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The Mystery Music Man of UTC

By Mason Edwards, Staff Writer for the University Echo

Students on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s campus might not know what Junior William Martin looks like–wearing a sleek cowboy hat and stylish bandana–but they have certainly heard him. 

When he has time in between classes, he practices his music out in public, often around Chamberlain Field and the University Center. Even with the UC piano gone, he still managed to play his wind instrument– the Ocarina.

“To put it plainly, I just play,” Martin answered. “I know a couple of little songs. The piano is my favorite, only because of its range. The Ocarina only has one and a half octaves. I want to get a multi-chambered [Ocarina] though.”

When the piano vanished from the UC, a shrine was set up for it. Martin admitted to putting the memorial there, which inspired the piano’s return. 

The piano’s return two weeks ago filled the void of not having live music in the UC, but now that it is back, Martin has captured quite an audience.

William Martin, a Junior at UTC, can be found practicing his musical talents around campus. Martin enjoys playing the piano and the Ocarina, a wind instrument. Tuesday, August 31, 2021. (Photo by Olivia Ross)

“I was the one that initially started that little memorial thing,” Martin said. “I 3-D printed a little black piano and wrote on a piece of paper ‘In loving memory of the UC piano.’ I don’t think anyone actually saw me put it there, and then later on some people put out flowers and a candle.”

This self-taught musician uses music as a hobby to destress.

“I started playing around eight or nine, and since we had a piano in our home, I played around with it,” Martin said. “I’ve always been musically inclined. The only kind of instruction I got, besides some YouTube videos, was when a church member taught me structure for a time or two.”

He added, “if the university ever wanted to gift me anything, I would want that.”

Martin said that he rarely gets feedback, but when he does it is generally positive. There have been times when he has been asked to stop playing, mainly due to pre-planned events or students desperately trying to study. 

One instrument that William Martin plays is the Ocarina. The Ocarina is a wind instrument--popularly known from the Zelda video game franchise. Tuesday, August 31, 2021. (Photo by Olivia Ross)

“One time, I was playing the Ocarina before the piano came back, and a couple of girls who were studying walked up to me,” Martin replied. “They asked if there was any way I could play it quieter, so I just put it up. It’s a courtesy thing.” 

One might assume someone willing to play to the whole school would be a music or performance arts major, and in Martin’s case, such an assumption would be wrong.

Rather, he’s a junior and engineering technology management major, minoring in biology. 

“I’m interested in plant research,” Martin said. “I grew up on a farm, in Comfort, Tennessee, so I do have that asset; I want to build a greenhouse or two.”

Should a student want to learn more, William mentioned that he is somewhat shy until he is approached, but his friendly personality is open to meeting new people.

If any student wishes to catch a listen they will have to follow his sporadic schedule because there is no set time in which he plays. He plays in between classes and enjoys playing around Chamberlain Field.

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