having a lot of opportunities to perform and conduct is not something you get at a larger school. Being able to put so many things on my resume is a great help.”









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