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October 24, 2023

Get to Know DCYOP – Omar Martinez

Omar at Alhambra in Granada, Spain during the 2022 YO tour.

Omar Martinez has been a teaching artist on bass with DCYOP for the last three years, during which time he’s taught everyone from our littlest beginner students to our most advanced ensemble students, including on our tour to Spain and Portugal in 2022. Despite a relatively start in his music career, Omar has found great success as both a teacher and performer, appearing everywhere from the Tiny Desk Concert series at NPR to a special Club Quarantine show at the Kennedy Center. Read on to learn more about Omar’s musical journey, his “chilaquil” tastes in music, and some of the things he likes to do when he’s not working with students or playing for audiences across DC.


Where did you grow up?
I am originally from Mexico. I grew up in a small town called Uruapan in the State of Michoacan. 
How did you get started on your instrument?
I started playing the electric bass and singing in a rock band with my friends. The first time I listened to an orchestra, the double bass was the obvious choice for me. I was always drawn to lower frequencies. I was very fortunate that my first teacher in Mexico, Victor Flores, was very encouraging even though I started at an “older” age playing the instrument. I will always remember the only thing he asked me: to sing something for him. Since then, I committed to the double bass.
Did you always want to become a professional musician? What was your path (did you play in youth orchestra growing up, study music in college, have you pursued other careers, etc.)?
 I was always drawn to music and loved it, but since I had a “late” start in classical music, being a musician was definitely not on my mind growing up. It felt like something that was very foreign to my background. Because of that, my path has not been a very traditional one. After my short adventure in rock music with my friends, I decided to attend Conservatorio de las Rosas in Morelia, Michoacan. I studied composition and double bass for 4 years. I started officially studying music when I was 21 years old. So, it has always been an uphill journey but a rewarding one. Early in my career however, I discovered my love for teaching and connecting with students. I’ve been in the US for the last 6 years, and through that, I have also had very encouraging mentors that believed in me and let me find my own path in music. During my undergraduate studies with Marcos Machado at University of Southern Mississippi and during grad school at the University of Maryland with Anthony Manzo. I am very grateful to both of them.

How long have you taught at DCYOP and what is one of your favorite memories?
This is my 3rd year teaching at DCYOP. There’s a lot of great memories: the tour in 2022 to Spain and Portugal was my first time in Europe and it has been great sharing these musical experiences with the students and other colleagues.

What do you like most about teaching?
Given my background, I love teaching. I really enjoy showing people of all ages how amazing music is and how it can transform lives. My classroom is always about figuring out your own path and growing at your own pace. The best thing about teaching is helping whoever is in front of you to figure out that path—whatever that might look like. I’ve been teaching for around 12 years, and I love to see all the things that my students are doing after music touches their life.
Do you do perform or teach outside of DCYOP?
I have a private studio and I perform with a wide range of ensembles. My training is mainly classical, so orchestra is the main thing I study and perform, but I also have experience with other genres like Jazz, Rock, and Latin. I play with the Apollo Orchestra in DC and with other orchestras in the region as a freelancer. I also have participated in amazing projects like a Tiny Desk session with Jessie Reyez and recently a concert at the Kennedy Center with Club Quarantine and DJ D-Nice.
Who is one of your favorite performers? Why?
It’s impossible to choose one. I would choose 3 different kinds of musicians: classical double bassist, Božo Paradžik, Mexican singer-songwriter, Natalia Lafourcade, and the American artist, Nina Simone. For me, they achieve what I admire the most about performers, the ability to share and express with their music all the range of human emotions.

What is one of your favorite pieces of music? Why?
This one is even harder; If you would see my playlists, it is kind of a “chilaquil,” a very eclectic mix. So, it can usually be whatever I am studying, practicing, or enjoying at the moment. This past week was Bach third cello suite, Brahms Symphony No. 2, “Mood” by Jessie Reyes, “Hasta la Muerte” by Ivan Cornejo. This is just based on what I performed and listened to the most. Next week, it might be something totally different.

What are your interests outside of music? 
I really enjoy biking as a form of recreation and exercise, but also as a legitimate form of transportation. So, you can find me ranting about car free infrastructure and people-focused cities. I am also a big soccer fan, especially following my team Cruz Azul from Mexico and the Mexican national team.
Where is your favorite place to go for fun or what is your favorite thing to do in DC?
I love exploring different parts of the city on my bike. I like to explore new coffee shops and parks. I really enjoy riding my bike through Rock Creek Park and the different trails around Maryland and DC.