By likemindblog

Matt.jpg 280x280

MATT HERSKOWITZ, a world class pianist who leaves anyone breathless after hearing him play.  And Montreal has the honour and the privilege of counting this musical genius amongst its residents. “ I was raised in a small village called Rensselaerville, in New York State, says Matt.  At age 13, I went to the North Carolina School of the Arts, then at age 14, I was accepted at the Curtis Institute of Music, an elite tuition-free school to train child prodigies to become professional performing artists. I studied there for 8 years, and started learning to play jazz with friends who were professional jazz musicians, going to gigs with them and sitting in. Then I started getting my own gigs in the city.”  So, as we can see, this amazing musician began at a very young age, live and played in L.A. and New York, as well as Philodelphia,  studied with masters and finally moved to Montreal and as he says: “It was the best move of my life. I was able to develop as a musician and find my voice, without the stress of having to earn $1000+ a month just to pay rent. I’ve been based in Montreal ever since, and I currently travel the world performing my own music. I’m pretty happy with that:). `

Matt, once again thank you so much for participating in this project even though you were on tour all over the world, in planes and trains and what have you.  I am sincerely grateful and I invite all our readers to take the time to enjoy part two of Matt’s article as well as listen to his music which is outstanding.  Let us continue from last week:

No. 6)  When do you do your best work?  (conditions, environment)

I often do my best work at night; I find the peace and tranquility of the after- hours a nice environment to create. Of course I sometimes have to writeNouvelle image during the day as well, especially with a looming deadline, but I prefer writing at night. I also do some of my best work while traveling, especially on the 11+ hour ride from Montreal to New York City. It’s a beautiful ride, and there’s nothing like being trapped on a train for the entire day to get something done. Perhaps the gentle rolling, rocking motion of the train helps as well, though I’m just guessing on that one… it certainly worked for George Gershwin with his Rhapsody in Blue though!

No. 7)  Do you identify with your music and if so, on what level?

Yes, most of the time I do. I can usually see where it’s coming from. Not always though; sometimes I just don’t understand why something came out like that, lol! But I know that it came from me, so it’s part of my voice, even if I don’t really identify with it at the moment. Sometimes what I’m writing will channel my general state of being, or sometimes it’ll be in total contrast to it – such as a beautiful, zen melody emanating from a state of personal anxiety and inner turmoil. I guess that could be considered a kind of musical therapy – though I’ve never really thought of it like that before. If I’m working on a larger piece, I’ll tend to shape it toward a certain style or structure I’ve conceived for it (which could also be dependent on what I’m writing for), but I now always recognize myself in there, yes. It’s interesting that you ask on what level though, as there are various levels to which I identify with my own music. If I never get tired of thinking about or playing something I wrote, then I know that it’s the closest, most direct connection to myself I can have through my work. It’s a great feeling to create something like that, something that’s working on a level of pure inspiration. However, if an idea has taken a while to complete, if I had to really work on it, to slowly construct it, I’ll still identify with it, but it’s usually not quite as instantly satisfying when I listen back to it. However, I might grow to like it more and more over time, and it may even become a favourite of mine – it has happened on occasion.

No.8)  Does playing music help you connect with your higher self, whatever that is for you?

Tchaikovsky Trio photoYes, absolutely. Sometimes I’ll feel inspired to play one of my favourite jazz or classical pieces, or perhaps one of my own compositions. Sometimes I’ll feel inspired to just improvise freely, see where it takes me. Perhaps this is an expression of my higher self…? I guess that for me, “higher self” is a state of mind where everything is flowing smoothly, without effort, and I’m simply receiving a nice breeze of contentment and pleasure from making an intimate connection with the music. I guess that means I’m truly identifying with it, and thus with part of myself as well. The fun part is that when this happens, it’s always a new experience; I’m discovering new things, even if I’ve played the piece a thousand times before. This is especially powerful when it happens in performance, whether in a jazz club or a concert hall – to shed all the prepared baggage, to forget about what I’ve rehearsed, and just completely let myself go and be led by my heart, rather than my head. To commit to this kind of freedom on stage is an incredible experience, both for the artist and for the listener. I believe it’s this connection with your higher self which is reaching and touching the audience. Of course, it helps to have completely mastered whatever I’m playing for that to be truly successful in a performance, otherwise the mundane reality of technical limitations can get in the way. I’m grateful for all the times I’ve been able to experience and share this pure connection with music. In the end, that’s what we’re all working toward, it’s why we keep going.

No. 9)   Some people feel school systems kills creativity, how do you feel about that?

Well, they certainly can, I’ve seen it. In classical schools and conservatories, it can happen when students are too focused on the wrong things, such as winning competitions – which is not a bad thing in itself, as long as their creative musical development isn’t being replaced by an obsession with not making any mistakes; or trying to imitate other performances without thinking too deeply about their own interpretations – it’s good to be inspired by someone else’s performances, but it’s only a starting point, not an end. But more often teachers can sometimes kill a student’s creativity by being… well, uninterested, uninspired teachers. And there are plenty of those, unfortunately. Also, too many teachers do not guide their students’ practicing, which often leads to aimless, unproductive practicing for the students. Or, a teacher imposes their own vision on then607311150_278361_1047 student, giving orders, rather than allowing and encouraging the student to find their own voice in the music. This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t know or respect the style of the composer, of course, but playing music has to be about more than taking orders and dutifully carrying them out on the battlefield – oops, I mean the stage! Otherwise, they’re not really communicating, but rather just making a presentation – a “correct” presentation, unfortunately more likely to do well in competitions. As musicians, however, we can never be fully convincing to the listener if we haven’t really thought about what we’re doing and why. It has to be personal. I fear that this aspect of teaching is missing from many schools. Now there are jazz schools as well, and I was happy for this development; why shouldn’t young players be able to study the music they love? However, I’ve noticed that many jazz players coming out of these schools fall victim to some of the same pitfalls as the classical players: having studied the jazz harmonies and licks of the great players by learning from literal transcriptions of their solos, they tend to repeat the same licks in their own solos, as well as stay within the stylistic backyards of the great players they’ve studied. For the first time, some of the new generation of young jazz players is actually more conservative than the previous generation. It’s essential to know the progression and historical development of any musical style you’re playing, of course, but I think in the end it should be part of the student’s musical vocabulary on which they build their own voice, not simply imitate or copy it.

No. 10)  If you agree with no.9, what do you think a simple solution would be?

Fortunately, this conservatism in some jazz schools isn’t actually hindering the creative development of jazz, as there are some amazing young players on the scene doing very advanced and mind-blowing things with their music. But I think it would be a good thing if music schools, both classical and jazz, would focus as much on helping students discover and express their own creativity as they do in teaching them how to understand and respect established musical traditions.-

Matt, thank you for your generosity and for sharing so much with all of us.  I look forward to working with you again in the future.  Until then, my friend, be blessed!


Matt’s new album:  Jerusalem TrilogyMatt Cover 600 x 600 bit smaller

Your comments are as always, sincerely appreciated. 

Below are Matt’s links which are worth checking out!  ENJOY!

 Mail this post
Be Sociable, Share!
Filed in: MUSIC • Friday, August 20th, 2010


Have enjoyed reading your articles and listening to your music…both have been inspiring and enlightening. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and expertise…
.-= Cecelia Gay´s last blog ..Hearts Path =-.


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge


My name is Michele Andree. I am an artist, I paint musicians in action. I think I’m a musician at heart, my instrument being… a brush, so I play…brush and I paint… music.
I love jazz. I call it freedom music. It promotes special values. I love intelligent people and good conversations.

Some people ask me how music relates to art. Personally I find they go hand in hand. Music is what turns me on to painting. It makes me see colours