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PHS musician accepted into prestigious choir

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POLSON — Senior Joe Martinez has become, according to his teachers, the first student from Polson High School to be accepted into the All Northwest Jazz Choir. 

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) holds auditions for All Northwest every year for choir and every other year for band and orchestra. Students from Montana, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming all audition to see if they have the skill to play in these esteemed ensembles. The Jazz Choir, made up of only about 24 people, is one of the most difficult to get into. His position, Tenor 2, will have only one other person singing the part with him.

“The audition process is pretty crazy, but vocally, this one it wasn’t as crazy for me. I think I had the upper hand because I started singing with jazz,” Martinez said.

Growing up, his parents exposed him to a lot of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, as well as jazz singers with big voices. He never took a private lesson for singing, but rather taught himself by listening and copying what he heard. 

Martinez has a passion for music. From trumpet to drums to guitar, he’s excelled musically throughout his school years. Rich Sawyer, the Polson High band teacher who had Martinez in his class for trumpet back in the sixth grade, has seen him progress. 

“He dedicated himself to mastering the arts and got really good because he put in the time,” Sawyer said. “(All Northwest) is pretty rigorous to get into.”

Martinez was also accepted into All Northwest in his freshman year for band. Sawyer, who accompanied him to the event in Portland, says he thinks Martinez is the only trumpet student he’s had be accepted. 

“(Going to All Northwest band) was pretty crazy. I think it changed a lot for me in how I felt towards music,” Martinez recalled. “To experience all the passionate musicians around me, and what it really sounded like to be performing in that way… It just felt really nice, and I think it changed how I perceived music as a future. Ever since I’ve gotten back from that trip from All Northwest I was a lot more dedicated to practicing and trying to get into the other honor groups. It really gave me the drive I needed to have.”

Since that time, Martinez has found numerous opportunities to play music. He said he performed on the street of nearly every Polson Farmer’s Market in the summer, performed at the Cherry Festival, performed at church alongside his brother, and even got involved with a musician’s co-op that got him his very first gig at the Ronan Cooperative Brewery. 

“I’m always practicing something,” Martinez explained. “I’ll just come home, sit down with my guitar for the rest of the night after school and be playing my guitar or singing, writing songs. Recently I’ve been practicing every day, hours, for All Northwest. I’m pretty much always rehearsing.”  

The Martinez family, which saw the musical success of Joe’s older brother Austin in school as well, credits Polson schools’ music programs – particularly Rich Sawyer and PHS choir teacher Kaylee Schubert – for helping the boys excel musically. Several students each year, from each music program in the high school, get accepted into honor ensembles such as All State and All Northwest. Sawyer, who is a PHS alum and teacher of 17 years, said the high school and middle school music programs have created a good tandem team to help develop young musicians.

“I’m pretty proud of the program,” Sawyer stated. 

As he graduates from high school, Martinez intends to continue pursuing music in his education. He said he hopes to attend Concordia College in the fall for music composition. During a recent visit to the college, he auditioned for both vocal and trumpet scholarships and was offered both.

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