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Artist Interview: Dmitri Matheny

Artist Interview with Dmitri Matheny


If you are a loyal Summer Concert attendee or have enjoyed one of our holiday favorites, The Snowcat, you have certainly experienced the talent of flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny. Winner of NW Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year honors in the Seattle Earshot Golden Ear Awards, he has been lauded as “one of the most emotionally expressive improvisers of his generation” (International Review of Music). An honors graduate of the legendary Berklee College of Music, Dmitri has garnered critical acclaim and a loyal following of fans worldwide.

We reached out to Dmitri to get to know him a little better. We’ll be sharing a performance of his on our Facebook page this week on Thursday, May 7. Be sure to take a listen to see why The San Francisco Chronicle calls him “one of the jazz world’s most talented horn players.”

Q: What was your journey to becoming a professional artist? 

I credit my father and his hip record collection for kindling my childhood interest in music. There was great music on our turntable all the time, from Rachmaninoff to Ray Charles.

According to Dad, one time when I was about five, he was spinning Kind of Blue. I asked, "Daddy what's that sound?" When he answered, "That's Miles Davis, a great jazz musician." I responded, "That's what I want to be when I grow up." The story may be apocryphal, but Miles is still my man.

I studied music in school (Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, and Berklee College of Music in Boston), but my real education began when I met my mentor, jazz master Art Farmer. I spent ten years under his tutelage and am forever grateful for his wisdom and generosity.

Q: You play an instrument that most people are not familiar with...what drew you to playing the flugelhorn?  

The sound! The tone of the flugelhorn is so rich and warm, it wraps around you like a comfy blanket.

Q: What or who is inspiring your work right now? And, why? 

Stevie Wonder. He’s a superhero! His music is the best, he’s had hits in every decade since he was 10 years old, and he’s now 70 and still going strong. That’s a role model.

Q: What has surprised you most about music during this global event? 

This is an exciting and challenging time for musicians. 

Exciting, because we’re all hunkered down in our art bunkers, figuring out how to utilize this technology, moving our business from the concert stage to the internet, leveraging social media, and exploring all the new opportunities for connecting artists and audiences. 

Challenging, because the pandemic has amped up the already overwhelming dual struggle, to both make a living and make a difference.

In my more ambitious moments, I hope to make a contribution to the culture that will be remembered after I'm gone, the way Art Farmer did.

I would say the most difficult aspect of a career like mine is learning to persevere in the face of adversity. To keep on keeping on despite the manic ups and downs that inevitably occur. To maintain humility and quiet consistency, like the grandfather clock in the corner that steadily ticks away quietly, regardless of the weather outside.

Q: Is there a virtual arts experience that you cannot get enough - a singer, dancer, theatre, museum doing something really cool? 

I love the Van Gogh Museum and visit there every time I go to Amsterdam. They’re currently offering a wonderful “Museum At Home” online program during the shutdown. The images are spectacular, and there are even interactive projects for kids and families. Check it out!

Q: If you weren't a musician, what other profession would you want to have? 

Painter, poet or lighthouse keeper.

Q: Are you listening to any new music right now? 

New? I prefer timeless music! Here are a few recommendations:

Nicholas Payton, Payton’s Place

Bernard Herrmann, The Day The Earth Stood Still

Ohio Players, Skin Tight

Anne-Sophie Mutter, Beethoven Violin Concerto

Art Farmer/Bill Evans, Modern Art 

Miles Davis, Ascenseur Pour L'Chaffaud

Art Farmer, Warm Valley

Taj Mahal, The Real Thing

Ella Fitzgerald, The Cole Porter Songbook

Charlie Haden / Hank Jones, Steal Away