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Personal Harmony: Professor Joseph Martinez débuts folk music album

Joseph David Martinez, associate professor of theater, dance and film studies, has released his first album of folk songs, “Everybody Says Goodbye,” recorded with the band Goshen Pass.

“I began writing songs in the 1960s,” he said. “I bought my first acoustic guitar in 1965 when I was 16 years old — it cost me $69 — with money I had earned from my summer job. Inspired by singer-songwriters like Dylan, Joan Baez, Donovan and, of course, The Beatles, I became hooked on songwriting and have been writing songs ever since. At this point, I’ve written well over 100 songs that I’m not ashamed of, and many more terrible ones that I’ve thrown away.”

He said the album is a “culmination of a long-held dream to create a professionally produced album of original songs.” Martinez handles lead vocals, plays guitar and wrote all but one of the songs, a traditional mountain ballad, “Wayfarin’ Stranger.”

Martinez, who joined W&L in 1983, has taught acting classes and conducted research on violence in entertainment. His publications include “Combat Mime, a Non-Violent Approach to Stage Violence” and “The Swords of Shakespeare: An Illustrated Guide to Stage Combat Choreography in the Plays of Shakespeare.”

“The professional theater is a demanding career,” he noted, “not to mention raising a family, teaching and working in my apple orchard. I’ve never had the time to devote myself to creating an album. However, now I am on phased retirement, and my children are raised and out of the house. So, two years ago, I got together with Graham Spice, and we began to lay some vocal and guitar tracks down so that I could determine which of my songs I would like to include on this first album.” (Spice is the audio engineer of music at W&L and the son of emeritus music professor Gordon Spice.)

Martinez also considers himself lucky to have world-class acoustic musicians in Rockbridge County. “James Leva, W&L Class of ’80, who served as producer on this album, has produced many of his own fabulous albums. Julia Goudimova (instructor of applied cello at W&L) is a remarkably talented cellist, and I had the good fortune that she agreed to compose cello accompaniments for three of the songs. Her work is hauntingly beautiful.”

“The other musicians on the album — Leo Lorenzoni and Lee Sauder — are also local artists who are nationally recognized. Leo is not only an accomplished musician, but also a luthier and has a musical-instrument restoration and repair shop just half a block from the Lenfest Center. Lee Sauder has his own band, Honest Labor, and has played harmonica with many other bands in the area for over 30 years. I would also proudly mention that my daughter, Lea, created the beautiful artwork and design for the CD packaging.”

Martinez said he’s always been a solo artist, and so learning to coordinate his style of music with other musicians was a challenge. “I’ve learned so much from the fine musicians and dear friends who have helped me with this long-delayed project. Fortunately, with the advent of digital music recording on a home computer, learning to record one’s self has become easier and less expensive. I have a music studio in my log cabin, where I work creating and recording new songs on an amateur level — nothing like the quality of recordings created by this album’s sound engineer and percussionist, Graham Spice.”

The album took two years to complete; he hopes his next one won’t take as long. As much as he’d like to have a CD release party, it’s not easy scheduling musicians for rehearsals and performance. “But if we do, it will be great fun and the high point of an old dream come true.”

In the meantime, you can listen to clips of his album, as well as purchase it, at .

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