A Trekkie and an Airman: The musical journey of the Air Force’s Jeremy Martin

Jeremy Martin celebrated his second decade in the United States Air Force this month. Through these many years, his mission has been to seek out the best music for his concert bands across the nation. His bands have performed at many incredible events and ceremonies, and have even worked with Captain Kirk himself — William Shatner. 

Martin is originally from a small town on the Tennessee / Alabama border, where he learned that music was going to be a big part of his life at a young age. 

“I grew to love music during my time in the high school band, and when I was a senior, I realized I didn’t want that excitement to end,” says Martin. “I decided to go to college and get a degree in Music Education so I could be a band director.”

While in college, Martin realized that he enjoyed writing music even more than playing the trumpet. Martin did earn this degree and went on to teach high school band for a while in Middle Tennessee, until joining the Air Force.

Now he’s known as Tech Sgt. Martin and his current role is Staff Composer & Arranger for the U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. 

Including Illinois, the Air Force has stationed Martin in Georgia, California (twice), and Texas to write for the various bands within the service. The shows Martin and his musicians perform for are “incredibly diverse,” as he says. 

Martin with Air Force Band members. Courtesy of Jeremy Martin

“We may be playing a light, recital-type performance in a celebrated opera house one night, then a ‘spit and polish’ — as Dr. McCoy would say — performance for a military ceremony the next afternoon,” says Martin. 

“For each performance series, [our] music may have to be arranged or composed to fit the theme of the performance,” says Martin. “Our members are highly talented, professional musicians, so the music we perform needs to reflect their ability level.”

Martin says that much of his writing is for performances to fit a venue or a specific situation. He cites the Air Force’s recent 70th birthday as a good example.

“Sometimes, I’m asked to compose music for a particular purpose,” says Martin. “These are fun because I get to flex my compositional muscles and write original things.”

An example of this would be when he was in Paradise, Calif., for some appearances. The area had been ravaged by wildfires.

“I was conducting a slow elegy I’d composed for firefighters who had lost their lives, and in the audience was a woman and several children — her husband was a firefighter who had just passed away a week earlier from a heart attack after 12 hours of battling a wildfire,” says Martin.

”That was emotionally draining, but I was glad we were able to honor him and their family,” says Martin.

Martin is a huge Star Trek fan, starting way back in 1983 when young Jeremy and his dad watched an Original Series marathon for six full hours.

Martin with his pals, Jean-Luc and Jim. Courtesy of Jeremy Martin

“I watched some and was hooked!” Says Martin.

The following year, Martin and his father went to the local drive-in movie theater to see The Search for Spock, followed by The Wrath of Khan. Martin says that they showed The Motion Picture as well, but since it started at 1 a.m., he could not enjoy “the human adventure.”

It was the project commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon, which gave Martin a chance to merge Star Trek with his duties for the Air Force.

“We commissioned composer James Beckel to compose a work to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing,” says Martin. “It just so happened that he had already been commissioned by a group of nine professional symphony orchestras for this exact project; so, we joined into the commission, and he agreed to do a version of the work for our Concert Band.”

Martin says that the piece featured a narrator, and for the first version, they used a member of their staff for the work. When it came time to do the CD release, Martin’s boss mentioned that “it would be nice to find a celebrity” to do the voiceover. 

Martin had a few ideas in mind of who that could be, with but one obvious choice — Shatner. 

“When we contacted him through his assistant, he agreed, and he was the most generous guy you could ever hope to work with,” says Martin. 

“The man is a consummate professional, and he delivered a performance of the narration that was nothing short of perfection,” he said. “The day we sat in the booth and cut the recordings into the project was a very surreal experience.”

“Getting to work with William Shatner is a highlight that I may never top!”

Martin is happy to share that he also ran into the composer of The Original Series’ theme, Alexander Courage. Martin admits to being a bit starstruck on meeting “Sandy,” and found out later that Courage was a member of the Air Force Bands in the 1940s, and was even an Air Force Band Commander.

In February 2019, Martin arranged a version of the original Star Trek theme to honor Courage on what would have been his 100th birthday. His version, performed by Air Force musicians, is simply incredible:

He says that he’s used a number of themes from Star Trek into various projects.

“When I was teaching high school band in Tennessee, I used the Main Titles from First Contact as the ballad for our marching band halftime show one year,” says Martin. “I also used that same tune in a ‘history of air flight’ project I did in 2002. 

“I also did an arrangement for our vocalist of ‘Faith of the Heart’ in that same show — it was a perfect song for the project.”

He’s also run into Earle Hagen, who created many original works that many of us know, including the iconic whistling theme from The Andy Griffith Show, and Jamie Farr of M*A*S*H* fame.

Martin with Jamie Farr. Courtesy of Jeremy Martin

Even without mentioning the celebrities and high visibility events, Martin is grateful to be in the position he’s in. He says that he loves his creative work and writing for such amazing colleagues. 

“They are all professional musicians, and my job is that I get to write for them,” says Martin. “There have been so many times that I worried about how a project would sound — maybe I took some liberties, or experimented a bit — but every time they make it sound like magic.” 

“I know a lot of people think like yeah, military musicians, how good could they be? Well, they’re pretty darned incredible — all of them,” says Martin. 

“I still can’t believe that I get to write for them!”