• Homer Big Brothers Big Sisters coordinator shares her own music in a concert Friday
By Naomi Klouda
Jenny Martin oversees about 35 Big Brothers Big Sisters along with their matching “littles,” a job that touches many Homer lives. For the past two decades she’s been a familiar face: She conducted outdoor camping trips for young people, oversaw a job training program at the Kachemak Bay Campus and helped local businesses while working for the Homer Chamber of Commerce.
Yet, Martin’s life contains a lengthy back story about her love for music that has been a defining force since she picked up a saxophone in the sixth grade.
“Music as a hobby is different from my job. It’s a wonderful part of my life, a kind of therapy,” Martin said. She plays guitar and bass with “Work in Progress,” a local band, each Tuesday night. They also do concerts, often performing for “food and beer” at fundraisers for nonprofit groups as a way to give back to organizations like Alaska Center for Coastal Studies and Cook InletKeeper.
But a new stage in Martin’s development, is agreeing to do a special concert at 7 p.m. Friday at the Homer Council on the Arts features 16 songs written by her – “Sad Songs, Slow Songs and Silly Songs,” as it is billed. A few of the members of “Work in Progress” will play or sing back-up.
“I never thought of myself as a singer before. I get shy about solos, and feel much braver with my friends around,” Martin said. “I’ve been writing songs for a number of years, and it’s a wonderful creative outlet. Prior to moving to Homer, I never sang in public at all.”
She will be singing songs written about the challenges of building her own house, her experience with animals, life in Kachemak Bay. The event is a fundraiser for the Arts Council.
Martin grew in New London, Wis., with a family who loved all kinds of music. She began with a saxophone in the sixth grade, continuing it through high school jazz and marching bands. She joined a rock band, Bachus Lotus, at 17 and played in Wisconsin music festivals, even in bars, then set off for college the following year thinking she would major in music.
Making music her career didn’t quite feel like the right fit.
“Maybe music isn’t what I want to do for a living, I thought after the first semester of practicing eight hours a day,” she said. Instead, she went for an associate’s degree in hospitality-business management, which brought her to Alaska’s Denali National Park for summer work at the lodge. Four years later, she still hadn’t left. Many of the friends she made that summer in 1989, year of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, remain her friends.
While working for the McBride’s Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge with children in the outdoors across Kachemak Bay in 1993, Martin discovered something she loved – working in a social service setting with kids.
“Working with those kids at the lodge, I saw all the wonderful opportunities that just naturally occur for people in the outdoors,” she said.
Martin next went for a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a degree she completed at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
That lead her to the Mental Health Center, conducting therapeutic camps for children, and then back to school again. This time she earned a master’s degree from the University of Arizona Prescott in outdoor education with a business major to learn how to set up a program.
It turned out that is a perfect background for her work with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. She combs through the calendars of each newspaper on a weekly basis, and e-mails suggestions to her Bigs for family-friendly outings. Homer, as a community, helps support the program as well.
“There are beautiful places all over the world, but it’s more about people and the community that’s kept me here,” she said.
On Friday night, she will be able to share something more with that community in the debut of songs never before played in public.
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