Faculty & Staff Profiles

Matthew Thompson

Assistant Professor of Music

Matthew Thompson, DMA— collaborative piano, is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Michigan.  There his duties include teaching courses as varied as “Introduction to Lyric Diction and IPA” to groundbreaking and massively popular classes like “Video Game Music.”  In addition to his classroom duties, Thompson serves as a vocal coach for graduate voice students.

Thompson’s 2018-2019 year is an exciting and varied one showcasing his many interests.  It began in August with three performances with U-M colleagues at the International Double Reed Society in Granada, Spain.  After returning to Ann Arbor and starting his seventh semester of teaching at U-M, Thompson headed to LA where he served as ludomusicology/sound studies chair for the first ever academic track at GameSoundCon.  Thompson presented “The State of Game Audio Studies in Academia” with MSU colleague Ryan Thompson at GameSoundCon as well.  Immediately upon returning to Ann Arbor, Thompson collaborated with Bill, Lucia, and Jim Campbell on the Ann Arbor Symphony Chamber Music Series in a concert titled “Music of Faith.”  He will join SMTD colleague and long time collaborator, Freda Herseth, in December for the George Shirley Scholarship Fundraising Concert.  Also in December, Thompson will release a recording on the Equilibrium label, Japonica, a disc of oboe/piano; his partner in this recording is U-M alumnus Dr. Alex Hayashi, currently the oboe faculty at Western Michigan University.

In the new semester, Thompson will accompany current voice students and curate a recital in the Bloomfield Township Public Library concert series.  He and his experimental studio of piano students studying video game piano transcriptions will perform the first of their studio concerts at the University of Michigan Museum of Art in late January.  At this concert, Thompson will premiere a piano piece by Marty O’Donnell, composer for the Halo series as well as Destiny and many other games.  February will include performances with U-M colleagues and long time collaborators, Carmen Pelton and Amy Porter.  In March, Thompson will be artistic coordinator and serve as pianist for the 14th annual Flint Festival of Choirs, with Dr. Ryan Beeken from Indiana University Pennsylvania visiting as guest clinician.  Also in March, Thompson will host Video Game Pianist Martin Leung at U-M’s SMTD for a number of events: working with his piano students, giving guest lectures, and joining Dr. Leung in a concert free and open to the public.  In April, Thompson’s piano studio will present a concert showcasing their work during the year collaborating with students from U-M’s Screen Arts and Culture and Stamps School of Art and Design.  His summer will include returning to teach at SMTD’s summer program, MPulse, for the second annual solo vocal institute.

As a pianist, Thompson has performed with operatic celebrities like Thomas Hampson, rising international stars like Vince Yi, and even musical theater gurus like Tony Award winner Gavin Creel.  A sought after vocal coach, he’s prepared singers from beginners to seasoned artists for recitals, recordings, competitions, young artist programs, auditions, and performances, both local and in major venues around the world.  Equally comfortable collaborating with instrumentalists, Thompson has recently performed on the Ann Arbor Symphony Chamber Music Series, the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings Series, and the Great Lakes Chamber Music Vignette Series.  He regularly plays with the U-M Wind and Brass faculty, and with large ensembles like the Flint Symphony and the Michigan Philharmonic, and is currently pianist and associate conductor of the Carolyn Mawby Chorale based in Flint, MI, recently featured in the Netflix original series, Flint Town.  Numerous live performances can be streamed from Thompson’s YouTube channel and he can be heard in recording with David Ammer, trumpet, on La trompette a renouvelé.

Thompson’s summer training included prestigious young artist programs like Song Fest, the Merola Opera Program, and Wolf Trap Opera.  Summers are now typically spent teaching music to students of all levels.  In recent years, Thompson has been a faculty coach/pianist at the Torggler Summer Vocal Institute and was a faculty member of U-M’s inaugural Living Arts Summer Residential Lab.  He taught at SMTD’s MPulse inaugural Solo Vocal Institute in July 2018.

Thompson has won numerous grants to support his research, continuing education, and teaching, including a U-M Center for Research on Learning and Teaching Faculty Development Fund to support “Teaching Private Piano Lessons using Video Game Piano Transcriptions,” a UMOR Small Grant to Support Major Conferences to help fund “Hosting the 5th annual North American Conference on Video Game Music at U-M in 2018,” a U-M Center for Japanese Studies Faculty Research Grant to support “Recording of Recently Composed Japanese Oboe/Piano Duos,” an SMTD Faculty Block Grant to support “Translation of Japanese Video Game Piano Collections,” and multiple Arts at Michigan Course Connection grants that have allowed integration of live performances into his classroom teaching.  His research interests vary from female composers to American Popular Song accompanying; game audio, a particular fascination, has sparked Thompson’s urge to write.  He maintains a blog which has attracted both scholarly and industry attention at and has written proactively commissioned book reviews published in the American Journal of Play.  He was also the lead organizer for the 5th annual North American Conference on Video Game Music, hosted at U-M in January 2018.  There, he presented “There’s no question you’ll be popular after performing these in front of your friends!” The Pedagogy and Performance of Piano Transcriptions of Video Game Music.

Thompson received masters and doctoral degrees from The University of Michigan in collaborative piano, studying with his long time mentor, Martin Katz.  His undergraduate degree, with highest honors and highest distinction, is from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Bio last updated November 2018

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