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Conversations with Samuel Martin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Samuel Martin. 

Hi Samuel, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
Very quickly after beginning my studies as a pianist, I was thrown into the world of playing with singers. The experience of working and playing with them was so much more enjoyable than sitting in a practice room alone for hours each day, training for a solo career that I never wanted. Not to mention, the music I got to play with singers was some of the most beautiful and meaningful I had ever heard. Being able to work with text on top of the music turned into an adventure in and of itself. Music with words – or song – is what separates vocal music from instrumental music. It makes it a unique genre and unlocks limitless expressive potential that can connect audiences in profound ways. 

What is classical art song? Put simply, it’s a piece of music written most commonly for a singer and pianist that features texts such as poetry, prose, speeches, or any other source. Song can exist in literally any language, with many coming from Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Poland, Russia, England, and America. It can be performed anywhere and often in small settings for intimate groups of people. It’s a way for people to connect through musical storytelling. 

With that inspiration fueling me, I identified and filled a major (and surprising) void in the musical fabric of Cincinnati. Nowhere was there an organization dedicated to solely producing song concerts. After researching numerous similar organizations around the country, I decided to give it a shot in Cincinnati. After all, this little southwest pocket of Ohio is a major hub for singers – so why couldn’t it work? And the rest is history. Since 2016, CSI has reached thousands of people in communities throughout the Cincinnati area – and beyond – with intriguing and educational performances that feature musicians of international renown. CSI also commissions brand new songs for performance, which helps keep the genre engaged with present-day society and furthers the body of unique American repertoire. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Imposter syndrome is a challenge that comes to mind. Early on in Cincinnati Song Initiative’s life, and even sometimes to this day, I can feel like I have no business planning and producing events in such a public eye. “I’m too young. I don’t have enough experience. There are so many others out there more qualified than me to do something like this.” The list goes on. 

My biggest antidote to those thoughts are the support I receive from friends and colleagues who genuinely want to help the organization thrive. The collective buy-in around CSI has been overwhelming and inspirational, and I sometimes think that if we weren’t working to make this organization everything it can be, nobody else would. Therefore, it is, by definition, worthy and valuable work that holds an important place in the community’s musical fabric. Imposter syndrome be damned! 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am a pianist by training and love traveling to perform in varied communities with friends and colleagues. At home in Cincinnati, I flex my entrepreneurial and administrative side by working with the Cincinnati Song Initiative, a nonprofit concert series dedicated to the promotion and innovation of classical song. I’m most proud of this organization for the work it does to provide opportunities to song-loving singers and pianists and connecting Cincinnati communities through the shared experience of storytelling through song. 

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
The biggest instance of luck has been the steady stream of people who experience a CSI event and then step up to the plate to support it as a result. I can literally trace the trajectory of the organization based on certain individuals’ support, and I shudder to think what may have happened if each of those people hadn’t come along at the right time to help push CSI to the next level. It’s nothing short of amazing luck to have been connected with so many incredible and selfless people who want to help be part of something larger than themselves. And it’s that kind of attitude that our society needs much more of as we move forward together. 

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Image Credits

Steve Shin
Jackie Stevens
Kate Hursh-Wogenstahl

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1 Comment

  1. Lynn yonally

    July 28, 2022 at 7:29 pm

    So proud of Sam and all he is doing!

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