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Richards band director enjoys his final concert

charles martin photo 5 23

Photo by Kelly White

Charles Martin, band director at Richards High School in Oak Lawn, held his final concert at the school on Sunday afternoon. He is retiring from the high school after 24 years at the end of the semester.

By Kelly White

Charles Martin directed his final home concert Sunday afternoon at Richards High School in Oak Lawn.

After 24 years, he went out in style leading the school’s jazz band.

“This is what I will miss the most, working and conducting students,” said Martin, 63. “Generally, I will miss simply just making music.”

Martin said his priority as director was to instill that same love of music into his students, and the many accomplishments of the jazz ensembles proved he was successful. Over the past years, the jazz ensemble has performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the State Music Educators Convention in Peoria, and Walt Disney World in Orlando.

His passion for the arts and dedication to his career will be missed by staff members and students alike within the district, including Richards High School Principal Michael Jacobson.

“Mr. Martin is a Richards institution,” Jacobson said. “In a school steeped in tradition, Chuck’s contribution and legacy still stands out as singular. He will forever be remembered as a Bulldog.”

Martin’s love for music sparked while attending Lyons Township High School, and although he struggled with personal obstacles, he never let them get in the way of achieving his musical dreams.

“Music was the one thing I excelled at in high school,” Martin said. “I am both left-handed and dyslexic, and since music notes are symbols, it was easier to read music rather than textbooks. I used that strategy to help me overcome these issues.”

Martin said, unfortunately, he was born in the era of no individualized educational plans and other forms of learning interventions.

“My parents helped me get with tutors that helped me become successful,” Martin said.

He continued to study music, participating in music camps, and learning various instruments. After high school, Martin earned his bachelor’s degree in music education at Iowa State University in 1978, then his master’s degree in music with a focus on saxophone performance at Arizona State University in 1982. He followed this with a music fellowship at Northwestern University during the summer of 1994.

A year later, he took on a position at Community High School District 218 as Richards High School’s band director. He encouraged individual lessons and worked and stressed a universal love for music. Under his guidance, the interest in band began to grow among students at the school, with more making the decision to pick up an instrument.

“This concert means a lot for me,” said Jose Del Castillo, 16, of Oak Lawn. “It is a bittersweet moment because it is my last performance with many of my friends who are graduating. It is also my last performance with not only the best band director, but the best teacher I’ve ever had.”

Most of the material performed at Sunday’s concert was favorite pieces of Martin’s that were performed over his tenure at the high school. However, Martin did not want to leave anyone out of his final show. He invited all Richards High School band alumni to come out to perform one tune with the class of 2019 band members. More than 60 alums took the stage on Sunday.

“Since we have a brand new theater and they always had to give concerts in the gym, I always promised that if we ever got a Performing Arts Center they could come back and play in the new theater,” Martin said.

Sunday’s performance also included visual artist Michelle Richardella and alto saxophonist and Martin’s son, Nicholas Martin, who is the junior high band director at Glenn West Lake Middle School in Lombard.

“The final concert is our way of saying thank you to one of the most passionate teachers I will ever meet,” said Zaal Khalil, 18, of Oak Lawn.

Although he will miss the music scene, Martin, who is also a 15-year survivor of colon cancer, said he is looking forward to spending time with his family during his retirement. He has been married for 35 years to his wife, Peggy. They also have another son, Nathan, an audio engineer with the United States Air Force, working with the Band of Asia out of Yokota Air Force Base in Yokota, Japan.

“My wife and I became grandparents to a darling baby girl in February, Avery Lynn, to my oldest son, Nick and his wife Jessica,” Martin said. “Spoiling her will be a top priority.”

Martin and his wife also plan to spend time traveling, with a first scheduled trip to Japan this summer.

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