Choir Director Creates Fun and Family-Like Atmosphere at Darby High School
Choir at Darby High School is more than a creative outlet thanks to Director Dr. Martin. He works hard to create a family-like atmosphere, using creative techniques to help students feel connected and supported.
For example, at the start of each school year, he groups students based on their birth month. They sit together in a circle during each class session and start the year answering questions like “what’s your favorite color?” The questions get progressively more personal as the year goes on, including “what’s your biggest regret?” or “what do you feel people don’t understand about you?”
His goal is to build trust among students and provide a place where they can openly talk about whatever is bothering them.
“People are so reluctant to share personal information these days. I hope students see me as an advocate for them,” he said.
One reason he’s so passionate about being there for his students is his personal experiences. He lost his father when he was a senior in high school, and in his 26 years of teaching, he’s had five students who have unfortunately gone through the same tragedy. He said he’s grateful for the opportunity to help students in their time of need.
His methodologies are working. While many of his counterparts at other area schools lost choir students throughout the pandemic, Darby High School’s participation continues to grow. This growth is a catalyst for unique opportunities such as the concert they recently participated in.
Nearly 150 Darby choir members kicked off a new concert series in October. The series includes acts from across the country and aims to bring music back to German Village. The concert was put on by Music at St. Mary’s, a 180-year-old church that was recently refurbished. Dr. Martin also serves as the Director of Music for New Albany Methodist Church and is Conductor for New Albany Symphony Orchestra Chorus so jumped at the chance to join his musical enterprises, who performed for a standing-room-only audience.
In total, he directed more than 200 people that night, including a 45-person orchestra. He said it was a very emotional concert for both he and his students.
“It resulted in the longest standing ovation I’ve ever witnessed, lasting nearly five minutes,” said Dr. Martin. “In that moment, I believe it provided heart healing for a lot of people.”
With less than two months to rehearse, he was impressed at how his freshmen class in particular took the music and ran with it, and was amazed at how well the orchestra and choir “just clicked” during their two combined rehearsals.
Dr. Martin was part of opening Darby High School and witnessed its first graduating class in 2001. Several of his previous students are now members of his New Albany Chorus.
“The kids here are pliable and down to Earth. My role with Hilliard Schools has been enlightening and I’m proud of all that we’ve been able to accomplish,” he said.