As children, singing and playing music was a means to pass the time for Judy Martin Hess and her siblings, Joyce Martin Sanders and Jonathan Martin. The siblings spent a little more than three years of their childhood in the home where their father was raised a few miles outside of the small town of Hamburg, Arkansas. The rural, country home had no electricity or running water.
“Our entertainment was minimal,” Hess said. “In that setting, our mom started teaching us songs on Sunday morning (for church) and started teaching us harmony, and that’s how it really got started. She just found something to help pass the time and help entertain us and her and dad.”
Today, the three siblings are known in Christian music as The Martins. They still sing at churches, but the have come a long way from singing hymns for their parents in their rural home. Their music has taken them all over the country and will be featured at the Sensational Celebration Event at 9:45 a.m. and 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, at the Church at the Cross, 700 Good Homes Road, Orlando.
In their 40-year history, the Martins have earned two Grammy nominations and have been awarded eight Dove Awards — the gospel music industry equivalent to the Grammy. Their signature harmonies have been heard at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Grand Ole Opry and the White House, in addition countless other churches, auditoriums and concert halls across the nation.
In the beginning, The Martins sang the songs their mom taught them at their local church. Later, the group began singing at other nearby churches and eventually began performing at more churches farther away, Hess said.
“It just kind of grew on its own,” Hess said. “It was a real gradual climb until we were teenagers.”
Each one of The Martins can sing, and they are well-known for their a cappella performances. Earlier in their careers, Joyce played the piano, and Jonathan played the bass guitar during their performances, but these days, The Martins sing with pre-recorded tracks.
“We’ve always done a cappella a little bit,” Hess said. “A cappella is a big part of what we do, because it was how we were discovered.”
No matter where they are, music always is something that brings The Martins together. Each one of the siblings lives in a different state. Hess lives in Columbus, Georgia; her sister lives in Nashville, Tennessee; and her brother lives in Des Moines, Iowa. Despite the distance, The Martins get together at least two weekends a month.
“We’re together quite a bit; it just takes a lot for us to get to each other,” Hess said. “As far as touring, we kind of consider ourselves weekend warriors, because the majority of the time, we go out on a Thursday and sing through Sunday and then come back home. … Most of the time, we are home during the week and on the road on the weekends.”
Although they have earned a lot of recognition throughout their music careers, The Martins didn’t start singing to seek fame and fortune. They did it for their faith, Hess said.
“We believe very deeply in God and in Jesus and what He has done for us and what He can do for other people,” she said. “We didn’t (start out) thinking, ‘If we work really hard, we might win some awards.’”