I live in a small white house in the woods in the shadow of the Cumberland Mountains, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. That little white house is also where most of my music is produced and recorded. When I'm not playing music, I'm wife to Bob and mother to Joseph and Walker.
When I was a little girl, we had an old upright piano in our house. Some of my best memories are of sitting on that piano bench, banging on the keys and singing at the top of my lungs, probably when I was about two. When I was four, I started playing for real, just by ear.
My father got me a teacher and I really took off. I learned to play the piano by studying the usual classics, but when I was 11, I went to a craft festival in the mountains and heard an old woman playing a mountain dulcimer. I fell in love with that modal sound! All I wanted for Christmas was a mountain dulcimer of my own.
The dulcimer opened the door to singing. I loved the Appalachian and British folk songs and ballads and started collecting and singing them. I think when I was a teenager, I was known primarily as the girl who could play the dulcimer and sing. But I was always a shaky, nervous performer. It was the music I loved, not the recognition.
I went out of state to college and other pursuits took me away from music for several years. I really owe my return to music to my husband. After the children were born and had started to school, I got a piano again and started playing and improvising, timidly at first. My husband would always encourage me." Martha, that's beautiful. You should do something with that."
And then one summer day, on our way down to the Ocoee River (my husband is a raft guide on the river) I overheard my husband talking to his cousin and he said, "I think Martha should be a composer."
Hearing him say those words was all it took. I've been composing and writing songs, solo piano and other instrumental music (sometimes night and day) ever since. So you see, that's why I said on the inside cover of my "Spirit Songs" cd that I am grateful to my husband Bob, who is always the wind beneath my wings.
I recorded as MarMelodian from 2008 through 2010. I began recording as Dogwood Daughter in 2011. It seemed like a good idea since few people could remember or spell the name 'MarMelodian.'
Why did I choose 'Dogwood Daughter' as my new name?
There are many beautiful trees in these Cumberland Mountains--oak, hickory, sassafras, tulip poplar, maple, mulberry, linden, redbud, walnut, pine, and of course, the Tennessee cedars. But in the spring, no tree so beautifully adorns the southern Appalachians as the glorious white and pink dogwoods.
No one really knows what kind of cross Jesus was crucified on. The Bible doesn't tell us. But there is a legend that His cross was made of dogwood. My mother taught me the legend when I was a little girl. I believed it then and I believe it now. And so, I have always felt a special love and tender pity for the poor dogwood.
An anonymous poet told the legend in verse:
In Jesus' time, the dogwood grew
To a stately size and a lovely hue.
'Twas strong and firm it's branches interwoven
For the cross of Christ its timbers were chosen.
Seeing the distress at this use of their wood
Christ made a promise which still holds good:
"Never again shall the dogwood grow
Large enough to be used so.
Slender and twisted, it shall be
With blossoms like the cross for all to see.
As blood stains the petals marked in brown
The blossom's center wears a thorny crown.
All who see it will remember Me
Crucified on a cross from the dogwood tree.
Cherished and protected, this tree shall be
A reminder to all of my agony."