Four years ago, Drake Martin walked into Sound Core with his eighth-grade graduation money and walked out with a cheap electric bass. Martin’s parents were confused by the purchase; Martin was a baritone player, he had never played the bass before and couldn’t even explain why he wanted to.
Four months ago, Martin walked out of his audition at Berklee College of Music with a smile on his face and his electric bass in hand. It was an audition that, as Martin would later find out, would land him a spot at one of the most prestigious independent colleges of contemporary music in the country.
Martin and his parents are now planning Martin’s move to Boston, where he expects to major in electric bass performance at Berklee this fall. Going from having no bass experience to being accepted to one of the top music schools in the country for bass performance is an unlikely journey, but Martin’s self-starter tendencies and clear passion for music made him perfect for the challenge.
“It became what he was most interested in and he followed that interest. Drake is that guy — he speaks it into existence, he puts in that time and that effort to make things happen for himself,” said Carbondale Community High School’s band director, Greg Townsend. “It’s neat to be accepted by a school you want to be in, but I think in Drake’s case, it’s neat for Berklee that he picked them.”
For the first year after his spontaneous purchase, Martin’s bass-playing consisted solely of self-guided practices at home. During Martin’s sophomore year, he and his friends decided to enter CCHS’s talent show performing as Lucas Feather and the Underclassmen (LFATUC), a funk band. Martin’s performance on electric bass with LFATUC was the first time he played the instrument outside of his solo practices.
Later that year, Martin decided he was ready to take on another project. There was an opening for a bass player in CCHS’s Jazz Band, where Martin was already playing baritone. Martin began learning songs on bass, starting with just playing one song on bass and the rest on baritone during their performances.
This transition presented new challenges for Martin. Not only did he have to switch from reading treble clef to bass clef notes, but he also had to adjust from playing alone or with his friends to playing with an established band. Martin felt like he was in over his head and he found most of his early bass performances embarrassing, but he didn’t have any plans to stop trying.
“One of his biggest assets is that he is not afraid to work hard, he has a great work ethic,” said Lori Martin, Drake Martin’s mother. “When he’s really passionate about something, he will spend a crazy amount of time on it.” Martin found that within a year, he was performing almost entirely on the electric bass with the jazz band.
“By his junior year, it felt like he had been playing forever. It’s really a testament to the way that he worked,” Townsend said.
Martin’s ability to apply himself completely to a goal has benefited more than just his musical development. It’s also allowed him to spearhead several projects that have helped LFATUC evolve from a talent-show act to a locally known band, one that’s releasing an original album this summer.
In order to gain a larger social media presence for LFATUC, Martin learned about the different audiences on their social media platforms and began to create posts to cater to those viewers. He also observed that posting video material before a show led to greater turnout. As a result, Martin taught himself advanced audio and video editing skills in order to engage their viewers and boost turnout with catchy videos.
“I’ll get really motivated on a project and then go all in,” Martin explained. He remembers the first video project that prompted his interest — he had a recording of LFATUC performing live and he wanted to share it publicly.
“I didn’t know very much about video editing but I wanted to do a good job on that video because we got a good recording of it. I wanted it to do well, and I think it did. I think that motivation is necessary now to set yourself apart,” he said.
In addition to teaching himself how to play the bass and managing LFATUC’s social media accounts, Martin has developed proficiency with music transcription. His ability to adapt music for a variety of instruments has allowed him to complete several arrangements for pep band, transcribe music for LFATUC band members, and to write a movement for CCHS’s field show.
“There was a lot of detail work that goes into that, and he was just fantastic as he approached it. He’s very task-oriented and very exacting in the way that he works. That’s obviously the recipe for a good musician — being a self-starter and being able to know the things you need to get better at,” Townsend said.
In the past four years, Martin has followed his interests with natural fervor and tenacity. Martin looks forward to continuing his journey at Berklee, where he plans to make connections and learn skills that will continue to serve his overall goal of making a career out of a variety of musical endeavors.
“It’s an amazing story about somebody’s desire pushing them to do things that should not always be possible,” Townsend said.