October/November 2011 Bonus Bytes

October 1, 2011

The Musical Gifts of Linda Martinez Information from a conversation with Julia Fraser Berg By Bruce Berr

Julia was kind enough to speak with me on the telephone last year for almost an hour. I thank her for her generosity and frankness.

How Julia was introduced to Linda Martinez’s work
In the 1990s Linda Martinez was a composition student at University of Southern California studying piano with Prof. Shelton G. Berg (now the Dean of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami). “Shelly” was not only Linda’s piano teacher but he also gave her feedback on the many arrangements she was already doing at that time. Even before then, Linda had already expressed a desire to be a film score composer and arranger, so Shelly also worked with her on orchestration. He came to know her and her work very well, and they stayed in touch after she graduated.

Elsewhere, Julia Fraser started up her own “boutique music label” in 1998, wanting to publish high quality music that didn’t necessarily fit into mainstream publishers’ catalogues. Julia was a composer and percussionist who had graduated from the Berklee School of Music and had already worked in the print music business in numerous capacities for a long time, including 12 years as marketing director, vice president of marketing, and an editor at Alfred Publishing.

Shelly and Julia started dating, and he told her about one of his ex-students, Linda Martinez (who by then was busy working on numerous film scores). After Julia heard some of Linda’s music, she immediately thought of her as a good candidate to contribute a collection for publication. She heard a unique freshness in her music that she believed many people would greatly enjoy. She thought of Linda as “a new kind of composer-arranger for the print music world.”

How the project started
Julia wanted Linda to produce something that was at the early-advanced level, and that sounded almost as if it were being improvised. This would enable advanced players who could not improvise to be able to enjoy that “flavor” of playing the instrument. She invited Linda to begin work on creating innovative arrangements of Christmas music. Instead of Linda completing the entire collection and then submitting everything for editing (the usual procedure with publishers), she drafted a piece or two, then immediately brought them to Julia for feedback. Julia says that her work required very little editing, just a few fixes of pianistic textures here and there. Her music sounded more advanced than it really was (always a good thing!). Right from the beginning, the musicality of each piece was there, so much so that Julia felt like she was “unwrapping a present with each one.” She was also amazed at how hard Linda worked on getting all the details right in each piece, a time-consuming process. While she was working on this project, Linda was also composing additional music for the History Channel film “Egypt: Beyond the Pyramids” so she didn’t have much free time!

After the collection was complete, there were plans for Linda to record it so that a CD could be included with the folio. There was also to be a second volume of pieces. However, Linda’s film scoring schedule was growing busier with each month, forcing her to delay making a quality recording. They decided to release the book in 2001 without a CD and perhaps add it later, a plan that never materialized.

After Julia’s publishing company was in operation for about five years, she decided to make changes in her professional and personal life. She dissolved her company but sold the copyright and inventory of Snowy Days of Christmas to Alfred Publishing.

More about Linda Martinez, from Julia
As a child, Linda did all of her early piano studies in the Yamaha Music Education System, and continued to do workshops for them after she was no longer a student. As an adult, she was a petite person who always enjoyed dressing in a contemporary way (i.e., cool!) with wild hair, sunglasses, and a sense of the dramatic. Yet, her apartment was always orderly and tidy, as were most of her personal habits.

Almost everyone who knew her was utterly surprised at her suicide. No one saw it coming, even those most close to her.

“A delightful spirit, and a fantastic musician.”

Please go to Alfred’s website to see catalogue information about Snowy Days of Christmas:

(Please note that although the cover of the book says, “Late intermediate,” I instead recommend this book for early-advanced students.)

To see more biographical information on Linda Martinez, please consult the internet, including:

Recordings of Snowy Days of Christmas*

Here are several recordings of music from this marvelous collection, recorded by Bruce Berr.

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

“O Christmas Tree”

“The First Noel”

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