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A Celebration of the Life of Terence Martin (1946 - 2011)

A Celebration of the Life of Terence Martin 1946  2011

Terence R. Martin, of Harrison, passed away on Monday, November 7, 2011 at home, in the arms of his wife and children, after a fearless and bold three-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Mr. Martin was 65 years old.

A wake and visitation will be held on Saturday, November 12, 2011, from 5:00 to 8:00 pm at the John J. Fox Funeral Home on Boston Post Road in Larchmont, NY. A funeral, "A Celebration of the Life of Terence Martin," will be held Monday, November 14, 2011, at 12:00 noon, at the Community Unitarian Church, 468 Rosedale Avenue, White Plains, NY.

Born in London, England on July 21, 1946, Terence was the son of the late Glen Martin, and Catherine Amelia Rogers Martin, who had only just passed away April 2, 2011 in Oxnard, CA. Terence was the adoring husband of Amy Berkson-Martin, and the devoted step-dad of Hallie Rose Berkson-Gold and Asher Chase Berkson-Gold, all of Harrison.

Terence has been known to many as an esteemed musician, recording artist, captivating performer, brilliant lyricist and poet -- and a treasured teacher for 33 years. He has taught literature, language arts and philosophy at the French-American School of New York, Mamaroneck campus, for 17 of those 33 years. When he first learned he was ill and his doctor told him he wouldn't be able to return to teaching this school year, Terry almost seemed more devastated about not being able to teach his sixth, tenth and twelfth graders than he was about being diagnosed with an inoperable and aggressive disease.

Indeed, Mr. Martin's dedication, conscientiousness, and commitment to his students and the FASNY community, and his enthusiasm for the subjects he taught was exceptional. One former student wrote recently, "I am sitting here at Harvard, surrounded by the most passionate people in the world, and I can't help but think that I still haven't met anyone with your zest for life. You taught me to love the great works, to bring them into my life, to take those words and let both their beauty and meaning make my life just a bit richer. Nothing I have learned since in any field has had such an effect and so much relevance to me."

Terry's influence clearly extended beyond the classroom as well. Another former student, who was in Mr. Martin's class eight years ago, wrote, (in iambic pentameter!), "What I learned in your class has guided me beyond school walls and classical literature. You made me a better person, not for what you taught me, but how you made me feel about it. Because of you, I will never look at a used book the same way. It has lived, and unlike its new counterpart, it has seen the world. It has planted the seeds that make its readers grow. Thank you," he continues, "not only for shown me how to cultivate my garden…But for teaching me how to appreciate its fruits."

At the end of a school year, one tenth grader compiled a several-hundred-page book to honor her experience of being in his class, entitled "Mr. Martin's World." In its inscription, she writes, "Thanks for two great years of English. Your knowledge is admirable, but what truly motivated me in your class was the passion with which you taught the material. Here's a photocopy of my 10th grade notebook--it's a 'World Lit Anthology'!"

Twenty years ago, a colleague wrote, "Terence is truly one of those rare people who were born to teach. He loves what he does and he is constantly striving for excellence equally from his students and from himself. "

Terence Martin's love of literature began when he was a small boy, after his parents moved the family to America when his father accepted an opportunity designing airplanes at Lockheed-Martin in Los Angeles in 1952. An only child, Terry would spend hours bird-watching, drawing, learning to play the accordion, writing, and reading books. It was then, around age eight, that he also picked up his first harmonica. After graduating in 1964 from Notre Dame High School, Terry went to college for a short time, but was not motivated in any particular area. He began to pursue his career in music, playing bass and writing songs for a string of rock-and-roll bands. His first band, during high school, called Morning Blues, mostly played Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters covers.

In 1970, Terence was drafted into the United States Army. He served as an ambulance driver and a medic, and was stationed in Germany until his honorable discharge as a Specialist, 4th Class, in October, 1972. In his precious free time, he worked on his poetry and guitar-playing skills. After the Army, involvement with other bands followed, with names like Surface Tension, White Noise, Homegrown, and Jesse, Wolf and Wings.

Terry continued with his poetry, went back to college as a music major on the GI Bill at age 27, but took an English class and "fell in love with it." He became serious about his studies, took a break from playing in rock bands, and began taking double bass lessons from "a guy who played for Toscanini." He was soon proficient enough on the double bass to join the Burbank Symphony Orchestra, as a job during college.

Terence went on to earn his bachelor's and then his master's degree in English at California State University at Northridge. From that point on, he had a very strong belief that one should wait to commit to attending college until one is truly ready to be diligent about learning.

In the late 70's and early 80's, Terry taught at Montclair Preparatory School in Van Nuys, CA. There, he taught literature and writing to the children of many well-known figures, from singer Barry White to television icon Dick Clark.

In July of 1985, Terence earned his California Community Colleges Instructor Credential in Language Arts and Literature. He was extremely proud of the eight years that followed as a Professor of English at Los Angeles Valley College. He always had tremendous respect for the community college experience, for the impact that good community colleges can have in shaping a student's future.

While at Valley College, in October, 1990, several of his poems were published in a book entitled, "Four Valley Poets." Critic John Zounes raves, "The poets…are remarkable…. Reading Terence Martin is like being forced to hitch a ride . . . and along comes this erratic driver who offers a trip along with the ride. You didn't want the trip, just the ride, but . . . they're one and the same, so you sit back and enjoy both."

In 1994, following the catastrophic Northridge earthquake, Terence decided to move to a region of the country more assuredly devoid of earthquakes. He dreamed of moving to New England, teaching English, and making music. No longer interested in fronting rock bands, instead he aimed to wed his poetry with non-electric music, write more thoughtful songs, and perform alone. He was lured by the burgeoning music scene on the east coast, where in Greenwich Village, the Songwriters' Exchange, led by Jack Hardy, gave folk song writers a chance at success. Musicians he read about in Performing Songwriter magazine "all seemed to live in Massachusetts or Connecticut," he recalled later. Writes Jim Motavalli, in his cover article on Terence Martin in the Fairfield Weekly magazine in 2002, "New England was and is an especially fertile place for songwriters." Terence settled in Fairfield, CT (later moving to Larchmont, then Harrison, NY), and began performing at open mics around the tri-state area.

In September, 1994, he also began his 17-year stint as a beloved teacher and mentor at the French-American School of New York. Wrote one parent a few weeks ago, "You probably don't realize what an important figure you are in our household. You had our three children…in your classroom for one year. Yet each of them regards their time with you as seminal, as do we. Your instruction had an impact on how they write, how they read, and who they are. In fact, it would be difficult to underestimate the importance of your influence at FASNY; a French school whose English department rivals any I have encountered."

In 1997, Terence released his first CD, "Division Street," which includes the song "Independence Day," with lyrics admitting, "there was a six point earthquake. it happened late last fall. it shook the windows floors and me and what was hanging on the wall….. i spend my life making earthquakes go away. and every time i move i call it independence day." Gregory Hicks co-wrote two songs with him, and in future recordings would often collaborate on nearly half of the songs on each CD. Jim Allyn played mandolin, guitar, keyboard and sang harmonies, and appeared on three more of Terence's CDs.

"Waterproof" followed in 2000. It was produced by Terence and his soon-to-become life-long co-producer Dennis Hrbek, and was released by new manager Barbara Roehrer and her Good Dog Records. Michael Allison from The Global Muse wrote, "Terence creates a tapestry of great imagery with his music. You can almost see your version of the video in your mind….I've reviewed a lot of folk music over the years, but I can't think of anyone who I simply love to listen to more than this music and this artist."

"Waterproof" includes such listener favorites and critically acclaimed songs as "Augustine Creek," "Folding Chairs," and "Familiar Mysteries" -- which appears as the title song on a release from the Garland Appeal, the charity for breast cancer research, sanctioned by Paul McCartney in memory of his late wife Linda McCartney. Waterproof also marked Terence's performing partnership with Dan Bonis, who appeared on dobro, and later played mandolin, lap steel, and guitar, and joined Terence on five more recordings and as an unwavering musical partner in hundreds of performances around the region.

"Sleeper" was released in 2002, with the first track, "The Way it Didn't Go," winning 2nd Place in the Just Plain Folks Music Awards, and chock full of songs like, "Sleeper on a Westbound Train," "Evening Sky," and "23rd Street Runs into Heaven." John Platt from WFUV referred to Terence as a "vivid wordsmith whose darkly fluid songs seep into your head and heart."

Terence's "Lost Hills" came out in 2005, reached Number 3 on the Folk DJ List for Top Album, and included "East of the River," "Eight Ball," "The Next Best Thing," and "Where it All Begins." It features such artists as keyboard master Clifford Carter (formerly with James Taylor), Will Lee (from The Late Show with David Letterman) on bass, Radoslov Lorkovic (Greg Brown, Richard Shindell) on accordion, Terence's wife Amy Berkson-Martin on harmonies, Chris Parker on drums, Chris Davis, Pearson Constantino, Billy Masters, and Gordon Roehrer -- who went on to join him on stage at many venues and to back Terence on bass on four CDs.

"Even Trade" was released in 2008, with "Who's Breathing All the Air," "I Want Everything," "Used Cars," "Used to the Dark," "Throw You Out of Heaven," and "Looking South" and other DJ and fan favorites. In 2010, "The Last Black and White TV" emerged. Highlights include, "Down From Sacramento," "River's Still Rising," "Miles From Here," and the spare and moving "A Bird to Take You South," which Terence often read as a poem at important family milestone events.

His final CD, "Field Recordings," was just made during Terence's last eight weeks. It was recorded live in Terence and Amy's living room -- because, producer Dennis Hrbek and Terence's other close musician friends felt, "if Terence can't come to the studio, we'll bring a studio to him." Each week, sometimes twice, producer Dennis Hrbek and longtime collaborators Dan Bonis, Jim Allyn and Gordon Roehrer, along with good friend Montgomery Delaney, faithfully joined Terence well into the night, working out arrangements, playing and recording his seventh CD, sharing a meal, and celebrating camaraderie and life. Amy took hours of video recordings during the sessions.

Bruce Carroll, who owns the Watercolor Cafe in Larchmont, and has hosted renowned musical acts each week for several years, recently held a three-night Tribute to Terence and his music, following a similar tribute in Katonah organized by Monty Delaney. Musicians from near and far arrived and performed Terence Martin songs to honor him. Says Carroll, Terence "has been a significant part of both the music community here in the Northeast and in the community at large, and we here at Watercolor Cafe are proud to call him our brother."

In addition to his loving wife Amy, and children Hallie and Asher, Mr. Martin is survived by his cherished aunt and uncle, Sheila and Ernest Rogers of Oxnard, CA, his much loved cousins Susan Rogers Huebner, husband John Huebner, and their children Emma and Olivia, from Ventura, CA, and Cheryl Rogers Heichmer, husband Rich Heichmer and their son Will from Laguna Beach, CA, along with cousin Barry Ingold, his wife Nina and children Barry and Alexandria, of West Lake, CA. Additionally, Terry is survived by his half-sister Michele Martin-Maffucci of Statesville, NC, and his cousins Lynda McLure and her husband Jim from London, Alan Goggin from Brightlingsea, UK, his sister-in-law Laura Berkson and her partner Penney Weishaar of Boston, and his mother-in-law Greta Berkson, of Albany. Terence also leaves behind many treasured colleagues, former students, fellow musicians, and a group of incredibly close friends, for whom he and Amy have been immeasurably grateful.

Known for his sense of humor, the intensity of his respect for folks of all ages, stages. backgrounds and abilities, his unparalleled enthusiasm for learning and teaching, Terence Martin has been remarkable in his capacity to balance two very full-time careers and to remain passionate, productive, faithful and successful to both for three decades.

As an alternative to flowers, contributions may be made in Terence R. Martin's memory to the VNA of Hudson Valley's HOSPICE in Tarrytown, NY or to The Cancer Support Team in Mamaroneck .

Additionally, the family would like to create a program or learning space at FASNY's new location in memory of Terry. Perhaps a "Terence Martin Reading & Listening Nook," with bookshelves filled with literature and poetry, benches, and a listening library. Or, maybe an annual songwriting workshop could be offered at the school. Donations may be made to the French-American School of New York in Terence Martin's name and earmarked toward these goals.

May the life and memory of Terence Martin be a blessing.

updated: 8 years ago