In the classroom, Ernie Martinez inspires a multitude of generations learning bluegrass and country, from beginners to advanced pickers and singers.
A Swallow Hill Faculty Member for 40 years, he is an extremely versatile musician who plays just about any instrument that has strings, and more. Ernie started playing piano in elementary school but got his start playing guitars and drums in late 60s garage bands. In 1971, while he was in junior high, upon hearing “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and “Dueling Banjos”, Ernie took to the banjo, followed by the mandolin, resonator, and Dobro. In 1974 Ernie started his first bluegrass band, the Off the Wall Gang, and picked up the fiddle, piano, bass, and pedal steel a couple years later, becoming the leading go-to utility performer in Colorado, both live and in the studio. With over four decades on the live scene, Ernie has played with Tom Paxton, John McEuen, Jimmy Ibbotson, and countless others.. In 2013 he took third place in the RockyGrass Band contest with Camptown.
In the studio, Ernie has been on over 150 albums in Colorado and in Nashville, and is in demand as an album producer, songwriter, and arranger. He’s also released three albums of his own original work.
Ernie plays regularly with Runaway Express, Jon Chandler, Dakota Blonde, Timothy P. Irvin and the Rocky Mountain Stocking Stuffers, Reckless Abandon, Dustin Devine and the Real Deal, and Junction 5-12. Heis a member of the International Western Music Association having won instrumentalist of the year in 2018. In April 2019, Ernie made the cover of the Spring issue of Western Way.