Saxophonist, composer, curator, producer/engineer, arts consultant, and educator Matthew Levy has made an enduring contribution to contemporary music as co-founder and director of the world-renowned PRISM Quartet, and as a collaborator with other artists and ensembles for the past 25 years.
Praised by the Saxophone Journal as “a complete virtuoso of the tenor saxophone” and by Classical Magazine for “gorgeous and ethereal” compositions, his creative work has been supported by fellowships from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the Independence Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, New Music USA, the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Composers Forum, the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia, and the Presser Foundation.
Matt holds three degrees from the University of Michigan, where he was a James B. Angell Scholar and recipient of the Lawrence Teal Award. His teachers have included saxophonists Donald Sinta, Laura Hunter, Odean Pope, and James Forger; music theorists Ellwood Derr, William Rothstein, and Robert Hatten; and composers William Albright, William Bolcom, Frank Ticheli, Fred Lerdahl, and Italo Taranta.
As a solo artist, Matt has commissioned and premiered works by many composers, including Paola Prestini, Renee Favand, and David Ludwig; collaborated with a host of choreographers and dance companies, among them Peter Sparling, Scrap Performance Group, and Group Motion Dance Theater; and appeared as a guest artist with numerous orchestras and ensembles, including The Philadelphia Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, counter)induction, Network for New Music, Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players, and Dolce Suono Ensemble. He has worked with concert pianists Steve Beck, Matt Herskowitz, Charles Ambramovic, and Robert Conway, and jazz artists Greg Osby, Franck Amsallem, Ben Monder, Matt Wilson, Gerald Cleaver, and John Riley. Matt has recorded for Deutsche Grammophon, ECM, Naxos, Grammavision, Innova, Albany, and Tdzaik.
Matt’s compositional output has included works for orchestra, choir, musical theater, dance, jazz, and electronic music ensembles. He has scored four motion pictures, including PBS’s “Diary of a City Priest” (starring David Morse), featured at the Sundance Film Festival. Matt has composed extensively for the PRISM Quartet; whose performances of his music have been broadcast by NPR, CBC, and Voice of America, and are featured on PRISM’s self-titled debut CD (1993, Koch International), as well as Real Standard Time (2000, innova), Dedication (2011, innova), and People’s Emergency Center (2014, innova). People’s Emergency Center, which features guest jazz artists Jason Moran, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Tim Ries, Ben Monder, Jay Anderson, and Bill Stewart, was described by PopMatters as “9 Stars, Best Jazz of 2014…too big to fail” and by WRTI as “magic with swirling precision.”
Matt’s work as Executive and Co-Artistic Director of the PRISM Quartet has culminated in USIA and USArtists International tours of China, Russia, and Latin America; concerto appearances with the Cleveland Orchestra and Dallas Symphony; recital performances on Carnegie Hall’s Making Music Series and with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; residencies with composition departments at the Curtis Institute and Princeton University; and the release of 16 recordings on XAS, ECM, Albany, innova, Koch, Naxos, New Dynamic, and New Focus.
In its early days, PRISM won the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, appeared on “Entertainment Tonight” and NPR’s “Performance Today,” and was named by Musical America as “Outstanding Young Artists.” Subsequently, PRISM was a two-time winner of the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming.
Champions of new music, PRISM has commissioned over 250 works, many from winners of the Pulitzer Prize, MacArthur “Genius” Award, Rome Prize, Koussevitzky Foundation Commissioning Award, Doris Duke Artist Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, and other major awards. Commissioned composers have included William Bolcom, Bright Sheng, Zhou Long, Miguel Zenon, Jennifer Higdon, Steven Mackey, Ken Ueno, Martin Bresnick, Chen Yi, Bernard Rands, and Steve Lehman. PRISM’s collaborators are a who’s who of contemporary music-makers, and include Ethel, Talujon, So, Partch, Music From China, Cantori New York, The Crossing, the New York Consort of Viols, Opera Colorado, Inti-Illimani, Nick Didkovsky, Miro Dance Theatre, Nai Ni Chen Dance Company, and top jazz artists, including Dave Liebman, Chris Potter, Ravi Coltrane, Rick Margitza, and Mark Ferber.
Matt has worked as a music instructor for much of his career. He currently teaches saxophone at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania’s College House program. Matt previously served on faculties of the universities of Redlands, Michigan, and Toledo, and Settlement Music School. He was also a guest speaker, and now serves as a mentor for the Curtis Institute of Music’s Community Artist Program (CAP), which provides gifted students with the opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills.
Matt’s professional life continues to span a range of cultural interests and disciplines. He maintains a post-production recording studio, and an arts consulting practice, which includes ongoing work with The Corzo Center for the Creative Economy at the University of the Arts, the Curtis Institute of Music, Ars Nova Workshop, and Sruti, The India Music & Dance Society. From 2000–2011, he directed the Philadelphia Music Project, an Artistic Initiative of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, where he oversaw the program’s grant-making, edited its annual magazine, and curated seminars, symposia, and book lectures.
Matt is a Selmer artist, and plays Selmer saxophones and mouthpieces exclusively. He lives in the Germantown section of Philadelphia with his wife, Willa. They don’t have any pets to speak of.