Brother Martin Yribarren, FSC, College Organist, Integral Program

Brother Martin Yribarren is passionate about music, sports and teaching. A known stress reliever is sneaking into the Chapel to eavesdrop as he practices on the 3,649-pipe organ.

Brother Martin YribarrenHe’s as comfortable talking sports as he is playing sonatas. In fact, Martin Yribarren was an athlete long before God called him to be a Christian Brother at Saint Mary’s College. Tall and slender, he played basketball and baseball as a boy in Fresno and dreamed about being a hoops star. But at the age of 10, music began to strike a chord.

“We had a young, hotshot organist at St. John’s Cathedral Parish,” he says. “I sang in the boys’ choir and we had lots of fun. We sang jazzy Latin stuff – lots of trumpets and timpani.”

Yribarren continued juggling music and sports while he was in high school, taking classes from the Christian Brothers at San Joaquin Memorial. He eagerly absorbed what they taught and decided to follow their path.

After training at Mont LaSalle in Napa, Brother Martin enrolled at Saint Mary’s College in 1967. Everything, at the time, seemed exciting.

“My freshman year, one semester I had something like 22 units of class, was taking piano at Holy Names [College] and was on the freshman basketball team,” he says. Gradually, he settled on the Integral Program, where he could concentrate on a broad range of interests.

Throughout his education, Brother Martin’s passion for music and sports intertwined. He taught and coached basketball for almost two decades at Cathedral High School in Los Angeles and finished his Ph.D. in Music Theory at the University of Southern California.

“We had some very good years,” he says. “One of our varsity teams won the Southern Section,” equivalent to a state championship today. Brother Martin was an assistant coach at the time, never wanting to be head coach. “Too nerve-racking,” he admits.

Today, Brother Martin is content with just being a fan and rarely misses a Gael’s men’s or women’s home game. Off the court, he “coaches” budding musicians, both in the classroom and from the choir loft. And the music he makes on the organ sends goose bumps through the Saint Mary’s faithful. You might call it a spiritual slam dunk.