Ace Martin doesn’t consider himself a tough teacher. Consistent is a better word for his style, he says.
He’s been at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts since it opened in 1984, serving as instrumental music chairman ever since.
In that time, he and his students have garnered much acclaim — a win at Essentially Ellington National High School Jazz Competition in 2006, a 2007 documentary about their trek to the top —and exposure from performances from Chicago to France to Switzerland.
The prestige doesn’t happen by accident, but instead by hard work — and expectations of greatness.
“I just don’t let things slide,” Martin said. “I tell them the standards aren’t going to slide backward, so you’re going to have to come up to it.”
Consistency, the kind that students should expect when they walk through the doors.
“I am a hard-nosed and a puppy dog at the same time,” Martin said with a laugh. “When they’re here, I want to make sure they understand the standard that needs to happen so they’re prepared when they go out.”
Martin teaches jazz band, electronic music and music theory, but as good a teacher as he is —the many awards on his office walls show as much — he’s no slouch when it comes to playing music.
He’s versatile, but classical trumpet is his forte. While in college at Florida State University, he practiced eight hours a day on the way to earning a bachelor’s in music education and master’s in music.
After graduating, he taught while also hitting the road for a couple of years performing.
Being a family oriented person meant giving that up and jumping into teaching, a passion he realized in middle school.
“I knew in junior high this is what I wanted to do,” he said. “I just had an inherent love for music.”
Playing professionally? Being a band director?
He said he can do both here in Jacksonville.
“Why leave? It’s all here,” he said. “It’s the best gig in town.”
Later this month, he’ll be honored as an inductee into the Jacksonville Jazz Festival Hall of Fame, the only entrant in this year’s class.
He said he played in the first festival when it was hosted in Mayport and has missed maybe five years of the shows altogether.
“It’s quite the honor after many, many years of work,” he said.
A consistent performance over time.