Growing up in Texas, Martha’s love of music started early. She remembers listening to her mother sing and learning all about different instruments from her father. After begging for a piano, her parents finally agreed, and she began taking lessons at age 8. Since then, Martha has received her diploma in vocal music from the first graduating class of The Houston High School for Performing and Visual Arts and earned a degree in composition from The University of Texas at Austin.
Martha has moved all over North America with her Canadian husband, astrophysicist Martin Duncan. Many of her compositions were inspired by the memorable places she has seen or visited. Martha and her husband eventually settled in Kingston, Ontario where they raised their children Alex, a mathematician and Claire, a singer, actress and voiceover artist. In Kingston she has maintained an active piano studio, conducts the women’s choir She Sings! and enthusiastically pursues her career in composition.
Growing up in Texas, Martha’s love of music started early. She remembers listening to her mother sing every chance she got. Her father also played a part in her budding love of music. She sat with him and listened to music on the radio as he described the different instruments they heard and quizzed her about her favourites.
By age seven — when she learned her first simple tune on a friend’s piano — she was hooked and desperately wanted to learn more. By age eight she had begun formal piano lessons.
Since then, Martha has received her diploma in vocal music in the first graduating class of The Houston High School for Performing and Visual Arts and earned a degree in composition from The University of Texas at Austin. Through the years, she feels lucky to have worked with many inspirational and patient teachers like Donald Grantham, Gregory Allen, Errol Haun, Trudy Borden, and Sam Dolin to name a few. Each taught her something different about musicianship, creativity, and confidence.
In 1982, Martha moved to Canada with her husband, astrophysicist Martin Duncan. In appreciation of her adopted country, many of Martha’s vocal and choral works are set to Canadian texts. Some of these songs have won awards in both American and Canadian choral and art song competitions.
In 2011, Martha and librettist Janet Windeler Ryan joined forces to write an original opera, Searching the Painted Sky, for The Youth Opera of El Paso. It was premiered at the National Opera Association convention in New York City in January 2014.
In addition to her vocal writing, Martha is known for her piano compositions. Many of these works were inspired, at least in part, by her long-time career as a piano teacher and by the memorable places she has lived or visited. Some of these piano solos, as well as some of her art songs, appear in the syllabi and/or publications of The Royal Conservatory of Music, Conservatory Canada and Contemporary Showcase. Several piano pieces also appear in the Northern Lights and Making Tracks series of The Canadian National Conservatory of Music. She also has ongoing partnerships with several music publishers, including Graphite Publishing (http://graphitepublishing.com) which have commissioned her to write art songs and choral music.
Martha continues to share her love of music through projects like Red Leaf Pianoworks — a composers’ collective for new piano repertoire, and through her work as artistic director and conductor for the women’s choir, She Sings! A piano examiner for The Royal Conservatory of Music, she also enjoys adjudicating music festivals and giving presentations and workshops on her music and that of her colleagues.
Martha currently lives in Kingston, Ontario with her husband and has two grown children, Alex, a mathematician and Claire, a singer, actress, and voice over artist.