Choir Gives Voice To Student's Gift

February 20, 1991|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — Joslyn Martin insists she's not a performer or a singer.

But when the annual Gospel Jubilee opens at 7 p.m. Saturday at Western Maryland College, it will be Martin conducting the choir.

"This is the second year for me to coordinate the Gospel Jubilee," the Western Maryland senior said. "This is the performance part of my special studies project this year."

Hoping to earn departmentalhonors in music, Martin used the college's January Term to work withher faculty adviser and put together a project tracing the history of black American gospel music.

The project requires completion of a research paper by the end of the spring semester. And Martin will arrange and direct a song the WMC choir will sing at the jubilee.

For this year's event, Martin, 21, chose the theme, "In the Name of Jesus," which also is the processional song that will open the jubilee.

"My adviser, Carl Dietrich, wanted me to write an original song or arrange a song for the choir," Martin said. "I didn't have time to write a song, so I chose 'A Friend,' by The Winans, a male gospel group, to arrange."

She couldn't have picked a more challenging song to arrange. There is no published written music to follow for "A Friend," which was written for a four-part all-male group.

"It's very interesting to do because this is the third time I'm rewriting the score," she said. "I arranged it by listening to a tape, stopping and rewinding, til I figured out the notes the males were singing, then transposed it to the notes I wanted."

The notes Martin needed also included those for females, since the WMC choir is coed. Additionally,she had to decipher a rhythm for the chorus to follow.

"Gospel music doesn't have a strict rhythmic form," Martin said. "So many notescome in on the off-beat, so the rhythm can be based on your own interpretation. That's the part that's my arrangement, my choice."

Ascoordinator for the event, Martin also is responsible for contactingoutside performers and speakers, as well as arranging transportation, seating, and anything else needed by the participants.

"This is the biggest event of Black History Month (at WMC)," said Martin, who is Black Student Union president. "In the past we've had over 300 people attend, so I'm hoping for a good turnout this time."

The approximately three-hour event is scheduled to begin with welcomes by WMC president Robert Chambers and the Black Student Union, and will feature Bible readings and prayer. Then up to six guest choirs will perform, and a reception will follow.

In spite of the work and worry of putting the jubilee together, Martin said it's her favorite event of the year.

"It's an evening of joy and it keeps me going the rest of the school year," she said.

Additionally, Martin said she is looking forward to her senior piano recital in April.

Doing this kindof work is not new to Martin, who began playing the piano at age 6. She also plays the guitar, flute and baritone horn, but considers herself primarily a classical pianist.

Martin's love of music came from her mother, Elaine, and her 87-year-old grandmother, Alice Brown, of Hightstown, N. J., Martin's hometown.

Elaine is a pianist and gospel choir director at St. James American Methodist Evangelical Church in Hightstown.

"My grandmother is the cornerstone of my church at home," Martin said. "Her name is Alice, but everybody calls her Mother Brown."

Brown still sings in the church choir, Martin said.

Besides being a music major, Martin is an elementary education minor and is student teaching at two area schools this semester. Plus, she's holding down a work-study job at the college.

Despite all this, she maintains a 3.83 grade-point average. Martin hopes to stay at WMC next fall as a graduate student in deaf education.

Two years ago, Martin spent a January Term assisting hearing-impaired children atthe Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Germantown, Montgomery County, where she learned the problems such youngsters face.

Although she hopes to teach elementary school someday, Martin also would like to work with the hearing impaired, which is why she chose WMC.

"I believe music can play a very big and special part in the life of a child who has difficulty hearing," Martin said.

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