Jean Martin-Williams, who directs the horn studio in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, successfully combines her passions for teaching and performing.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I attended Lawrence University in Wisconsin for two years. My degrees are all from the Manhattan School of Music, which coincidentally was housed in the building that was The Juilliard School before Juilliard moved to Lincoln Center. (My parents met in the old Juilliard building!) At UGA, all music majors have a principal instrument to study during every semester in a one-on-one setting. I am responsible for the horn studio (the instrument formerly known as the “French” horn). I also play in the faculty wind quintet, which is performing in Hodgson Hall on Nov. 8, and direct the Lilly Teaching Fellows program in the Center for Teaching and Learning.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I came here in 1990. At the time I had a very vibrant career as a performer in New York City and was doing some adjunct teaching at the college level. I knew at some point I wanted to shift the balance; when the position was advertised at UGA, I was intrigued, so I applied! I grew up in Georgia and my parents were still living in Atlanta at the time. The location and the fact that there was an active faculty brass quintet and woodwind quintet appealed to me. They were looking for someone who would do extensive performing off campus, so for the first 10 years I was here I also maintained an apartment in New York City because I was traveling back and forth so much. I am still a member of the New York Pops Orchestra, but do more performing in other venues and less in NYC.
What are your favorite courses and why?
Fortunately, I have never taught anything that did not excite me. But one of my favorite things is our weekly horn seminar – all the horn majors meet together to perform for each other, discuss pertinent issues, etc. I am always energized by the talent and attitude of our horn students, especially seeing the support they give each other, even in the throes of competition.
What interests you about your field?
It is a rare individual who does not enjoy some type of music. It is fascinating to re-create a piece of music from the written score – there are many physical and technical decisions to be made, but that is just to give one the tools to be artistically expressive in a unique way. Then, to add in the interaction with other performers – it never ceases to excite me, one of the reasons I am so fond of chamber music.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
Those of us teaching applied music are especially fortunate because we teach our students the entire time they are at UGA. In most cases, we have met them when they were in high school. It is so gratifying to be a part of that process and to see where the students end up. Horn studio alumni include performers and teachers all over the country, in addition to doctors, lawyers, dentists – even an executive pastry chef! Working with the CTL Lilly Teaching Fellows is also a highlight. Being in that program early in my career is the reason I am still at UGA. Now, as director, I get to experience the program again each year, with the rising stars of this campus.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
I cannot imagine one without the other. A large portion of my scholarship is in active performing. This takes me to many venues around the world, playing a variety of types of music with many different musicians. To be able to bring this back to my students is very important, just as my own playing is inspired and honed by the interaction with my students.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
I want my students to emerge from my studio not only with greater musical capabilities, but more awareness about how to succeed in anything they undertake – and an overall confidence and joy in whatever they do. We work hard, but we also have a lot of laughs.
Describe your ideal student.
I am not sure if I know who that would be. When a student and I start out freshman year, we have no idea where we will end up in four years. But if that process is an enervating one, then that is ideal. There is a certain treachery to playing the horn, so a student who is willing to bounce back from failure will be able to succeed.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
I have a special affection for North Campus – the Chapel, the President’s Garden, Old College. There is a wonderful mix of energy and calm when I have the chance to be up there, and it is always beautiful, no matter the season.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
My husband and I have two children in elementary school, and two dogs, so being with them is always fun … sporting events, outdoor activities, music lessons, travel.
Community/civic involvement includes…
I have been on the Clarke County School District’s Parent Advisory Board. I have walked the three-day, 60-mile Breast Cancer Walk twice, and plan to do it again.
I love to read, especially fiction, and my favorite is usually whatever I happen to be reading! When I lived in New York City, I loved to go to movies, and while there are many fine classics I enjoy seeing, for big chuckles you can’t beat “Trains, Planes and Automobiles”! I suspect my love of Steve Martin and all of the traveling I have done as a performer makes that one resonate with me.
Proudest moment at UGA?
Oh, there are so many … anytime I hear one of our student ensembles perform, I am reminded again of what a fabulous gift we have to be musicians … receiving the Meigs Professorship at the Faculty Recognition Banquet, accompanied by my 90-year-old father, who was also a college music professor. In the late 1940s, Hugh Hodgson would bring him to Athens to perform for UGA’s Thursday night music series.