Musical ‘virtuoso’ overcomes physical injuries to create music


TATE ROMAN, Channels Staff

Michael Martel would rather be singing on stage in front of an audience than hold a one-on-one conversation with someone in the halls of the Drama-Music Building, because he feels that he can better express himself through his music.

“Maybe it’s because I can really plan out what I want to say,” he said. “And pick harmonies to underscore the mood or feelings.”

Martel, 29, began playing the piano at the age of six, mastering classical songs created by Beethoven and Mozart. Over the years his skills on the piano have expanded.

Even though he only recently started writing songs, he has already risen to the top. Since becoming a songwriter, Martel has written the lyrics and chords for 30 songs.

If it was not for dropping into Dr. John Clark’s songwriting class back in 2014, he wouldn’t have even gotten into singing and songwriting, he said.

“Michael is one of the best songwriters I have had in my long time at SBCC,” Clark said.

Everything that Martel becomes involved with gets even better, Clark said. Martel constantly offers help and feedback, and mentors the other students.

“I think he is extremely talented and is a musical savant,” said Jessica Kirby, one of Martel’s classmates. “The only things holding him back are his physical ailments.”

Martel went back to school in 2014 to get into songwriting but he began developing symptoms of tendinitis. His skills have not changed but he can’t fully tap into them lately because his endurance is shortened.

Tendinitis is the inflammation of a tendon, which he has in his forearms, elbows and wrist. In most cases it isn’t anything that lasts too long, but for him the pain does not go away. Mainly suffering in his right arm, he has to use his left arm for everyday tasks.

Chopin’s “Ballade No. 1 in G Minor” was the last classical piece that he was able to master before he started having these symptoms, Martel said.

The reason Martel started focusing heavily on singing and writing music was because of the tendinitis, but lately he has been having issues with his vocals as well.

Strain and scratchiness are starting to burden him, but he has been working on getting better in a number of ways.

“I’m trying various angles, medical and otherwise, to try to regain the full use of my piano and singing skills,” Martel said.

The only time he sings for pleasure is when he’s working on short, 15-minute voice exercises twice a day. His speech therapist suggested this to get rid of the issues. He has also cut back on his usual three to four hour piano practice to the bare minimum needed to stay prepared for his performances.

“He’s a virtuoso on the piano,” said Dylan Monacelli, Martel’s classmate. “All this aside, he is still an incredible pianist.”

The way Martel feels the most comfortable expressing himself is now hurting him, but he has been getting better at managing the pain.

“I’m just trying to stay optimistic and continue taking good care of my health,” said Martel.