The Westminster Foundation Princeton, NJ, Inc.
May 31, 2019
It’s with great pleasure that we present Martha (Marti) Mortensen Ahern as the focus of our Alumni Spotlight today. As a piano major/voice minor in Church Music studies, she graduated with the class of 1983 while focusing on the art of Collaborative Piano under the tutelage of such illustrious pianists as Harold Zabrack and Martin Katz. Originally from Columbus, OH, she now makes her home in Austin, TX where she serves on the Board of Directors as Artistic Director and Pianist for the Austin Chamber Ensemble. In addition, she is a pianist for the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin, dedicated to preserving and promoting the classic artistry of the G&S catalogue. She has been a music professional for well over 3 decades and has gifted her community with service as an accompanist, organist, and music educator; she is also the owner and operator of her own studio (Ms. Marti Piano Studio), where she offers piano, voice, and organ lessons. In the finest of traditions, Westminster proves yet again that its graduates create a legacy of communal impact.
Reflections on Marti’s Westminster experience…
“One of the things I love about WCC is the feeling of family and community which spans the decades; it is REAL. Sure, we are blessed to have amazing performance opportunities not found anywhere else (singing at Carnegie Hall at age 20??), but, above all, at Westminster the teachers care, the classmates care, and we care to share. Excellence at WCC is also a major contributor to success - something I strive for and try to pass along to my students.
From my first visit to the campus as a sophomore in high school, I felt at home here. My middle school choir director (Bob Davidson) was a graduate of WCC and he gave me so many opportunities in the collaborative arts – accompanying for most choirs at school and providing solo opportunities on the concerts. He also chose to volunteer his time to conduct a select group of high school students, which he took on tour during one of our spring breaks. After my first step onto campus and hearing a Symphonic Choir rehearsal, I KNEW this was the place for me. I auditioned on the piano in Williamson Hall.* Although I was accepted at other schools, I chose to attend WCC. Again, I was given opportunities in the collaborative arts as an accompanist for Chapel Choir (Frauke Haasemann), Oratorio Choir (Allen Crowell), and was granted permission to study with Martin Katz as a sophomore. I cherish my education and how I was taught to serve and share – something I try to pass on to my current students. I feel very close to many in my class and marvel at their gifts, talent and accomplishments. They are amazing musicians AND friends.
*The night before my audition, a blizzard blew through Princeton. Campus was closed and Pres. Robinson was the only faculty member who could make it in.”
On the effect Westminster had on her commitment to sharing with the community…
“Westminster trains musicians who serve and share, bringing beauty and goodness to those with whom we come in contact. In my private piano/voice studio, I’m blessed to have artists of all ages to teach and train – and to learn from them, too. Through my membership in MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) and the Texas and Austin Chapters, I’ve had the opportunity to keep current on pedagogy and teaching. I’ve also presented sessions at the National, State, and Local levels, serving in leadership positions at the State and Local levels. Adjudicating for festivals and competitions has encouraged me to continue my professional connections with colleagues and learn to write positive ways for students to improve.
I’ve served as Class Agent since ’88, attended all of the 5-year reunions, organized our class dinners, and was a member of the Piano Task Force from 2015-2016. I was given the honor to serve as Alumni Marshal for my 30th Reunion (2013). It’s been a joy to host/co-host Westminster Choir tours to Texas over the years, house students, organize an Alumni Reception following Dr. Flummerfelt’s Artist-in-Residence at University of Texas at Austin Brahms ‘Requiem’ performance and supporting the college with donations.”
How choosing Westminster impacted her career path…
“Because of the training I received and the teachers I studied with (Harold Zabrack and Martin Katz, among many others), I’ve gained employment as Staff Accompanist/Vocal Coach at Ohio State University and the University of Texas at Austin. The training I received at WCC from these teachers were of great benefit to me, resulting in the opening of many musical doors.
Since 2008, I’ve been serving as Artistic Director and Pianist for Austin Chamber Ensemble. I’ve had the opportunity to plan concert series, hire artists, perform, write grants, promote concerts, and commission composers. In addition, I’ve appeared on local radio stations KMFA and KUT here in Austin, giving interviews and live performances promoting upcoming concerts for the season. Current plans are underway for our 40th Season (2020 – 21), with plans for an amazing 39th season. I also currently serve as pianist for Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin performing community outreach concerts and occasionally as rehearsal pianist. The field of Church Music is still a major part of my life, and I currently serve as an organist (on Austin AGO Chapter sub list) and volunteer choir director for my congregation.”
To learn more about Marti and her music, please visit https://msmartipianostudio.mymusicstaff.com/Home or www.austinchamberensemble.org.