As mentioned in a previous post, the 2022–2023 school year at The New Century School promises to be its best so far (and, if the trend continues, next year will top even this year!). Amidst all of the excitement of celebrating its 10th anniversary and welcoming a new Head of School, TNCS got some more good news: Martellies Warren rejoined the fold!
As for how Mr. Warren returned to TNCS, we have TNCS Head of School Erika Johnson to thank. . . and maybe some cosmic good luck. “This is a period in my life where things are aligning,” said Mr. Warren. “I’m learning that what looks at first to be an obstacle can sometimes be necessary to have you in place for your next step.”
The sequence of events goes like this: Mr. Warren was about to start working at a Montgomery County Montessori school and had come to TNCS during the first week of the school year to gather some required paperwork for his new job. He encounters Ms. Johnson, whom he had coincidentally met briefly years earlier, and they strike up a conversation on realizing the acquaintanceship. “We had an existing connection that opened the door for us to sit and talk,” he explains. After they caught up a bit, Ms. Johnson realized she was talking to “the” Mr. Warren, the former TNCS Music Director who everyone still speaks so lovingly about, and she didn’t hesitate. They discussed Mr. Warren’s professional goals, and, it just so happens that one of his big goals—a leadership position—was put on hold temporarily due to an unexpected life event. This pause was going to mean that Mr. Warren was going back into the classroom full time, instead of joining the high school’s administration team. He was completely fine with this, but when Ms. Johnson offered him a spot back at TNCS as Director of Music and Extended Activities, he saw that maybe this is how it was supposed to be: one door closed in order to open a better one.
Mr. Warren describes his decision-making process as typically very deliberate and unhurried, and he asked Ms. Johnson for some time to consider her offer. He ended up not needing much and got back to her the same day. “I let her know I’m very interested, but my main concern is doing this right and not letting down the other school,” he explained. With his return to TNCS destined to be, however, the Head of the other school was nothing but supportive, telling Mr. Warren he couldn’t pass up this wonderful opportunity.
Where He’s Been
Mr. Warren used his 3-year hiatus from TNCS to develop professionally and to tie together all of the various threads he had been exploring. He is a certified Montessori teacher and taught as Montessori Lead Teacher for several years at TNCS—some of his former primary students are current TNCS middle schoolers, in fact! Teaching in a traditional classroom was a new skill he honed while at Woodlawn Middle School from 2019–2022. “I learned a lot there,” he said, “especially how important understanding the culture is and building relationships with students in order to be effective in that environment. You have to earn students’ trust.”
He says his experience at Woodlawn rounded out his knowledge of the school setting so that, in addition to being an expert in the Montessori method, he also knows state standards and the public school perspective. This well-rounded view has meant that in returning to TNCS, he is able to help out in all sorts of ways, where and as needed.
This versatility is actually nothing new. It may surprise no one to learn that Mr. Warren positively thrived in the all-virtual and then hybrid live/virtual instructional environments the pandemic demanded. “I absolutely loved it,” he said. “It took a lot of preparation, but I would have my fun slides ready, and then it’s just all about personality!” If anyone knows how to engage an audience, it’s Martellies Warren!
Speaking of engaging an audience, Mr. Warren is still vocalizing with Anthony Brown and group therAPy*, and they have earned an additional Grammy nomination since we last checked! Just as exciting, Mr. Warren is the proud recipient of a gold record for 2015’s “Worth”!
A new album is due out next year along the theme of affirmations. Performing in a musical group wasn’t easy during the pandemic, of course, but they held it together. “It made me realize how fragile the music industry is,” he said. “The pandemic took us off the stage, and fortunately that’s not what I was solely depending on for my livelihood. It helped me realize how lucky I am to have my other work. It also forced us to figure out how to make this work and do a lot of virtual things. It made us all technology experts,” he joked. So, affirmations is about finding the positive among the seeming negative.
Where He’s Going
At TNCS, Mr. Warren is teaching music classes twice weekly to all students except those in the preprimary division. These classes will start with some music theory, sight reading, solfège skills, and so on and then get right to singing. “I want to make sure that they’re getting the music skills they need. Especially my middle school students—I want to make sure they’re not walking into someone’s choral program ill-equipped. I want to give them everything to make them feel more confident if they want to pursue music,” he said.
Mr. Warren has also instilled in his students the importance of maintaining professionalism on stage, and many of his former students still remember this. When an artist is performing, we owe them respect, which means staying quiet and letting them do their thing without distraction. He says that, since back at TNCS, he has heard an older student tell a younger student, “You’ve already had recess; it’s time to pay attention. Music is serious.”
As if that isn’t adorable enough, it’s a sign of wonderful things to come: the return of the exalted winter and spring concerts. These are still very much in development, but “stay tuned.”
Also on the horizon are Fine Arts–related field trips, which fall under his Extended Activities hat. Those, too, are still TBD, as Mr. Warren navigates how to safely resume such excursions with vestiges of the pandemic lingering. On campus, extended activities means more than extracurriculars. He is seeking alignment between what students do in class and out (One school, One program, One community). This means talking with teachers, understanding their daily curricula, and incorporating those themes and reinforcing those lessons in all of the fun supplemental activities available at TNCS. “We’re trying to structure this in a way that it runs as smoothly as possible by taking the information that they’re getting from the school day and now applying that in a different way,” said Mr. Warren.
Finally, Mr. Warren is back not just for his former and new students, but also for the TNCS community, including faculty and staff. “Even if it’s not in my job description, what can I do to help? The leadership team is amazing, and I’m so lucky to now be part of it.”
*Why is the AP in group therAPy capitalized? It stands for “Answered Prayers,” and how very fitting is that?