Martha Natiuk, a Battle Ground resident since 2007, is celebrating 50 years at the organ and piano, as both a teacher, professional musician, and as the organist for several local churches.
For the past four years, Natiuk’s been the regular organist at Trinity Lutheran Church in Vancouver, with occasional appearances at Meadow Glade Seventh-Day Adventist Church and Sunnyside SDA Church in Portland, and has also provided organ music at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Vancouver.
Natiuk has been at the keyboard since she was 17, and since she’s celebrating a half-decade we prefer to let you do the math as to her age. But we do acknowledge her skills as a piano and organ teacher, currently with one organ and 22 piano students and a lifetime of music she’s shared with congregations around the country.
“I especially love classical music on the organ and piano,” she reminisced recently. “Organ music goes back deeply into the Christian church, both Catholic and Protestant. When you listen to the works of Handel, Bach and other masters, you find the highest inspiration. One instrument, the organ, can imitate the entire orchestra, with hands, feet and knees all working together playing different notes.”
Her first paid organist position was in Sept. 1962 at the Marvin Memorial Methodist Church in Silver Spring, MD. The job helped her pay for her college education.
After graduating from Columbia Union College (now called Washington Adventist University) in Silver Spring, Martha taught high school music for one year, went back to school and obtained a Masters of Music Education degree graduating magna cum laude in 1968. She married husband Robert the next day.
Natiuk’s early childhood is full of adventures. Her father and mother were missionaries in the Middle East in the mid-40’s serving in Iran, Lebanon and India for 13 years. When she was merely 3 months old, her family was involved in a plane crash in the desert which all survived, her older brother having to be rescued however from a group of wandering Bedouins.
After marrying husband Robert, Martha lived in New York where she taught music in Herricks, NY schools and occasionally played the organ at local churches. In 1973, the family moved to Thousand Oaks, California, with their new daughter. They lived there for 20 years with Martha continuing her music studies, and was an occasional accompanist for the Moorpark College Masterworks Chorale, and as usual performed as the organist at several SDA churches.
Natiuk also taught piano and was a substitute organist at Bel Air Presbyterian Church, performing at least twice in front of former President Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy. Her studies included taking lessons from Dr. Richard Purvis at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.
“I’ve always loved music and playing on the organ and piano,” she beamed. “I learned to love music at my mother’s knee. She gave me a dime for every hymn I learned and soon I began playing hymns for our church. But I guess I got too good so my Mom stopped the dimes, saying I was going to drive her broke.”
Natiuk is an accomplished pianist, recently producing a CD “Hymns From the Heart“ and touring with the King’s Heralds and Del Delker (a renowned gospel quartet and soloist) in Brazil, Canada, Alaska, Hawaii and the lower 48 states.
As a teacher, perhaps Natiuk’s proudest moments occurred when she started teaching her grandson Trevor when he was just five years old.
“He learned in three months what it takes me 6-7 months with other students,’’ Natiuk said. “He has a very rare talent in music and at 12 can play advanced pieces as he picks them up just like that.”