North Central College - Naperville, IL

Alumni return to send off Martinez

The 2013 Concert Choir Graduation Concert on May 31 evolved into an alumni reunion event when dozens of choir and music alumni joined parents, faculty and staff for a final performance with conductor Jeordano “Pete” Martinez, now professor of music emeritus.

A Facebook page called “Pete is retiring” quickly grew to more than 250 members, who shared plans to attend the concert and also their favorite quotes from Martinez. On the night of the concert, more than 60 alumni surprised Martinez by joining in for the choir’s final performance of “River in Judea,” which over the years became the choir’s signature finale.

“It started in the late 1990s to sing that piece, always with a male and female soloist,” says Ross Berkley ’05, who along with Michael Sunblad ’03 helped recruit alumni for the concert. “The lyrics talk about meeting again in the not-too-distant future, so it was a perfect ending to this occasion.”

Berkley points out that Martinez engaged students at all levels of music education. “He was not only the Concert Choir conductor, but he influenced a whole generation of music professors, professional conductors, theatre performers and music teachers. He made a significant mark on North Central.”

Among those attending was Kristin Thiemke ’90 Cushing, one of Martinez’ first choir members in 1986. Her feelings were universal among attendees. “It wasn’t really a feeling of wanting to be there, it was more a feeling of NEEDING to be there,” she says about the graduation concert. “When I came to North Central, there was no instrumental music program so I took a risk and joined choir, even though I had never sung in a choir before. And there was Pete—proclaiming enthusiastically that it was his freshman year, too. Pete’s big personality made his teaching, directing, correcting and teasing unique. He pulled the best out of each and every person in the room. What an amazing legacy!”

Martinez thanked his supporters: “I was completely taken by surprise and blown away to see so many of you! I have been privileged indeed to have had you all in my life.”