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A Musical Life

A Musical Life: Matt Grenier

Hugo Phan

Matt Grenier is a guitarist, composer, and music educator. As a musician, he works in the area of jazz, writing music that mixes the song form of jazz with the harmony of 20th century classical music. As a teacher, he leads a wide variety of classes at Wichita State University, attempting to illuminate connections between Beethoven, Miles Davis, and Elvis in order to get a clearer understanding of this concept we call music.

My name is Matt Grenier. I am a guitarist. I am an amateur piano player. I’m a composer in the style of jazz music. I’m a music educator. I teach some classes at Wichita State. I teach on popular music. That’s probably my primary class.

I teach on classical music history reaching from Gregorian chant to contemporary music and I teach on, of course, jazz music.

I actually didn’t start playing music until I was about 20. I had no musical background when I was younger. I listened to industrial music when I was in high school, punk rock music in high school. That’s, in some ways, where my spiritual and moral musical ethos comes from. I do look for this rawness and ferocity within any kind of music.

It’s not about teaching who Miles Davis is. It’s about teaching what he believed music was. And teaching how he made music and why he made the music he did because he makes drastically different music throughout the years. Or to talk about why hip-hop is not merely some interesting creation from some people in the Bronx, how more so it’s the beginning of the future, it’s the beginning of the culture that will come.

Music is always this intangible thing that we can’t pin down. At the same time, the closer we can get to that, the more we can understand what music is.