Spirit of Atlanta founder and longtime director and brass instructor Freddy Martin was inducted to the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame on Jan. 27.

Freddy & Lynda Martin

“This still feels like a dream,” Freddy said in accepting the honor.

He was inducted for his nearly 35-year career in drum corps, highlighted by bringing drum corps to the South in 1973 and then founding and leading Spirit of Atlanta to prominence in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Son Chris Martin, principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra presented his father for induction. His speech touched on his experience as a child on tour with his dad.

“I probably had my diapers changed by many of the people in this room,” Chris joked, adding that he discovered during that time that “horn arc is not the best time to ask for a glass of water.”

He got serious, though, talking about what drum corps taught him (Chris marched in 1993 with Spirit of Atlanta and won the individuals competition on soprano).

“DCI demands a level of commitment that is rarely seen in life. … Playing Mahler in Carnegie Hall is nothing compared to 12-hour rehearsal days in a south Georgia stadium.”

Chris’ pride in his dad’s achievements were obvious — and not just what he has done for drum corps.

He noted that when his dad started at Westminster School in suburban Atlanta, there were 25 kids in the band. Now there are more than 200.

“He fosters a love of the arts,” Chris said.

Freddy acknowledged numerous people, including many of the directors his corps competed against, for helping him achieve so much.

He also explained how Spirit of Atlanta got its start.

In 1973, he lured a show to Atlanta, which sparked a full Southern tour. Freddy attributed its success to Hall of Famer Dave Kampschroer, who brought his powerful Blue Stars on the tour.

WXIA-TV in Atlanta promoted the show so well that there were 17,000 people at Georgia Tech’s Grant Field for the event.

Just a few years later, Drum and Bugle Corps of Atlanta Inc. was formed in 1976 with WXIA-TV as a major sponsor. The name would be changed to Spirit of Atlanta, and the rest is history.

Freddy spent nearly 20 years leading the corps, including several incredibly memorable shows, including 1980 and 1986.

Both Chris and Freddy gave much of the credit to mom and wife, Lynda.

“It’s inspiring to me that their marriage has lasted so long,” Chris said.

A few years ago his younger son, Mike — he recently won the concerto competition at Northwestern University — earned a spot in Phantom Regiment as a trumpet player.

“When Michael decided to march Phantom Regiment, well, we do things as a family,” Freddy said. “I need to thank Dan Farrell, Dr. Dan, JD (Shaw) and everyone there for welcoming me to your family because it’s now my family.”

Freddy has been a member of the Phantom Regiment brass staff for four years. He primarily works with the mellophones.

Dan Farrell, Dr Dan Richardson, Freddy Martin, Rick Valenzuela, Eric Sabach, Greg Newell,
Paul Rennick, Tim Farrell, Jamey Thompson

Eight Phantom Regiment staff and board members were at the induction ceremony in Atlanta, site of the annual DCI winter meetings.

Other inductees were Tom Aungst, Don Porter (posthumously) and Corky Fabrizio.

For more information, go to the DCI Hall of Fame.