Matt Mason is a composer and pianist from Lincoln, Illinois whose compositions fall into either of two categories: dark and somber (which sharply contrasts with his often effervescent personality) or subtly humorous (which elucidates his often effervescent personality). His compositions represent an intersection of poetry, theater, and music creating a psychogramm where melodic, harmonic, and intervallic elements are dictated by tense constellations and brooding undertones. Matt’s current work emphasizes research into dissociation, mental health, queer visibility, nostalgia, and ethics in contemporary performance. Matt received his B.M. in Piano Performance from Illinois Wesleyan University and his M.M. in Piano and Composition from Butler University. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Composition and Theory from the University of Iowa. He has studied with Michael Schelle, Frank Felice, Sivan Cohen Elias, Jean-Francois Charles, David Gompper, David Vayo, R. Kent Cook, Kate Boyd, Karen Thickstun, and Cathy Bringerud.
Matt has been a featured composer and performer at the Illinois Wesleyan University Chamber Festival and for the Legacy Theater in Springfield Illinois. At the latter, he was a member of their artistic team, directing their orchestra, accompanying, and coaching their performers in many regional theatrical premieres, including Musicals, Cabarets, and Operas. Matt is also an educator, teaching privately through Butler Community Arts School and the YMCA Arts Program, the latter which he helped create. Matt has chaired the Butler Youth Composition Program as well as the Community Arts Theory Program. In 2019, Matt was the Butler Community Arts School employee of the year and received the employee leadership award. As an educator, Matt has taught classes in Music Theory, Digital Arts and Electronic Music, and Composition. As well, Matt is currently an accompanist for the ballet department at the University of Iowa.
Matt has been a commissioned composer for the Out of the Box piano duo, trombone soloist Zachary Siegel, Indy Pop-Up Opera, Susanne Kessel, the international 250 Piano Pieces for Beethoven Project, clarinetist Thomas Piercy, Moments in This Time Project, The Queens New Music Festival, Random Access Music, National Water Dances, Hypercube Ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente, University of Arizona Department of Dance, and the University of Iowa String Orchestra. Matt has presented works at Midwest Composer's Symposium, Midwest Graduate Symposium, and has worked with the JACK quartet at the University of Iowa.
Besides music, Matt is a fan of popular culture and is the co-host of the podcast "Watch No Evil," focused on horror media including film, television, video games, and music.
Statement of Diversity
My devotion to education in the field of disability studies, I believe, is an integral part of my mission to fully embrace diversity and inclusion in all stages of musical education. While studying at Butler University, I begin specialization in piano education for students on the autism spectrum. Because I encountered students on the full range of the spectrum, including those with nonverbal autism, I learned to adapt lesson plans and materials, including working with other specialists in the development, engraving, and distribution of new materials. I believe that diversity and inclusion must include advocacy for studies in disability. Addressing all forms of neurodivergence in the classroom has become one of the main goals as both a private instructor and classroom educator. I strive to be a dependable, flexible, and understanding educator for all students.
In music, underrepresented voices should be at the forefront of considerations when programming concerts, developing syllabi, and educating young musicians. While at the University of Iowa I took workshops and seminars dedicated to the process of decolonization in classical music academia and how to create substantive change in curriculum through an infusion of marginalized voices, dedicated to uplifting women, LGBTQ, and musicians of color. Teaching the music of underrepresented musicians is important, as well as actively engaging with diverse musical communities. Active engagement with communities of underrepresented artists is a necessary addition to education in the decolonization process. My goal is not only to continually educate myself through workshops, seminars, and classes, but to also promote the work of marginalized artists actively. This I have done (and will continue to do) through incorporating diverse voices and styles into any syllabi, commissioning and performing the work of underrepresented artists, and being an active advocate for their work both in and out of the classroom.
As a musician and composer, I have used my skills in advocacy to participate in diverse shows of support in the name of equity. With dancer Angelica DeLashmette, we co-created a piece for Global Water Dances with Spokane Arts which brings awareness to local environmental issues affecting native populations. With Laila J. Franklin at Salem State University, we developed immaculate, invisible a short film project centered on race and queerness in academic spaces through embodied artistic performance. Working with these artists was a way for me to actively contribute to the discussion for equity that extends beyond the classroom.
Diversity and Inclusion is a continuous process which requires continuous education. I am devoted to actively engaging with diversity and inclusion on all levels and actively seek equity. This I intend to continue pursuing through my own education and service to my institutions.