Violinist, chamber musician, and entrepreneur Matthew J. Detrick is an emerging leader in the professional arts world. He is co-founder, executive and artistic director of Apollo Chamber Players, an internationally-acclaimed chamber music ensemble on the cutting edge of creative, programmatic performance and the commissioning of multicultural new music.
Houston TX based Apollo Chamber Players “performs with rhythmic flair and virtuosity” (The Strad) and has “found fruitful territory” (Houston Chronicle) through innovative, globally-inspired programming and multicultural new music commissions. Winner of Chamber Music America’s prestigious Residency Partnership award, the quartet has performed for sold-out audiences at Carnegie Hall, and it holds the distinction of being the first American chamber ensemble to record and perform in Cuba since 1960. Apollo is featured frequently on American Public Media’s nationally-syndicated program Performance Today.
Today, Matthew is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to discover where Matthew finds he is most creative…
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
I would LOVE to collaborate with filmmaker Ken Burns. His eye for storytelling and the human experience is ingenious and inspiring. I’m imagining a project where we commission music for a film or documentary score, where Apollo is integral to the story. Or, having him a part of a panel discussion prior to a performance would be super compelling.
We recently collaborated with astronaut John Herrington, who was the first registered member of an American Indian tribe to fly in space. John was the narrator in a new commission by Chickasaw composer Jerod Tate celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing — a work called MoonStrike based on Native American moon legends.
This kind of model for chamber music instrumentation — string quartet and narrator — is one with plethora of collaborative possibilities. How about a commission with President Obama?? Now THAT would be a moonshot collaboration!
Do you have any specific hopes about what this album will mean to listeners?
We hope that listeners will be drawn to the incredible artistry and musicality of the performers and compositions. Each piece unearths these amazingly unique sonic worlds, from the sounds of the Vietnamese đàn bầu to composer Leo Brouwer’s musical manifestations of nostalgia and longing. Each piece tells the story of humanity in its own way.
Alexandra Du Bois’s Within Earth, Wood Grows (WEWG) is a particularly captivating work. Given the complicated history between the United States and Vietnam, it serves as a beacon of hope and reconciliation between these two countries. The composer’s pairing of đàn bầu with Western musical instruments represents a bridge of compassion and understanding through music.
It was an honor for us to work with three wonderful Houston ensembles in the recording of WEWG, representing Apollo’s most expansive collaboration to date. We are indebted to the artistry of WindSync, Kinetic Ensemble and Loop38, and Jerry Hou, Associate Conductor at Rice’s Shepherd School of Music. Finally, I believe listeners will appreciate the superb production and engineering quality of this disc, led by our team of Brad Sayles, Ryan Edwards and Shannon Smith, and of course, PARMA Recordings!
How have your influences changed as you grow as a musician?
When I was a student at the Shepherd School of Music (Rice University), my main aspiration was to win a position with a top-tier symphony orchestra. Upon graduation, I auditioned for almost two dozen jobs around the country, coming close but never landing that top spot. Soon after I founded Apollo Chamber Players which over the course of a decade, nurtured a different, more creative side of my artistic personality. Programming and commissioning new music inspired by multicultural influences has become my main focus through Apollo. As a result, we’ve cultivated a unique niche in Houston and around the country.
I feel passionately that to be a meaningful musician in the 21st Century, one must be actively engaged in the creation of new music, and be willing to engage with underserved communities in spreading our art form far and wide.
What were your first musical experiences?
Some of my formative musical experiences are performing as part of Suzuki group lesson classes as a youngster. Because I was a bit younger than my classmates, I was always looking up to my fellow violinists, both figuratively and literally.
I also recall nailing a section of a Bach Minuet by memory when I was probably 4 years old — I was so thrilled that I ran to my parents and brothers who were watching TV, jumping with excitement. They said “good job” and went back to the television program..not quite as excited as I.
Also very young, I recall playing Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring by J.S. Bach during a group lesson class. This piece is quite repetitive, and in my youthful mind I thought it would never end! I imagined myself throwing my violin on the ground and running out of the room, never to return.
Where and when are you at your most creative?
I find I’m at my most creative and “in-the-zone” while working at coffee shops. I’ve come up with a lot of our recent programming ideas while at a favorite coffee shop of mine here in Houston called Cavo Coffee. It’s well-lit with large windows and has a relaxing, positive vibe. Their lattes are second-to-none!
A number of light bulb occasions have also come to me while running, when I’m forced to live in the moment..it’s a luxury to let one’s mind wander, free from distraction.
What was the first performance you remember seeing?
When I was very young I attended summer music camps in Stevens Point (WI) and Elizabethtown College (PA). A clinician named Terry Durbin was the highlight of the summer — I remember hearing and being entranced by the tone he produced from his violin. I wanted so badly to emulate this.
Another early concert memory is seeing Itzhak Perlman perform live at Founders Hall in Hershey PA. Perlman is a legend, and it was inspiring for me to experience his musicianship at an early age. (Incidentally, I later found myself a student-colleague with his daughter, flutist Ariella Perlman, at Rice’s Shepherd School of Music.)
WITHIN EARTH is now available for streaming or purchase through Navona Records. Click here to explore this new album.