Cover photo for Kenneth  E.  Martin's Obituary
Kenneth  E.  Martin Profile Photo
1930 Kenneth 2022

Kenneth E. Martin

February 13, 1930 — May 20, 2022

Kenneth Eugene Martin (“Gene”) died on Friday, May 20, in McLean, Virginia.


Gene was born on February 13, 1930, and grew up in Corydon, Kentucky. He was the Minister and Director of Music at several churches in the Atlanta area and a piano teacher since 1951. He devoted his life to building community through music and to teaching, and he contributed widely to music education in the Atlanta area and throughout Georgia.


Gene received a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Evansville in Evansville, Indiana in 1952 with a major in piano. He was conferred a Master of Sacred Music with a major in piano in 1954 from the School of Church Music at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Gene engaged in further graduate study in choral music at the Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J., and in music theory at Georgia State University. He studied the Alexander Principles of Relaxation, and piano at the Royal College of Music in London, England, and he held a certificate in early keyboard studies from the Academia di Musica Italiana per Organo in Pistoia, Italy. He was a certified piano teacher by the Music Teachers National Association.


Gene began his career as Chairman of the music department at Truett-McConnell Junior College in Cleveland, Georgia for three years. He then served, along with his wife Sarah L. Martin, as Director of Music and Organist at First Baptist Church, College Park, for 15 years, and at Druid Hills Baptist Church, Atlanta, for 20 years. At each church he led graded choir programs for all ages starting in pre-school through adults. In addition to singing at regular Sunday services, the choirs at each church performed special programs throughout the year such as Handel’s “Messiah,” a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Christmas, and Brahms “Requiem” in the spring with strings and brass. The youth choirs performed folk musicals such as Celebrate Life and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The children’s and youth choirs annually performed at adjudicated festivals and events and always achieved the highest scores. Gene and his wife, Sarah, also served as Directors of Music at Rivercliff Lutheran Church, Roswell, and Oakhurst Baptist Church, Decatur. He served as interim music director at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Atlanta and at North Decatur Presbyterian Church in Decatur. Gene was an ordained Baptist Minister.


Gene led two youth choirs on tours of Europe, traveling and performing in Italy, England, France and Switzerland. He also led youth choirs on numerous summer tours throughout the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest. Gene taught piano and voice at the summer Youth Music Camp at the Georgia Baptist Assembly in Toccoa, GA, for many years and was the director of the Camp Chorus of over 250 youth musicians on two occasions. Gene taught piano and voice at Clayton State College, Morrow; solfege and music theory at the Atlanta Boy Choir; and he directed the choir at the Georgia Tech Baptist Student Union. He was twice appointed by the Baptist Home Mission Board to do mission work in the U.S. and Canada. On one of these appointments, he worked at the Baptist Friendship House leading children’s music and recreation in New Orleans, and on another appointment, he worked with the United Baptist Convention of Nova Scotia where he led the music in a series of worship services and taught a children’s choir, an adult choir, and piano in Wood’s Harbour, Nova Scotia. For many years, Gene was an adjudicator in piano and voice at solo and ensemble festivals and competitions of the Georgia Music Teachers Association and the Georgia Music Educators Association. He annually served as a judge for the National Guild of Piano Teachers of the American College of Musicians and the Georgia Baptist Children’s Choir Festivals. He was an active member of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and served on the executive committee. He was also a longtime member of the National Guild of Piano Teachers, the Georgia Music Teachers Association, Music Teachers National Association, Georgia Music Educators Association, National Association for Music Education, and the Atlanta Chapter of the Chorister’s Guild. Gene maintained a piano studio and taught piano continuously for seventy years.


His deep commitment to music education and the influence he had over those he led is evidenced by the success of many former choir and piano students. Some former students became director and members of opera companies, and many former students majored in music and became school and college music teachers and professors, choral directors, and leaders in the music profession. His reputation for maintaining the highest quality of sacred choral music and piano pedagogy was well-known and respected in the Atlanta area and throughout the state of Georgia.


From his work for more than six decades of leading music programs and teaching piano and voice, Gene developed the ability to work with people of all ages. His deep personal commitment to his work inspired others to make the same commitment. He was creative, enthusiastic, well-organized, and persistent. He was uncompromising in his pursuit of high-quality music repertoire and accuracy and precision in performance, and he expertly and compassionately led his choirs and students to rise to those standards. His work with church music programs cannot be separated from his wife, Sarah’s, work in the same programs as she was almost exclusively the accompanist for the choirs in rehearsals and performances. They always collaborated with each other, and often during choir rehearsals they would exchange words or looks in communication with the other.


In a speech Gene gave upon his ordination as a Minister, he said the following about church music:


“The purpose of the church choir is to seek to enrich the lives of the children, young people, and adults by attracting them into a program which will train their singing voice, raise their level of music appreciation, enrich their cultural life, and aid in the evangelization of the church. Music ties in all phases of the church and helps to strengthen the tie between the church, the home, and the community. The basic principle is all the same, because the principle is that we are to praise God with our music. In fact, we are commanded to do so. The Psalms are filled with instructions to play instruments and to sing. We are told to ‘sing a new song.’ Hymn singing is an aid to worship and a means by which we can grow spiritually. Great Christian truths are learned from the hymns we sing. It takes every member of the church to have a successful music ministry. It may be that some of you should be singing in the Adult Choir, or maybe helping as a Choir Sponsor or Choir Parent, or maybe just singing heartily in the congregational singing. I encourage all of you to sing enthusiastically.”


Gene is survived by his daughter Sylvia Martin Estes, son-in-law Doug Estes, and grandsons Philip Estes and David Estes of Vienna, Virginia and Chestertown, Maryland; sister Norma Jo Cates and brother-in-law Forrest Cates of Lexington, Kentucky, and several nephews, nieces and cousins.


Gene’s funeral arrangements are as follows:


Visitation: Sunday, June 26, 3:00-5:00 p.m.

A.S. Turner & Sons

2773 N. Decatur Road Decatur, GA 30033


Funeral: Monday, June 27, 11:00 a.m.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

435 Peachtree Street NE Atlanta, GA 30308

Reception immediately following at the church


Graveside service following the reception

Decatur Cemetery

229 Bell Street Decatur, GA 30030


Gene’s former choir members are welcome to sing in the choir for the funeral service. Interested participants should arrive at the church by 10:00 am for rehearsal in the choir room downstairs.


In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a fund in Gene’s honor at the Atlanta Chapter of the American Guild of Organists,


and to the Sarah and Eugene Martin Memorial Scholarship Fund, National Guild of Piano Teachers/American College of Musicians, check payable to American College of Musicians, designate “Sarah and Eugene Martin Memorial Scholarship,” P.O. Box 9469, Austin, TX 78766-9469.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Kenneth E. Martin, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Sunday, June 26, 2022

3:00 - 5:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Monday, June 27, 2022

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

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