Matt McGrory, principal
Member of the Saint Joseph Symphony since: 2010
Bio: Matt grew up in Leawood, Kansas and attended Shawnee Mission East High School where he played trumpet and euphonium. He attended Northwest Missouri State, where he began to study the double bass. After finishing his BME from Northwest, he attended UMKC, graduating in 2014 with a Masters in Music Performance. A public-school music teacher at Spring Hill, KS, he is principal bass of the St. Joseph Symphony and the Midwest Chamber Ensemble. He also performs in the Topeka Symphony and substitutes with the Kansas City Symphony.
When did you start playing an instrument?
I started playing viola in 4th grade, and then quit the next year because you had to come into school early. I played trumpet through high school, but didn’t actually start playing the double bass until I was 18. I only played jazz in high school, just with some friends of mine. I showed up the first orchestra rehearsal at NWMSU and that was the first day I learned that bows needed rosin to make sound.
Why the bass?
I really loved jazz music, but was never very good at the trumpet. I actually messed around with guitar for a little while, but the band I was in needed a bass player, so I volunteered. It just kind of clicked. I’ll never forget the day I finally convinced my parents to rent a double bass, it just felt so natural to play. I just ran with it in college, and forced myself to practice until I was at the same level as everyone else.
When you’re not rehearsing or performing, what do you like to listen to?
I listen to everything. I’m a big believer in genre hopping and experiencing everything music has to offer. I love to listen to jazz, classical, pop, rock, hip hop, you name it. Right now, I’m really into a rap group called Run the Jewels.
What music have you especially enjoyed performing over the years?
I really liked playing Beethoven 9, it’s my all-time favorite piece. I also really enjoyed all the Shostakovich we’ve played in the past, he’s my second fave.
Who has had the greatest influence on you as a musician?
Chris Thile is my personal hero. For those of you who don’t know the name, he’s the person who took over for Garrison Keillor on the NPR program A Prairie Home Companion. Chris Thile also fronts the band Punch Brothers, as well as various other projects. He is the ultimate genre hopper, and is just an amazing musician. Before that, it was definitely my grandfather. He was a keyboard player, and just played music because he enjoyed it. I still have very vivid memories of being very young and just making sound effects on his keyboard.
Do you collect anything?
I really don’t. I’m working on a decent record collection, but it’s taking some time.
How do you think we should keep symphony music alive for new generations?
It’s all about education. In this day and age, our culture has reached a point where we find it more enjoyable to watch something on a screen instead of actually experience it. Music means so much to me and I know it means a lot to many others, without proper support in our educational institutions many will never know what it can mean to them. Proper funding, and more pay to music teachers will attract good teachers to continue to inspire.
Did anyone inspire or encouraged your interest in music?
My grandfather, and my parents were very supportive. My grandfather was a lifelong musician, and my mother played piano for most of her life. They were a little hesitant when I said I wanted to major in music, but I suppose it turned out okay.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
People would probably be surprised to see my eclectic taste in music. I really enjoy classical music, but also enjoy many other genres. I also produce electronic and hip hop music will a couple friends of mine, and really enjoy it!
Do you perform or teach outside of your work with the Symphony?
I do. I have a teaching job during the day, I am the assistant to the band and orchestra director in the Spring Hill School District. I also teach bass at Northwest Missouri State University as an adjunct. I also try and play as often as possible, but it gets difficult with a day job.