Dr. Brad Martin quietly stepped down as WCU’s musical theatre director at the end of last semester. The latest show at the Bardo Arts Center, “Music Is” on Feb. 4 and 5, was his last show as director.
“With my position in the department of music and stage and screen and with all the various procedures and polices that have been put in place, it just seemed like the right thing to do at the moment,” Martin said. “There were several meetings about it because the degree is actually housed in stage and screen, but I’m housed in music, I was in the middle of them both.
“It wasn’t something I necessarily wanted to do, it was better for me to do it. It was a tough decision, and I think it was tough for everybody,” he added. “Students are still sort of talking, and I think people are trying to move on as best as they can because that’s what universities are about, moving on. It was a shake up for them, but I certainly think they handled it well.”
Tom Salzman, director of stage and screen, has announced that Claire Eye, director of WCU’s theatre program, would permanently take over for Martin as the new director of musical theatre.
“I think Brad did a great job with the program,” Salzman said. “Brad is a very dedicated person, I wish him well.”
Salzman said he is not worried about the musical theatre program because only one person departed. He explained that the department is a “compilation of a variety of people,” including voice, dance, and acting professors, and the program is still stable because only “one out of ten people involved has changed.”
Martin originally came to Western ten years ago to build, at the time, the nonexistent musical theatre program. He described the program as his “baby,” an endeavor he loved.
“I came here and there were no students. I became the director of the program, so I built it up from no students to I think a very successful program of this region,” Martin said. “I obviously have some sort of relationship with it because I was dedicated to it 24/7 in a lot of sense, then, you sort of have a responsibility that you feel like you have to do a good job.”
Students had nothing but love and kindness to say about Martin.
Jonathan Cobrda, a junior who played Shakespeare in “Music Is”, Joseph Callahan and senior Casey Weems were all recruited to Western Carolina University by Martin.
“It’s a pure joy,” Cobrda said, “because he is so passionate. He cares so much about the students. Every single rehearsal has a message in it… to make us learn. You’re treated as a professional not a student. It’s always a trip with him because he’s so passionate, joyous, intellectual.
“My first impression of him was I could not stop laughing. He’s so funny and so good with kids,” he added. “I owe my entire talent, my entire knowledge of musical theatre to Bradley Martin and Terry Mann, but Bradley Martin is always here.”
Weems had equally enthusiastic words to say about Martin.
“His sense of humor is really unique to him,” she said.
She continued to say that she felt “sorry for other people, the new musical theatre people who are coming in” because they will never get to know what it is like to work with Brad Martin as musical theatre director.
Callahan praised Martin for his professionalism and ability to get a show off the ground.
“Working with Dr. Martin is always interesting,” he said. “He’s very passionate about music and musical theatre. He’s very focused on getting the music right, but he also has a fun side. The one thing Dr. Martin brings that no one else has is his ability to find and bring in money for the show.”
Before Western, Martin worked on his doctorate in Colorado. He had almost finished when he got the call from WCU to start the musical theatre program.
“I was a student,” laughed Martin. “That’s a different place, a long time ago. I still had some more stuff to do, and I got the position here, and I had to finish my doctorate while working. I would be doing shows at night and trying to finish this doctorate.”
Growing up, Martin had a musical and theatrical childhood. His mother encouraged her large family of Martin and his six siblings to perform and act.
“As a child, my mother was very, very theatrical, and she was kind of like a producer herself in a sense,” Martin said. “She had us all in shows. It was like in the Von Trapp family… We were always having to sing and dance…She was always very theatrical herself, and she wanted that in her family.”
Some of his favorite shows at WCU have been “Sweeney Todd”, “Oklahoma”, and “Fiddler on the Roof”. His final show, “Music Is”, was particularly special to Martin, who accidentally ran across the musical, which was cancelled on Broadway after six days.
Martin admitted he had a bit of a hard time putting on his last show.
“I didn’t cry. I was a little emotional on Saturday night, surprisingly, but on Sunday, I know that I have a job to do,” Martin said. “I don’t think it’s the end of musical theatre for me, maybe here.
“I’m a musician,” he added, “and I will always be a musician and expressing myself through musical theatre was one avenue that I had. I still have lots of other avenues to express myself musically and to express my feelings…I’m lucky there. If someone said to me this is the last time you’re ever going to experience music, then I would probably be quite upset and quite emotional…I’ve always had music in my life and it’s always been a tool for me.”