STONEVILLE — Music has constantly played an important role in the life of Rockingham County teacher Tania Martin.
“Music has always managed to put a smile on my face, especially music that sings of faith and family,” she said, when talking about the CD she released earlier this year. The CD, “Front Porch Faith and Family,” was the result of a promise she made herself while battling cancer.
Martin, 52, was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago and went through 10 months of chemo, surgery and radiation. Today she is cancer free.
Although she listened to music constantly, Martin could not play her guitar and sing because she was so weak from the treatments.
“During that time, I made a vow to myself that when I got better and could do it, I was going to make a CD,” she said.
In February, she recorded the CD and got it in March. Her father, Jimmie Kallam, who was suffering from lung cancer, was able to listen to and enjoy her music prior to his death on May 30.
Her mother, Barbara, lost her battle to pancreatic cancer in 2007. Her sister Bonya Tredway is in remission from breast cancer.
A love of music, which has helped Martin through difficult times, began at an early age. She started singing in first grade at Stoneville School. Her teacher Lois Farmer asked her to sing in a school play. Describing herself as “an average kid,” Martin sang “O Christmas Tree” in front of a filled auditorium of students of all ages.
“After that, I fell in loving with singing,” Martin said.
When she was eight, Martin and her siblings were invited to bible school at Floyd Baptist Church. Soon, the entire family became members of the church and Martin and her three sisters, Bonya, Leesa Baker and Wendy Roberts, began performing in church as The Kallam Quartet. Phyllis Compton accompanied the girls. Martin said her brother, Mark, did not perform with them, although he has always supported her music ambitions.
“Mama made us all dresses out of double-knit polyester pink and white gingham and that’s what we would wear when we would sing together,” Martin said.
She was nine and her sisters ranged in age between six and 11.
They continued performing for several years. Although the other three did not pursue their vocal talents, Martin was determined to “go to Nashville and be a country music singer.”
“It just didn’t work out and opportunity didn’t present itself,” she said. “Mama and Daddy were very protective of us and none of us ever ventured far from home. They stressed love of family and spending time together and being there for each other.”
Later, those lessons would be reflected on her CD.
After graduating in 1985 from Stoneville High School, Martin enrolled at Rockingham Community College, earning a two-year-degree in child development. For the next few years, she worked at several childcare centers before deciding to pursue a teaching career.
In 1997, Martin earned her bachelor’s degree from N.C. A&T, and taught third grade at Central Elementary School for two years before returning to her alma mater. While teaching third grade there, Martin continued her education, earning her English as a Second Language (ESL) master’s degree in 2008 from UNCG.
She then began teaching ESL throughout Rockingham County and is still teaching today.
“I really enjoy it,” she said, adding she has continued singing in church. While in high school in the 1980s, Martin began writing songs more often.
She wrote her first song, “Butterflies,” while she was in fourth grade. Some of the lyrics include “Butterflies some to me, come and sit upon my knees. Come and see the world go round, while I’m walking across the ground.” A little clip of the song is on her CD.
Martin said she named the CD “Front Porch Faith and Family” because “when I was young, it was a big deal to sit on the front porch — often her Grandmother Mable Rhodes’ — in the evenings and sing with family members.”
While in the sixth grade, a music teacher, Sarah Reid, came to Stoneville School to teach guitar lessons one day a week. Martin got her first guitar when she was 11 from her aunt Willie Kallam, who bought a Yamaha guitar at a yard sale and gave it to her. She still has it.
Over the years, Martin continued to write and sing solo and play the guitar in church and often visited other churches to perform. She also sang at weddings and funerals.
“I tried singing in bands a time or two but they usually were in bars and I did not feel comfortable with that,” she said.
Most of her songs are about her faith and family and several on the CD are about that.
The CD contains 10 songs, and Martin wrote seven of them. Fellow church member Bill Snead, wrote two, “Jesus is My Friend” and “Give thanks to God.”
“Grandma’s Front Porch” was written by William Carroll Cook and Jennifer B. McCallister, owner of Salem Studio, which made the CD.
McCallister is with “New Salem Gospel Group” out of Winston-Salem. The group is comprised of McCallister, her parents, husband and children.
“They had been coming to our church for years,” Martin said.
When the family was performing at Floyd Baptist Church in January, Martin told McCallister her dream was to record a CD. McCallister immediately extended an invitation for Martin to use her studio.
Martin completed it in one session in February. Rockingham County’s Katie Griffin plays the fiddle on several of the songs. Jennifer’s son, Kabe, plays bass on some of the songs, and her husband, Bobby, the mandolin and guitar on several songs.
The photograph for the album was done by Sheila Martin.
A breast cancer ribbon and a butterfly are also featured on the CD cover. It was designed by Mason James, who is married to Jessica, Tania’s niece.
In April of 1994, Martin married Eden native Jimmy Martin, a Ball Corporation retiree. They have a son, James, 13, an eighth-grader at Holmes Middle School.
They still are members of Floyd Baptist Church, where she sings in the choir and also enjoys going to other churches to share her vocal talents and her testimony.
“I know that God gave me this talent and I want to share His message through the songs that I sing,” Martin said. “He has blessed me so much.
“This verse in the Bible is dear to me: Psalm 98:4 Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.
“So I will keep on singing a song,” she said.