On any given day you can step into the basement and find Eddie Martinez hard at work practicing his beloved guitar. His passion for music and dedication to his art make it so he doesn’t mind the struggles and solitude that come with pursuing it.
“It’s nice to be outside,” he said, squinting after emerging from Heath basement.
Wrapping up his senior year, Martinez is excited for the future and has been grateful for the experiences he has had at Vanguard University. He has been able to study his great passion: classical and flamenco guitar.
This passion has been a part of his life from a young age. His musically gifted grandparents gave him a guitar and he started playing the blues. Until his sophomore year he played a lot of rock and jazz, then he discovered the world of flamenco at his high school, Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA). As part of their Instrumental Music Conservatory, he was surrounded by like-minded and talented musicians.
“I heard flamenco for the first time and that was really the point [when things changed,” Martinez said.
For Martinez, learning flamenco was life changing. It was when he truly fell in love with guitar and never looked back. He expanded his range to classical in his junior year so he could start auditioning for universities.
All of his hard work and auditioning brought him to Vanguard University to study classical guitar under guitar professor Michael Nigro.
However, after three years of study with Nigro, Martinez learned his teacher had taken a new job at another school.
“[I was] shocked and sad, but I knew it was something he needed to do,” Martinez said.
The departure of his instructor was not the only change Martinez has overcome while at Vanguard. Due to reprioritization, guitar students have experienced many cuts and transitions. For instance, Martinez found himself in choir this year, though he had never sang before, because his guitar ensemble was gone. Nevertheless, he is not complaining about the changes, but embracing them.
“I have taught [myself] to have an open mind,” Martinez said.
In fact, Martinez used even strange situations like this to enhance himself as a musician. He has used his time spent in choir to study the harmonies and chord progressions in choral music. He has been grateful to learn more about music through the experience.
This year, his new guitar teacher has been Martha Masters, head of the Guitar Foundations of America Competition. She has been able to provide Martinez with a fresh look at the guitar, especially classical music.
As the end of his senior year approaches, Masters is helping Martinez prepare for graduate school. He has been accepted to University of Southern California (USC), San Francisco Conservatory of Music, University of Arizona, and he is waiting to hear back from The Juilliard School. Although it is very difficult to choose, The Juilliard School is Martinez’s top pick.
While he is currently on the waiting list for Juilliard, he has heard rumors that imply he will be accepted. Meanwhile, he will continue working hard down in the Heath basement to improve his skill, experiencing as much as possible before graduate school.
Though he may be waiting to hear back from his time choice, Martinez has already made an impact on many professors at his other options.
“The professor at USC saw me at a competition recently and he told me he was really delighted by my playing and blown away by my audition…kind of the same thing [happened] with the San Francisco teacher,” Martinez said.
Professors at each school have been very kind and generous with their words, which has made the decision even more difficult, according to Martinez. His proficiency in both classical and flamenco guitar has set him apart from other students and has made him valuable to the graduate school professors. However, he is very humble despite all of the praise he receives for his playing.
“I still feel like, as an artist, I’m not where I want to be yet. The other day I was practicing and I still feel like a beginner, working on two measures of music for two hours thinking, ‘This is so tedious,’” Martinez said.
At this point in the semester, Martinez practices for two to three hours a day, as well as spending a lot of time listening to music to stay inspired.
One way that Martinez likes to stay inspired and experience music is through travel. He has played and studied in Spain, Italy and Bulgaria. One of his favorite places so far is New York, a huge reason he would love to study at The Juilliard School.
“[By] travelling, you experience a lot that impacts your life…[experiences] that you can transmit into your life. I think that is the purpose of travelling,” Martinez said.
Beyond the atmosphere of the city, his desire to attend Juilliard is fueled by his want to be surrounded by passionate, hardworking individuals like himself. Those people keep him inspired, according to Martinez.
Martinez’s dedication to his art and his positivity through the process of mastering guitar has brought him far, taking him even further as he goes on to graduate school. No matter the graduate school he attends, Martinez is hoping to travel and perform and release albums after he finishes.
With his senior recital fast approaching on April 12 in Needham Chapel, Martinez reflects on his time at Vanguard. He is grateful for his peers and professors at Vanguard who have pushed him to be the best he can be.
“I’ve tried to learn something from each of [my peers] and the teachers have been really great. Everyone has been so supportive and open minded,” Martinez said.
Martinez may have begun the year with no teacher and an email stating he needed to join choir, but he has quickly adapted, finding the inspiration within reprioritization. Despite all the changes, two things will remain the same for Martinez–he will always be dedicated to guitar and he will spend most of his time in the basement practicing his art, no matter which graduate school he chooses.