Faculty Feature: Matt Rupert
Want to learn more about one of Little Mission Studio’s founders and piano and reeds faculty, Matt Rupert? This faculty interview reveals more about him as a musician, teacher, and secret cake maker . . .
Little Mission Studio: What is your first musical memory?
Matt Rupert: Probably my mom singing. I remember her singing my siblings and I lullabies when we were very young. Come to think of it, a mothers’ singing voice is probably most people’s first exposure to music!
When did you realize you wanted to be a musician?
I think I started seriously considering it in middle school. I had really great teachers and made long-lasting musical friends during middle school. And I spent most of my free time in either the band or chorus room learning, practicing, rehearsing, or just hanging out with my my musical friends! I think it was then that I realized that these were my people, and that I wanted to do this for a living.
What was the hardest part about applying to music school?
Probably realizing precisely how competitive music school is! I’m not really a competitive person, but the realization that there are only a few spots available at a handful of conservatories around the country was both inspiring and frightening!
Is there a teacher that stands out as one who was the most musically inspiring to you?
I feel fortunate to have had a lot of outstanding teachers of the years. Probably Mr. Scott Singer, my middle school band teacher and private clarinet teacher, was one of the most inspiring. He had an endless energy and enthusiasm about him that really pushed his students, myself included, to be their best. My piano teacher growing up, Mrs. Linda Sweetman-Waters, was also really inspirational. She was extremely supportive and honest about my decisions to apply to music school and really helped me to understand what being a musician was like.
And in conservatory, one teacher that stands out in particular was my eartraining professor, Mr. Clinton Adams. He always reminded me a bit of Professor Snape, but only in his honest and direct teaching style (and the fact that he always was dressed entirely in black and carried a cane made of snakeskin). I remember one time during class, someone’s cell phone went off (with that old Nokia ringtone), and Mr. Adams, without missing a beat, started to improvise an entire piece on the piano around the ringtone while staring unblinkingly and stone-faced directly at the guilty student. It was amazing. I’m still in awe of his deep skill, understanding, and talent with the language of music.
What is one of your favorite musical performances that you’ve heard?
Probably because of where I was, but hearing the Vienna Philharmonic at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna playing Viennese Waltzes was the perfect culmination of sound and place coming together.
What is one of your favorite musical performances that you’ve been a musician for?
I think playing the Brahms Clarinet Trio when I was studying in Vienna. The piece is one of my all time favorites; it’s so layered, complex, emotional, and beautiful. I was playing with fellow students in Vienna, and we performed it at our school there, which was in a centuries-old mansion or palace, I forget which. The whole building was straight out of 18th century Vienna, and I think the room we performed in must have been the grand ballroom. I think really just the combination of where we were playing and what we were playing came together in a surreal way. I mean, Brahms himself could have been in this palace where we were performing his music!
Favorite musical sound/instrument?
Obviously I’m biased, but piano and clarinet! Piano, for being a percussion instrument at heart, has the ability to become the most lyrical and haunting instrument. I think just the variation and range of sounds and timbres the piano can make (in the right hands) is astonishing.
Similar for clarinet, it’s one of the wind instruments with the most extraordinary range in both the color and quality of sounds it can make. Probably close behind piano and clarinet, is the cello!
Least favorite musical sound/instrument?
Bagpipes. Can’t stand the sound! Why are those even a thing?
Favorite musical genre or time period to listen to?
Probably Romantic/Impressionist Classical and Modern Classical Music (20th and 21st Century). There’s so much being done today that’s changing the rules of ‘classical’ that I find fascinating. I’m equally happy listening to a piece by Brahms or a piece by Mason Bates. I also love jazz and swing – Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong!
Favorite musical genre or time period to perform?
Similar answer to above. There’s so much wonderful and beautiful repertoire for piano and clarinet from the Romantic period. But I love to play modern music, discovering new ways of expressing moods or feelings through entirely novel sounds and musical structures.
Why do you teach?
Music is meant to be shared. Often times, a practicing musician has such a solitary existence, spending hours alone in a practice room. As a performer, as a musician, it’s my job to share music; and teaching is the perfect outlet for that. Music brings me such joy and excitement, it would be selfish not to share the joy of music and inspire others to make music of their own.
If you could have dinner with any 3 musicians from any time period who would they be?
Johannes Brahms, Leonard Bernstein, Ella Fitzgerald
If you could only ever eat one of these for the rest of your life, which would it be: cake or pie?
What is your favorite dinosaur?
Pteranodon, because they can fly!
What is your favorite color?
If you were an animal, which would you be?
I’ve been told I would be an antelope.
When you’re not playing, practicing, or teaching music, what do you spend most of your time doing?
I cook. A lot. I worked in food, wine, and cheese for a long time and think I’m a pretty good home cook. I love baking and pastry and have even made a few friends’ wedding cakes. I also like running. Living in CA, you can pretty much run outside anytime of the year, not something I was used when I lived on the East Coast. My partner, Christian, and I run together a lot and have done a few marathons.