1. Faculty

Matt Wilson

Roots, Jazz, and American Music

“Wilson sees his music as a way to reach out, to communicate. Uninterested in some kind of hip disdain for his audience, he reaches fully across the table to get the music heard by anyone who wants to enjoy it. This kind of playful seriousness about art is a perfect model for a modern mindset: informed but original, daring but joyous.”
PopMatters

Courses Taught

  • Private Lessons
  • Ensemble Instruction

Education

  • BM, Wichita State University

Ensembles

  • Matt Wilson Quartet
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Christmas Tree-O

Awards and Distinctions

  • 2003, 2011, Jazz Journalists Association Drummer of the Year
  • Wichita State University Hall of Fame

What is your hometown?

Knoxville, IL

What is your favorite recording?

Roger Miller's Greatest Hits.

What are you passionate about outside of music?

Art, food, football, the Chicago Cubs, and great conversations!

Who were your major teachers?

John Larson, JC Combs, and Ed Soph.

What is a favorite quote that you repeatedly tell students?

“The answer is yes. (If it is legal.)”

What question do you wish students would ask sooner rather than later?

“Is this going to require effort?”

What was the defining moment when you decided to pursue music as a career?

My high school, because of budget cuts, did not have a jazz band. I had to find opportunities through the community. I am grateful for that because I was in the music socially. So, at a young age, I was around older musicians that loved this and had fun. I wanted to be around these folks!

What was a turning point in your career?

Waiting for that actually... No, I have been SO very fortunate. Maybe, if I could pinpoint one, it would be having the great fortune to play 12 years with Dewey Redman. I loved him. One of my triplet sons' middle names is Dewey.

If you weren't a musician or teacher, what do you think you would be doing now?

An English teacher or a wine maker.

What is your daily practice routine?

I feel as if I have progressed as of late because I do goal-less practicing. I really just work on basics and I really ENJOY it. I have also become aware of the value of quality, mindful practicing versus quantity. I encourage my students to journal and always perform during practice. No separation. Folks often sound like they are fooling around when they perform because that is how they practice. Music is always first.

If you could play only three composers for the rest of your life, who would they be?

Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington, and Thelonious Monk.

From a music history perspective, what year and city are most important to you?

New York City in the 1940s.

What are your most important collaborations?

I was married for almost 27 years to a great woman, mother, violinist, and teacher, Felicia Wilson. She died of leukemia in 2014. I am doing this because of her love and support. Also, my years with Dewey Redman. And the incredible musicians in all of my bands. They are so full of love, trust, and flexibility!

Who are three students you have had the privilege of teaching?

Toma Fujiwara, James Francies, and Connor Parks.

What are your academic publications?

I have written many articles for Modern Drummer, Downbeat and Jazz Times.

What recordings can we hear you on?

I have been fortunate to play on nearly 400 CDs as a sideman, co-led 10, and I have released 14 as a leader. All of the recordings as a leader are on Palmetto Records. My latest is Beginning of a Memory and I will have a release in the fall, Honey and Salt, which features music I have written to the poetry of Carl Sandburg.

What is your unrealized project?

They are or will be realized. I scheme so if I get to one out of every five, I am doing well.