Renowned jazz pianist becomes Music Department’s visiting scholar

Peter Martin has two passions in life — music and basketball— but said he has the talent for only one.

 Martin, who has toured playing piano across the U.S. and all five continents, will be SIUE’s visiting scholar for the Music Department starting this week. Martin will be teaching seminars for all music students including jazz piano and will be working with the graduate student Jazz Combo.

Peter Martin. photo courtesy of SIUE Music Department

 “I love to teach and I’m very excited that I’ll be working with them at least once a week,” he said. “I want to impart my passion for this music onto them, and teach them certain tricks of the trade that they don’t know about. But mainly I want them to learn my passion of the music. ”

Martin said he’ll be teaching the classes in a very interactive way as opposed to mostly lecture. Improvisation is best learned while playing, he said, and he will be playing along with the jazz students to aid them while playing without sheets of music in front of them.

 Professor of Music and Head of the department’s Guitar Program, Rick Haydon said he called upon Martin to come teach after a recent faculty opening. They had been exchanging ideas back and forth for some time about how Martin could come and teach the music students.

 “Peter was the first person I thought of to invite,” Haydon said. “We’re extremely lucky to have a guy of his caliber here. He’s a great fit and the timing is perfect.”

 Martin, no stranger to the St. Louis area, grew up and graduated high school in University City, Mo. He also visited the SIUE campus a few times with his mother while she took music lessons.

 Martin said music was always a part of his household while growing up. His mother favored the viola, his father the violin, and his sister played piano.

 He said he became fascinated with the piano because of its possibilities and started playing it at the age of three.

 Now Martin has developed his passion into a career and in January, played with a select group of American jazz musicians at the White House State Dinner for President and Mrs. Obama to welcome China’s president.

 “Playing at the White House was one of the highlights for me personally and for my career,” he said. “It was really a great honor and I thought, ‘If nothing else happens for me in my career, I’m good now.’”

 Martin has also toured and recorded with artists such as Dianne Reeves, Chris Botti and Betty Carter. He was named Best Jazz Artist of 2010 by the RiverFront Times and currently holds a jazz concert series at the Sheldon Concert Hall.

 Aside from Martin’s accomplishment’s, he said he still maintains the mentality of a student and encourages all students of music to be the same.

 “This is not like becoming a doctor or a lawyer and you go to school and someone hands you a piece of paper after passing your tests,” he said. “That’s not the way artistic endeavors work. You do get a piece of paper, but you’re tested every time you get up to perform. You haven’t achieved anything yet with just the degree.”

 Martin said he wants music students to continue developing their passion for music and never give up the learning process no matter how much they’ve achieved.

 “Don’t stop there, you have to want to do this,” he said. “You have to want to go to the next level to get there.”  


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