Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble welcomes new conductor

Joe Martinez is a lifelong musician who now will be the conductor of the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble.
Joe Martinez is a lifelong musician who now will be the conductor of the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble.
Photo by Jay Heater
  • East County
  • Neighbors
  • Share

It was the days of Lawrence Welk, and Joe Martinez made no apologies when he told the story of being a 7-year-old glued to the television along with his mom, Shirley.

Martinez, now 66, already had an appreciation for music at a young age because his mother taught the piano, the violin and the accordion.

So while the Lawrence Welk Show might not have been hip programming for a kid, it was fascinating to young Joe.

For much of the Lawrence Welk Show's run on ABC from 1955 through 1971, Myron Floren was a featured performer on the accordion, and while intrigued by Floren's ability to play an instrument that his mom taught, it was another instrument that captivated Martinez.

"I saw a baritone sax," Martinez said. "I was about the same size as that sax. But my mom steered me toward the trumpet."

A new challenge

Martinez, who just has been named the primary conductor of the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble, said his appreciation for the skill of musicians started by watching that Lawrence Welk Show, and has continued through his life.

It is one of the reasons he is transitioning into a different role with the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble.

Founder, Music Director and Conductor Joe Miller, at 81, has decided to step away from most of his conducting duties. Miller will remain music director.

Martinez stepped into his new role on Memorial Day during the "Remember and Honor" concert by the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble at the Sarasota National Cemetery.

Joe Martinez, the new main conductor for the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble, had a long career as a music teacher for the Sarasota County School District.
Photo by Jay Heater

Age also has crept into Martinez's thoughts when it comes to playing the trumpet. While he enjoys performing, he said he can't quite reach the same level as he did in his younger days.

He said he plays mostly these days "to keep the neurons firing."

Conducting, however, opens new possibilities for him and the appreciation for the abilities for each individual musician, and how it all comes together. Much like his favorite music program did on a weekly basis during his childhood.

Wealth of musicians

At his fingertips will be a wealth of professional musicians who play together in the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble.

Having performed with the Sarasota Orchestra for 18 years, the Venice Symphony for 38 years, and the Strauss Symphony of America for 25 years, he knows the top levels well.

"The level of our musicians (in the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble) is definitely not like a community band or a high school group," he said.

Although he will mostly serve as the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble's conductor, Joe Martinez will continue to perform on the trumpet as times.
Photo by Jay Heater

His joy will come from bringing those musicians together to offer patrons not only a high-level performance, but sometimes one with a twist.

"You try to incorporate new ideas, and make it more exciting than what the audience has heard," he said. "I will listen to groups play the same piece."

He will challenge his musicians to follow his interpretation.

"That is the fun of leading a group, adding your interpretation of a piece," he said. "Being a conductor, you can look at all the different parts, watching a score, identifying al the parts.  

"I get to relate to the musicians, build a rapport with the musicians, build a deep understanding of the music."

However, since none of the musicians get paid, their rehearsal time is limited.

"The limit of expectations is there," he said. "We present at the best level we can based on time."

Fortunately, many of the musicians in the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble are pro musicians and they can do a lot of rehearsing on their own. He credits the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble's "librarian" Jim Hill for getting the musicians access to upcoming concert music long before the first group rehearsal.

New challenges

Martinez said "Hymn of the Fallen" a John Williams piece that appeared on the "Saving Private Ryan" soundtrack, can be a very stressful number for those who are not accomplished musicians. However, he put it on their Memorial Day concert because he knows his musicians want to be challenged.

As a kid, he wanted to be challenged as well. Living in Miami, he started taking music lessons at 9. He noted that while his mother taught music lessons for several instruments, his dad, Joe, "couldn't carry a tune to save his life."

The younger Joe remembered his first public concert as a sixth grader.

"Beforehand, I literally was shaking like a leaf."

His mother also was a biology teacher, and he said when it came to music and studies, "there was no messing around."

Although he wanted to join the Navy after high school, he instead attended junior college and then Florida State University, where he studied to become a K-12 music teacher. Meanwhile, he played in jazz bands and took lessons from noted Broadway (New York) trumpeter Jack Pinto. He actually landed gigs on Broadway and with the Miami Symphony, but eventually pursued his love of teaching.

During his long teaching career at Gulf Gate Elementary, he received a taste of conducting when he led the Sarasota Community Band from 1990-97.

He said now he looks forward to conducting the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble.

"I am looking forward to the level of music we can accomplish," he said.



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

Latest News