Monday, June 29, 2015

The People of Catacoustic: Fred Martens

With this post we begin an occasional series on the people behind the scenes of Catacoustic. A lot of fascinating people work hard to make what we do possible. 

Meet Fred Martens, Catacoustic Consort’s graphic and web designer. If you’ve ever noticed how beautiful our website is; if you’ve ever admired the artwork on our brochures, postcards, or posters; if you bought our latest CD and noticed its attractive, easy- to-read packaging, then you’ve experienced the Martens touch. Fred is the heart and soul of Catacoustic’s visual presentation, and it’s high time he takes a bow!

Fred grew up in West Virginia, scion of an artistic and musical family: his father was a second-generation architect and sculptor, his mother a composer who collaborated with Martha Graham and
Eloise & Robert Martens
counted Duke Ellington among her fans. Fred came to Cincinnati to pursue his love of art at Edgecliff College. (This was in the era after it was the progressive women’s college, Our Lady of Cincinnati, and before it was absorbed into Xavier University.)
teaching at Boys Club, 1970s

 He worked his way through college by teaching art at the Boys’ Club in Over-the-Rhine, and then continued teaching for many years in local Catholic schools and at Holmes High in Covington. After getting his Master’s degree in education at Xavier he taught there as an adjunct for many years as well. His philosophy of teaching includes creating a sense of mission in his students. He required all his design students to create volunteer work for non-profit organizations. He told his students, “You have a gift, which is about more than making money. You have the choice to also serve the community around you.” He’s still in touch with many of his old students. “You changed my life” is a phrase he has heard many times.

As a result of his interest in helping others, he received awards and acknowledgements, from an article in the Cincinnati Business Courier and inclusion in Inspire Cincinnati’s “Eight Inspiring Men” issue, to receiving Edgecliff College’s top alumni honor, the Sullivan Award.

Holmes HS art teacher, 1984
 While getting his M.Ed. at Xavier University, though, his own life changed course, almost by accident. When asked by a teacher to “write about projecting yourself into the happiest place you could imagine,” he pictured himself working in an urban art studio. As surprised as he was by this vision, he had the wisdom to take a year off from teaching and explore it. He quickly found that the creative life was the one he was meant to live, and thus was born Martens’ Art, and his career in graphic design.  

In design, what he loves most isn’t making things pretty, but the complex process of problem solving.  “I really like it when I hit the mark, when a client hands a business card I designed to someone who then really gets what he does and energy is created between them. Good design can make people’s dreams happen.”

Fred has worked with many organizations including those in industry, law, and mental health. He has a special affinity for the arts, though, and has been pleased to work closely with the CSO, the Constella Festival, Chamber Music Cincinnati, Music for All Seasons, and the International Trumpet Convention, among others.
Being self-employed as a graphic designer allowed Fred to pursue other creative interests along the
way, involving music, theatre, and performing.

Having studied clarinet performance in college and after, he played with a touring woodwind quintet and trio (via the Ohio Touring Arts Roster) performing in Ohio for children and adults. This was a perfect blend for Fred; he drew the illustrations for their “Peter and the Wolf” performance (the drawings being projected behind the ensemble). He worked his childhood vampire and monster
makeup obsessions into other performances, creating the costumes and makeup for a series of “Vampire Quintet” gigs. Eventually the ensemble (performing as animals and vampires) became represented by the Robert Gewald Management Agency (in NYC) until they tired of the stresses of travel.

Now he enjoys the theatrical arts from backstage as an accomplished reed doubler, a versatile musician who can play parts of more than a half a dozen single-reed instruments (plus a bit of flute and recorder) for musical theater companies around the Tri-State. Fred has probably played in the pit orchestra in many of the productions you have attended over the years. He is also a proud member of Squeeze Play, our city’s accordion band. That’s right – eighteen accordions and seven accompanying instruments (there’s Fred on the clarinet or saxophone!) They’ve played with the Cincinnati Pops six times, and every year at Cincinnati’s Oktoberfest. And the best part is that Fred’s partner Warren Liang, a lifelong accordionist, is a member too. What do you get when you fill a house with love and polka music? A branch campus of Heaven.
Squeeze Play, and in the pit

So how did Fred get mixed up in Catacoustic? Remember that sense of mission he instilled into his students? Fred walks the talk by engaging with nonprofits in the way he can offer the most. And he loves Catacoustic’s mission as well. “Catacoustic is unique among Cincinnati ensembles. The music it plays is fragile but enduring. I feel like I am getting in on the ground level of something that is ready to explode as more people become aware of it.” Thank you, Fred, for everything you bring to the organization. You have changed our lives.