Leigh Martinet (1923-2016).
Martinet (he pronounced the final letter) was born in Baltimore October 4, 1923, to Eugene and Mary Martinet. His father was founder and conductor of the Baltimore Civic Opera Company; his mother was a pianist and piano teacher. Thus Martinet was destined for a career in music.
In 1941 he graduated from Baltimore City College, a Baltimore City high school. After obtaining his teacher's certificate from the Peabody Conservatory of Music in 1946, he received B.S. and M.A. degrees in music education from Columbia University in 1948 and 1949, respectively. In 1966 he earned the first Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting awarded by the Peabody Conservatory of Music. As an undergraduate, he majored in horn and minored in violin. He studied horn with Charles Lannutti, Jerry Knop, and Arthur Berv; violin with Gustav Strube; and conducting with Ifor Jones, Stanley Chapple, Giuseppe Bamboschek, Laszlo Halasz, and Claude Monteux. On April 13, 1988, the Peabody Conservatory of Music honored him with its Distinguished Alumni Award.
From 1942-45, during World War II, he played in the Army Air Forces Band at Bolling Field in Washington, D.C. Other members of the horn section were Arthur Berv, principal horn of Toscanini's NBC Symphony; Harry Shapiro, second horn in the Boston Symphony; Joseph Mourek, long-time member of the Chicago Symphony; John Barrows, and Joseph Eger.
After the War, from 1949-67, he taught in the Baltimore City School System. In 1967-68 he was promoted to specialist, and then, from 1968-73, served as Supervisor of Instrumental Music for Baltimore City schools. After leaving the Baltimore City school system, he taught in the Baltimore County Public Schools; he was teaching at Randallstown High School when he retired in 1976. In addition, he taught at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, Morgan State University, and Catonsville Community College.
In 1955 Martinet formed the Baltimore Horn Club. The nucleus was players from the Baltimore Symphony and freelance players. Because music for horn choir was meager at the time, Martinet exercised his arranging skills by producing material for the group to play. Beginning in 1970, the Club published his transcriptions. His arrangements totaled 443, of which 96 have been published. He arranged all of his music the old fashioned way, with pen or pencil and staff paper. Once the piece was read at horn club, he would decide if it was to be published, and make final edits. His long history with opera and bands is reflected in his selections for horn ensemble.
Although he chose to pursue a teaching career, he performed regularly with the Baltimore Symphony for over forty years, first as a member of the Orchestra for the 1948-49 season, and then as first-call extra and substitute through the 1980's. In addition, he appeared as soloist with the Orchestra in the 1952 world premiere of Howard Thatcher's Horn Concerto. His extensive freelance career spanned over 65 years, and included performances at the Lyric Opera House, Ford's Theatre (1950-65), the Morris Mechanic Theatre, the Ice Follies (196276), Disney Shows (1969-74), and the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus (1974-76). On May 23, 1950, he was soloist in Strauss's Horn Concerto No. 1 when the Washington Civic Orchestra appeared at Roosevelt Auditorium. His last professional engagement was on July 15, 2009, also believed to be the last of the summer band concerts organized by Baltimore City. At the time of his death he was still active arranging music for and playing horn (by all accounts extremely well!) with the Baltimore Horn Club. Low horn was his favorite, and he would arrange his ensembles with especially "juicy" low horn parts.
Upon his father's death in 1947, the Baltimore Civic Opera suspended production. However, in February 1949, after graduating from Columbia University, Martinet resurrected the company, becoming its conductor until 1960. (Before his father's passing he had served as conductor of the chorus.) During his time with the Civic Opera he conducted much of the standard operatic repertoire. He also conducted Thais, then, as now, quite a rarity. Singers he conducted ranged from the world-famous John Charles Thomas, also a native of Baltimore, to the then-unknown Beverly Sills (in an early assumption of the role of Manon), and everyone in between.
Around 1950 he invited Rosa Ponselle, the great Metropolitan Opera soprano, who had retired to Stevenson, Maryland, to attend a rehearsal. After seeing that Martinet could successfully produce Aida on a stage fifteen feet deep, with an orchestra of ten players plus theater organ, she became active in the company. Starting with a production of La Traviata in the spring of 1951, Ponselle coached the singers and worked to improve costumes and scenery. As a result of these experiences, Ponselle realized she had a talent for teaching, which led to her coaching many singers who later had significant careers, including Lili Chookasian, Placido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes, James Morris, and Beverly Sills. Thus, Leigh Martinet was responsible for starting one of the most important vocal teaching careers of the last half of the twentieth century.
In addition to the Civic Opera, he conducted the Johns Hopkins University Orchestra (1961-66), the Baltimore Municipal Concert Band (1959-83), the Metropolitan Musicals (196166), and, in 1967, the Phyllis Diller show with the Osmond Brothers. Phillip Hooks, one of Martinet's horn students who later played in the Baltimore Park Band, fondly remembers Martinet's puckish sense of humor. He recalls going through his music and, on different occasions, finding a pinup picture and a reproduction of a poster urging re-election of FDR!
In a letter dated December 18, 1955, and published in the Baltimore Sun on December 30, 1955, Morris Bratman suggested that Martinet be chosen to succeed Massimo Freccia as the conductor of the Baltimore Symphony. He wrote:
In all my years of experience as an instrumentalist, and having performed under many of the top-flight conductors of this era, I can say that our own Leigh Martinet gives all indications of becoming a truly great conductor in his own right.... It is common knowledge among local musicians, professional and amateur, that his performances with our Baltimore Civic Opera group have been flawless, and above criticism. He has also, in a short time, done wonders with the York Symphony Orchestra.
Bratman concluded, "The choice of Mr. Martinet would bring together two such fine organizations as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Baltimore Civic Opera Company under one head, a consolidation that has been a sore need to the musical life of this city for too long." The BSO did not take Bratman's advice, preferring to hire Peter Herman Adler. One wonders what the course of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Civic Opera might have been had Martinet conducted both concurrently.
Martinet's love of opera led him to collect 78 rpm recordings of singers from the so-called Golden Age of Opera. At one time his collection exceeded 10,000 discs. He was one of the most important collectors of classical vocal recordings on the east coast. In addition to the records, he collected antique phonographs on which to play them. The basement of his home was devoted to his record and phonograph collection and to his work with the Baltimore Horn Club.
Beyond his activities in classical music, the Baltimore Sun noted on January 13, 1952, that the "family and two or three friends had a hillbilly band, in which Leigh's father played the cello and Leigh the violin." Martinet also owned a house on the Delaware shore, where he spent summers fishing and arranging horn music. He delighted in coming back several weeks in the summer to try out his new arrangements.
Robert Pierce, principal horn of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra from 1958-82 gave this reflection on Martinet's contribution to musical life in Baltimore: "Leigh could easily have had a very successful career as a professional horn player in a major orchestra. He chose a broader brush with which to paint his professional life in music, and in so doing and with his talents, he touched an infinitely larger audience in a most effective way--testimony to which has been given by many grateful admirers over the many years of his life. We owe him a great debt of gratitude for the rich musical scene he helped create in Baltimore."
He is survived by his wife, the former Doris Arnold, one of his father's voice students, whom he married in August 1950, a son, two daughters, and several grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Caption: The Baltimore Horn Club in 2015 Some of the 3-4 generations of Horn players ages 25 to 92: left to right: Leigh Martinet, Ken Bell, Mary Welliver, Karen Bakkegard, Ron Tilghman, Diana Ogilvie, Ron Friedman, Sharon Tiebert, and Piper Greenbaum.
Compiled by Kenneth Bell, Sharon Tiebert-Maddox, and Howard Sanner from information in an article by Kenneth Bell on the American Federation of Musicians Local 40-543 Facebook page, Phillip Hooks, the Baltimore Horn Club web site, and various articles in the Baltimore Sun.
Caption: Leigh Martinet conducting
Caption: The Baltimore Horn Club in 1955 Top row left to right: Walter Lawson, Leigh Martinet, Clarence Ogilvie, Tom Kenny Bottom row left to right: Bill Cook, Joe De Pasquale, Vic Kestle, Bert Chermin Note phonograph horn and other record collecting memorabilia.