‘Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?’

‘Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?’

Written by Carol Baass Sowa

for Today’s Catholic

For 18-year-old vocalist Diego Martinez (aka Diego San Martino), getting picked from an AT&T Center audience to share the musical spotlight with Canadian crooner Michael Bublé mirrored the title of the Dean Martin song he chose to sing that night – Ain’t That a Kick in the Head. In the song, the love-struck singer’s head is “spinning” with a “beautiful” life ahead and for Martinez, still in a daze from his March 27 experience and videos of it going viral, the future is likewise looking very bright.

Martinez, who graduates high school shortly at the International School of the Americas (ISA), has been honing a career in music for half his lifetime, working in musicals since the age of nine in such area theatres as the Woodlawn, Sheldon Vexler, Cameo and San Pedro Playhouse (now the Public Theatre of San Antonio). His credits range from Cats and Miss Saigon to Pinocchio, with lead roles that include Oliver and Aladdin.

“I took a break after about two and a half years, 22 shows,” he explains. His middle school years were ending and he was ready to leave theatre behind and concentrate on high school classes and activities. A National Honor Society student, he became a member of Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) and participated in ISA’s Model United Nations of San Antonio.

He did not abandon singing, however, even if just in the shower at home. It was an innate part of his life and definitely in his genes. (Dad Martin Martinez plays accordion and guitar and sings in Tex-Mex band, Brewster County, and brother Alejandro is a guitarist.)

Watching a social media app called Vine that featured users sharing six-second, looping video clips, he became intrigued by the song Fly Me to The Moon. “I didn’t know what it was called or who it was by,” he recalls, “so I did my research.” In his research, he stumbled across Frank Sinatra and remembered “a guy named Michael Buble who did covers of Frank Sinatra.”

 Martinez became a major fan of both artists, plus other jazz crooners from days gone by. “I fell in a deep hole of this music and I couldn’t get out” he says. “Now, I love it. It’s what I do.” He started singing jazz and took on the stage name Diego San Martino as a tribute to the Italian heritage of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin (and, coincidentally, Michael Bublé), adding the “San” for San Antonio.

A vocalist friend, Mia Correa (also a high school senior), introduced him to the Beethoven Big Band, with which both now sing monthly at Beethoven Hall in King William. Martinez also performs at Main Plaza programs, Milano’s restaurant, Fiesta events and for private parties and celebrations and has been added to the roster of musicians welcoming travelers at San Antonio International Airport. His father is staying busy as his booking agent.

Martinez was ecstatic when he learned Michael Bublé’s tour was bringing his idol to town in 2019 and purchased a front row ticket as soon as they went on sale – a combined birthday/Christmas present from his parents. Knowing Bublé’s penchant for inviting an audience member to come up and sing, he joked about making a shiny sign trimmed with lights to catch his eye and then thought no more about it til the day of the concert when his mother reminded him. He almost didn’t do it, but quickly scrawled “Let Me Sing With You!” on poster board and brought it along. (“Just listen to your parents” is now his advice to aspiring young artists.)

The simple poster did indeed catch Bublé’s attention – along with shouts from those around him – when Bublé asked for a volunteer to sing their “shower song.” Singling Martinez out, he asked to first sign the poster, which caused a moment of panic. Martinez hadn’t brought a pen. In a nanosecond a nearby hand shot out with one. Bublé then directed the young vocalist toward the camera, telling everyone to “move back” because “this is his time.” And it was.

Martinez’s song choice, Ain’t That a Kick in the Head, wasn’t in the band’s repertoire, creating a momentary hesitation. Bublé sang a line of it himself. “How does it start?” he asked, and Martinez launched into an a cappella rendition, confidently claiming the mic as the obviously delighted Bublé sang along off-mic, clapping out the rhythm. The audience went wild. “New American Idol!” proclaimed Bublé.

“I was in shock,” says Martinez, recalling that performance before a crowd of thousands. All he remembers is being acutely aware of lights aimed at him and his face appearing overhead on the jumbotron. The rest is all a blur.

As to the future of this longtime St. James and, more recently, St. Matthew parishioner, Martinez has been accepted by both the Berklee School of Music in Boston and the University of Texas at San Antonio and is weighing his options. He hopes to work professionally in music, but is also interested in its business side. Singing will definitely stay in the picture though.

He remembers Bublé relating at the concert that he sang in nightclubs for ten years before getting signed, and this has motivated Martinez to continue to pursue his singing dreams. “I’ve got to be patient and count my blessings and not expect it to happen overnight,” he adds, “But, hopefully, it will be faster.” Thanks to Bublé’s boost, it likely will be.

Borrowing lines from Ain’t That a Kick in the Head: “My head keeps spinning / I go to sleep and keep grinning / If this is just the beginning / My life is gonna be beautiful!”

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