Faculty Profile — Matthew Taylor
In this issue of Keywords, we feature Dr. Matthew Taylor, Visiting Assistant Professor of Music, who is in his 1st year at the College. The questions are posed by Literatures & Cultures Librarian Katrina Spencer.
Name: Matthew Taylor
Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama
Role at Middlebury: Visiting Assistant Professor of Music
Time At Middlebury: This is my first year.
Welcome, Matthew! 😉 You just got here. How long is your appointment and what is unique about having a defined work term?
My appointment is for two years. My experience in academia until now had been as an adjunct driving between several jobs, a fairly hectic existence. So having a full-time job that is walking distance from my front door is a welcome change. I think the fact that I am here for such a short time puts a premium on meeting the brilliant people that work here at the college.
Is living in the North different from living in the South? If so, how?
Aside from the snow? And that one day it was -22 Fahrenheit??
All kidding aside, the two regions are different to some degree, but they are more similar to me than people may expect. The state of Vermont has fewer people than my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, so despite stereotypes, I actually had to go north to get more rural. But then, Vermont is more green and progressive than most larger states. And this place is beautiful. Moving to Middlebury allowed me to slow down and listen more. I love that.
I do miss the diversity of the South. I’m in academia and in classical music, so I am used to being the only face of color in the crowd, but this is the first time I’ve lived somewhere where it’s a surprise when I see another face like mine.
How is Middlebury different than other institutions?
My professional experience has been working with large, research universities that have their own schools of music, so there is already quite a difference in scale. When I interviewed here, I got a sense of the school: that it was unique, but also familiar. I attended a liberal arts college, Birmingham-Southern College, that also had a J-Term. The liberal arts model supplied an environment for me to experiment and find what worked for me. The faculty and administration were always available to me, and willing to guide me as I embarked on big projects. I sense that is the case here as well.
What should we know about you as a musician and where can we find your music?
I am often described as a classical composer, which is a misleading term. What I write doesn’t sound like Beethoven or Schumann, but I use a lot of techniques they would have used in their day. I write music for today: it is inspired by the world around me and my internal narrative. Sometimes, I write something to express a specific emotion, other times I write music that is open for interpretation. Sometimes I use “pretty” sounds and other times “ugly” sounds, often next to each other.
What areas of music have you studied and what types are you passionate about?
My focus has been in performance and composition. I grew up playing jazz, then learned classical repertoire. I am also an expert in free improvisation.
How do you use the libraries? What areas of the libraries’ collections might you like to see further developed and how?
I have really benefited from the tech available, especially the high quality cameras. They’ve come in handy for a film project I’m involved with. I’m really still getting to know the library here, so I don’t have a good answer yet. I have been impressed by the offerings I have found. I know that Terry Simpkins and other library staff have done a phenomenal job of stocking the music collection with scores, writings and recordings that larger music libraries often do not have. So he’s been a real asset.
What have you been able to accomplish thus far during your time here?
I have been involved in several satisfying collaborations with the Dance Program and Theater Department, including the Dance Company of Middlebury’s J-Term performance.
In what ways would you like to see this campus and community further develop in terms of music or otherwise?
I have really enjoyed the performing arts series here; it has brought some really engaging chamber groups to campus, some I haven’t heard of and others I am well acquainted with.
My desire is always more communication, more collaboration. Liberal arts colleges are good for this, but it can always go further. What does a creative project between a musician and economist look like? Language School and music? I hope I get to find out. Anyone reading this, my door is open.