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For this month's music issue, which has a focus on EDM, we thought we'd throw a special campus market cover out to an entertainer who has made his bones playing for colleges just like yours. With his solo show "Two Turntables and a Saxophone," Matt brings an organic approach to the dance medium with a highlight on fantastic musicianship. This is not a dance show where students are just going to watch someone push buttons and fist-pump.
He's opened for Joe Walsh of The Eagles, Gallagher, B.oB., Bo Bice, Josh Gracin, Dave Koz and many more. One great aspect to Matt's show is that it is always an all-ages production. He covers tons of hits from Michael Jackson, Usher, Aerosmith, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake and other artists spanning the last several decades and into the bleeding edge of new music, but because the saxophone replaces the lyrics, all the songs are now G-rated.
While Matt Corey found success with Disney and on The West End of London before playing the campus market, this is where he has truly made his home. Now he's in his fourth year of playing the majority of his dates here and with several awards and accolades to his credit, including consistently being one of the top booked acts at his showcases. Campus Activities Magazine talks a bit with Matt about how he got here and why a performer who could easily be tapped for any number of large acts as a support player makes his schedule all about colleges.
Matt feels he has gone through a lot of growth in these few short years. "I feel like the show has developed into much more of a mature presentation than when I started. Back then, I came in from a part of another band calledSkinny, which played the college market for 3 or 4 years, but I was not the frontman of that act. That was the biggest adjustment, to go from being a supporting player to the feature."
The band was at one point named "The best unsigned band in the U.S." by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but disbanded when one of their members, Eric "Biggie Bass" Daniels, passed away suffering from a heart attack. "I had been in the college market and I had the idea for this show, and all of a sudden found myself needing to put something together because I was out of work. I knew I could really make this idea work, I just had no idea that four years later I would be Male Solo Artist of the Year 3 times, as well as being nominated as "Fastest Rising Star" and "Best Music Act" by the readers of this magazine.
Matt has some impressive credentials backing him, he graduated from Youngstown State University after studying classical saxophone, music education and jazz performance and got his gig at Disney World as the lead performer of the hit show "Blast! 2 Shockwave" the sequel to the Emmy and Tony Award winning Broadway show that was essentially "Stomp" for horns. The show later moved to The Queen's Theatre in London.
He performed for the world-famous Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey Orchestras, and even jammed on stage with George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic for a few dates. One of the great things about Matt's show now is it's scalability. Whether your school has a large venue or small, healthy budget or modest, Matt can make it work for you. His solo show "Two Turn Tables and a Saxophone can work in just about any venue for most budgets. If you are looking for the full scale rock concert party atmosphere, then he can bring in the full production with the Matt Corey Band, with all the bells and whistles. He is even working on an upcoming project where he will be playing with a symphony. "I have been doing a lot of stuff with my full band and in April I will be doing the show with the full symphony orchestra. They gave me an exciting opportunity to be the feature in the show, and it will be a very cool project."
Of course the full band performance will give you the most bang for your buck, but if you only hire Matt for the solo show, don't feel like you're students will be missing out on anything. "I love doing the solo show, and it makes me a lot more accessible. Not every campus has the budget to bring in a full huge (11 piece) band, but they still have entertainment needs. That was the great thing about traveling in the college market with another band before I had my own solo show, I was prepared and knew what they wanted to see. I knew I could tailor a show that could cater to many campuses needs. I can come in and do a smaller coffee house type performance, or scale it all the way up to a huge stage with a great band. I pride myself on being able to play any room or audience size, large or small, and have everyone in that room leave saying 'I didn't even know you could do that with a saxophone.'"
Matt's show is all about versatility. "I would say in the last four years that is the biggest area of growth I have had as an artist. The versatility of my show and being able to get in any venue and have a show that can compete with big time national artists. I feel you can put my band up against anyone and we will be able to hold our own."
Matt has performed at over 350 colleges in the past four years. "I don't keep an exact count, but it's a ton (laughs). In that time I have seen some extremes. One wild story was being at a school, opening for a national artist and right before I went on stage the advisor took me into a conference room for a quick meeting with the president of the university. I thought 'Geez, I've never had to meet with the president of a university, but this is a really big show and the whole campus is out there so I guess this makes sense.' So, I was in the conference, and the president basically tells me the rules, no cursing, keep it clean, no drug references, no partying with the students, etc. General rules of good conduct, which is something that I always stress anyway. Every time I am on campus I am pretty adamant about making sure everyone in my unit is conducting themselves professionally. So, I agreed to the terms of the president and asked her, because I had never really had this happen before, if there was a reason for this sudden sidebar. I felt like there must have been some sort of specific reason why she would go out of her way to have this chat with me (laughs). She says, 'Well, we had a problem with an artist last year,'" Matt says, clearly enjoying the story. "'Are you familiar with the Wu- Tang Clan?' she asked." As he tells it, he is barely able to control his laughter. "I was like 'Uh, yeah, I don't think you have to worry. My act is prettymuch the opposite of that.' That is the beauty of having a performance that is mostly instrumental, because even when I am playing a cover that is maybe 'adult' oriented, the sensitive lyrics aren't there."
Sometimes, the shows that fall on the opposite end of the spectrum (than opening for a major artist) are just as much fun for Matt. "I have had some crazy things that have happened with the weather. There was a show that had the potential to be huge, but there was a near-hurricane that came in where it was raining sideways and there were 5 or 6 people in the audience once I got there (laughs). We had a great time though. It goes back to the versatility aspect. When there are seven people there counting me, it's time to turn it into a more intimate kind of setting and start taking requests!"
Matt loves to involve the students in his show and that works especially well with smaller groups. "I'm there to make sure the group has a great night and is entertained, no matter what. One thing I have really learned is the ability to not just be a musician, but an emcee as well. When I did my first showcase, I got on stage and just played straight through and didn't say a word. Now, I have the ability to really warm up to an audience, talk to them, tell stories and walk out feeling like I have made a lot of new friends. That is probably my favorite part of this gig; being able to make new friends all over the country that I continue to stay in touch with. I look forward to all the new friends that are to come." For more information on bringing Matt in to your venue, contact Rob Jockel at Cutting Edge Entertainment at (860) 693-9116 or rjockel@cuttingedgeentertain. com.