A $100 investment in a sixth grade band bell kit has paid big dividends for Blinn College band member Marco “Tony” Martinez.
Martinez, from East Bernard, has gone from that simple bell kit to a college scholarship and selection as a member of the Texas Community College Band Directors Association all-state percussion section.
It hasn’t been easy. Martinez came to the Blinn-Brenham Campus after graduating from high school in 2016, but said he wasn’t as prepared as he should have been.
“I came here my first year not knowing what I was getting into,” said Martinez.
Martinez transferred to another community college to finish up some music classes but found himself missing Blinn.
“The environment wasn’t ‘homey’ like Blinn was for me,” he said.
Martinez re-auditioned for Blinn’s band and is now a member of its marching and symphonic bands and the jazz ensemble.
Martinez comes from a family of musicians; his father played electric bass guitar in a Tejano band that played in Texas, Mexico, and Oklahoma, his brother plays guitar, and his sister sings at her church. Two cousins also are music majors.
“Everybody on my dad’s side plays an instrument,” he said.
Martinez gravitated toward percussion at an early age.
“I saw any older cousin play drums at church, and I was like, ‘Okay, that looks cool,’” he said. “In sixth grade, they did a chair placement test to see who would be in percussion. We had to buy a bell kit for 100-something dollars. My family really didn’t have much money, but we scraped it together and got it.”
At East Bernard High School, Martinez was in the marching and jazz bands.
“It was a really fun experience and I enjoyed it,” he said. “I thought I’d like to take it up to the next level.”
Martinez was familiar with Blinn’s music program. His band director at East Bernard was Kenny Peters, who attended Blinn in the 1990s.
Martinez said that at Blinn, he has found a family atmosphere and music department faculty that go the extra mile for students, led by Sarah Burke, director of bands and director of percussion studies, and Todd Quinlan, performing arts department head.
“Here at Blinn, I feel really welcomed,” he said. “They make me feel like a family. That’s something that not many people get to be a part of.
“I think what’s really helped the experience at Blinn as a music major is the faculty. The faculty is always there to push us, especially Dr. Burke and Mr. Quinlan.
“I’m the type of person that doesn’t want to disappoint them. I told them that last year, and they said as long as I succeed and I’m improving, that’ll make them happy.”
Martinez has done just that.
“Tony has shown a tremendous amount of personal growth since returning to Blinn College in fall 2018,” Quinlan said. “I have total confidence that he has found the focus he needs to achieve his goals. I’m very proud of him, and he is one of the most reliable members in the percussion studio.”
Martinez said his father has been supportive of his career choice of music.
“My dad always pushed me … find something that you love,” he said. “Put the effort in and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Martinez said he doesn’t mind the “effort” part.
“We practice, and not many people see that. Sometimes we stay here until midnight to practice,” he said. “Sometimes I get here as early as 7 just to get extra run-throughs in.”
Martinez says his ultimate goal is to teach music. He hopes to graduate after the spring 2020 semester and is still considering his transfer options to continue his education.
The Blinn College District music department offers small classes, one-on-one attention, practical learning, and easily accessible faculty so that students are actively engaged in a superior learning environment. For more information, visit www.blinn.edu/music.