Thomas Martin has spent his whole life playing, studying, making and being involved with the double bass. Through his masterful yet patient teaching methods, he has produced some of today’s best players.
A Household Name
In The World Of Double Bass
Tom has been playing and working with the double bass for more than 60 years. This experience, along with Tom's teaching and conducting, has enabled him to become a household name in the double bass world.
Tom has been a luthier for nearly 40 years and has produced over 160 double basses under his own label. He now makes instruments in partnership with his son George. Tom's extensive knowledge of the double bass has seen him create many fine instruments.
Tom has always been passionate about fine instruments. He has had the opportunity to study many of the world’s finest double basses and often knows the history of an individual instrument. Tom's expertise is sought by many players and dealers from around the world.
Thomas Martin's parents bought him his first double bass in 1953, having observed their son’s growing interest in music and in particular the lower string sound. The seller, C David Horine, took the proceeds and opened the Bass Viol Shop in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.
Young Tom used to spend time after school and at weekends in the shop nurturing what was to become a lifelong fascination with the double bass. Who were the great makers of the past? Who made the best ones? Why? How do they work? What tools are used? How do different woods sound? How do different ways of making affect the sound? What is the difference between a round and flat back? These and many other questions came to mind and many found answers.
Tom's interest in Bottesini began in around 1980 when he started to focus on solo playing. This interest grew to become a desire to learn what he could about the composer's music and also the man himself as a person and player.
Tom has gone on to become one of the leading players on the double bass, holding leading positions with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and principal positions with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, English Chamber Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and of course, two great periods with the London Symphony Orchestra. His five CDs of the music of Bottesini have met with great critical acclaim.
Tom continues to travel around the world regularly, playing and teaching.
Tom taught for many years at London’s Guildhall School of Music and the Royal College of Music. He is now International Chair in Double Bass at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire where he has a large class and was recently honoured with a fellowship of the school. Tom is well known for making numerous solo and master-class appearances all over the world. It is a great endorsement to his teaching abilities that many of his past students now span the globe in leading positions.
His friendship with several of the leading contemporary makers led to a keen interest in the art of the luthier. Some 40 years ago, Tom began studies in the craft under the influence of the prominent restorer and expert Andrew Dipper, former instructor at the International School of Violin Making – "A Stradivari" – in Cremona, Italy.
The instruments which came out of the Thomas Martin workshop over the years that followed were small in number owing to the punishing schedule as a player and teacher. Those that were made found an appreciative and select group of owners from many of the greatest orchestras. These include the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, and in leading ensembles in Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Spain, USA and Japan among others.
Thomas Martin has produced over 160 double basses and a number of fine violas and cellos under his own label. In 2008 Thomas and George Martin Violin Makers Ltd was established and Tom now makes instruments under that label in partnership with his son George and their workshop team in North Oxfordshire, England.
Tom studied conducting under Sian Edwards and Stephen Darlington. He had the pleasure of conducting the London Philharmonic, chorus and soloists in the first appearance on CD of Bottesini’s masterly Messa da Requiem.