ALO student becomes accomplished pianist, musician

PULSE program enriches Stone Martin's career opportunities

Stone Martin at the piano.

Stone Martin at the piano.

The first time Stone Martin faced a piano, he was five years old. His mother, Oneida Martin, recalls that he ran out of the room crying. Twelve years later, he is an accomplished musician and headed toward the prestigious Brevard Music Center for three weeks in July where he will participate in master classes with faculty, learn more about music theory and perform and attend recitals.

Martin's story is one of passion coupled with frustration and determination. He was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) as a young boy and until he was in junior high, struggled in school. In sixth grade, however, the world of music opened in front of him and he has never looked back.

Martin credits his chorus teacher, Mrs. Kim Roberts, at Hartsville Middle School, with truly introducing him to the piano. “I would ask Mrs. Roberts if I could play the piano, and she would let me play.”

After Mrs. Roberts asked Martin to play for the middle school's awards ceremony, he was hooked. Suddenly, nothing was out of his grasp. “When Stone found music, his grades excelled,” says Mrs. Martin. “He used music to get rid of his frustrations. I've seen the growth, from where he started to where he is now.”

Once his passion for music was ignited, Martin did everything he could to learn, including watching YouTube videos and listening to songs over and over until he could pick them out on the piano himself.

It wasn't until he reached high school and joined the chorus that he started to discover that his passion for music could possibly be his future. Dr. James Beaumier, chairman of the arts department, as well as being the chorus instructor at Hartsville High School, suggested that he look into the PULSE program at Coker College. PULSE, the Partnership for Unparalleled Scholastic Excellence, offers Accelerated Learning Opportunities (ALO) for qualified students, who can earn dual high school and college credit for classes.

“I think he really wanted me to study voice,” says Martin. “But I wanted to learn about the piano. So I interviewed with Serena Hill.” As the PULSE coordinator for Coker College, Hill met with Martin. “It is obvious he has a passion for music and needed some guidance and good instruction,” she recalls.

Martin auditioned for Rita Chandler, the Coker piano instructor who was very supportive during his first ALO course, Class Piano I. Chandler brought in Dr. Ryan Smith, assistant professor of music at Coker, to listen to him play. “They recommended that I move into applied piano where I had a one-hour lesson and a master class once a week,” he says.

Dr. Smith notes that by the end of his sophomore year, Martin, who could not read music at all, was able to read and play at a level similar to someone who has studied for at least three years. After taking the applied piano class, “he is playing literature commensurate with college students at the same or higher level of musicianship.

“He is truly a prodigy, and his potential is unimaginable,” Smith adds.

Mrs. Martin says that her son comes by his talent naturally. She and Stone's father were both performers early in their lives, and musical talent is something he shares with his grandparents. “Stone has fallen in love with music,” she says. “He plays the cello, he records and he sings. It's his passion.”

And while the musical part of her son's life is amazing, Mrs. Martin is thrilled because it has helped her son in other ways. “He is so dedicated and focused,” she says. “To be in the ALO program, he has to keep his grades up.” That might sound easy. However, as a junior Martin had a tough class load, including psychology, chemistry and IB Spanish. He was at Coker College twice a week for his ALO class and he takes private voice lessons, too.

“PULSE has given him a great incentive to do well,” Mrs. Martin adds. “His grades are excellent and he has worked on building his confidence.”

The rising high school senior believes that the PULSE program opened up a big part of his life. “I'm all about learning,” he says. “I enjoy producing, writing music and singing. I'm definitely going to do something in music.”

Mrs. Martin says she has seen her son grow under the guidance of so many wonderful instructors. “I'm so proud,” she says. “I'm shocked at what he can do after just a year-and-a-half.”

In June, Martin was one of several representatives for the city of Hartsville in its quest to become an All America City. He and others were in Denver as PULSE program participants. In a local news story that broke after Hartsville was named of 10 recipients of the distinguished honor, he told them, “It was a great experience to meet new people, and it brought our community together even more.”

What else is there to know about Stone Martin? He'd done more in the last three years than many will do in a lifetime. He's a bit of a phenom since his 2013 audition and appearance in the top 40 of The X Factor, a reality television show where performers compete in front of judges and vie for audience votes. His audition tape, available on YouTube, has over 15,000 likes and shows him interacting with the judges, including Simon Cowell, who told Stone, “You've got this kind of star glow about you.”

During the summer of 2016, he will be at Brevard Music Center, and he will spend more than a week at A Capella camp in Los Angeles, doing what he loves. Making music.