Litchfield’s Longtime Music Teacher Leaves his Legacy

Phil’s Heart … Always Pumping, Pumping for Others, Always

August 24, 2018


by Doug Robinson

With a heavy heart, I am very sorry to report to all who knew, loved, and adored Campbell High School’s Maestro Phil Martin that he passed away this past week. More than 500 well-wishers were at the wake, while another 200-plus attended the funeral services.

Philip Keith Martin had the strongest, biggest, most exercised heart of any man alive. Phil had learned early in life that the best way to exercise his heart was to share life with others and through others.

From Phil’s son, Ken: “His heart was the only thing on him that ever got any exercise as he gave it to just about everyone he ever met and everything he ever did. Irony at its finest, if you ask me. If he were here, he would have some inappropriate joke to make about this whole thing.”

But the growth and strength of Phil’s heart was not built in the gym, or by continued use of weight machines, or by running mile after mile. His heart grew in strength from his genuine care, genuine interest, and above all, genuine love for his fellow man or woman. “His favorite thing in the world was to be in a room with the friends and family he loved (or total strangers) just laughing and sharing stories” continued Ken.

“Phil was the constant; always calm, passionate about teaching, passionate about learning, passionate about everything that had to do with life” commented Phil’s longtime “Muppet Buddy” Gerry Bastien. “He never had a bad word to say about anyone and he always found the good in any situation. He was the definition of the ‘good guy.’ ”

He was born in Fairfield, Calif., on Oct. 30, 1954. Phil graduated from Manchester Memorial High School in 1972 and then attended Keene State College where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education, then he received a master’s degree from UNH in 1985.

He was a music educator for over 40 years. After retiring from Campbell High School in 2017, he continued to teach, into retirement, at Southern New Hampshire University.

During his distinctive musical education career, Phil was sought out for his leadership wisdom for many different organizations. He was a member of the NH Music Education Association and the National Association for Music Education, where he served as their president from 1995-1997, and Eastern Division President from 2001-2003.

Phil was awarded the NH Distinguished Music Educator of the Year in 2006, and he was the first recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from Keene State College in 2007. He also received the United States Department of Education American Stars of Teaching award.

While Phil’s professional responsibilities took him throughout New England, Delaware, New York, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and the Department of Defense schools in Europe, his dedication to his home at CHS and communities of Litchfield, Manchester, and New Hampshire remained grounded as he continually participated in different music activities.

Constantly searching out his next gig, he could be seen playing either the piano, saxophone, clarinet, or guitar in any of the surrounding school bands, community bands, or the Nevers Second Regiment Band. “Founded during the Civil War as part of a Union Army regiment, Nevers Band is one of the oldest continuing musical organizations in New Hampshire and one of the oldest bands in the United States” states

Jill Pennington spoke of Phil’s love of history and his desire to learn and share as much as he could about history. But to Phil, history was not only found in history books. “He found history in everyone with whom he spoke. He found people fascinating! Such is the story when he was on a conference trip and, in Phil’s words, “I never found a hot tub I didn’t like.” On this specific trip he found himself in a hot tub with a bunch of guys. As one thing led to another, “I am a high school music teacher” said Phil. “We are the band Maroon 5” commented his hot tub partners.”

Friends who knew Phil well would go on to say that his love of a hot tub went deeper. While in the hot tub, he would practice his direction of the band. With or without his music baton, Phil could be seen, energetically, resting in that steaming hot tub, waving his hands, and giving precise direction to the invisible musicians, to the tune of some song in his head.

Retired Londonderry Band Director Andy Soucy said, “I’ve known Phil since his senior year in high school. He was like a brother to me. When he applied for a job in Londonderry, we did not waste any time and hired him, and it was one of the best moves I have ever made. It was an honor and a pleasure to work with him.”

And so are the hundreds of similar sentiments being posted on Facebook daily. “For Phil, at the end of the day, it was all about love” commented 30-year friend and fellow CHS music teacher Carolyn Leith. “He loved his family, his sons and their wives, grandson, sisters, step-brother, his nieces, nephews, and the entire CHS community. His family shared him with the world. He especially loved to watch the students grow and he loved to see the light bulb go off in their face.”

And as each one of those light bulbs lit, another heartbeat, pumping love, flowed from Phil’s heart. And, that is why Phil’s heart will continue to pump on forever in all of us.