Faculty & Staff Profiles

Matthew Thompson

Assistant Professor of Music and Associate Faculty, UM Center for Japanese Studies

Matthew Thompson joined the SMTD faculty in 2011 and is Assistant Professor of Music and Associate Faculty with the U-M Center for Japanese Studies. A passionate educator, Thompson was recently described by a former student as “giving one of the most wholesome, nerdy, epic-but-modest unicorn professor experiences you’ll ever find at U-M.” Dr. Thompson is active as both a pianist and a vocal coach. His pioneering pedagogy and research using video game music have established him as an authority in this burgeoning and interdisciplinary academic field.


A lifelong gamer, Dr. Thompson’s interests in game audio have become a major component of his research and pedagogy.  In 2013, Thompson became one of the first collegiate pedagogues to use video game music as a teaching tool when he created his popular Video Game Music class.  Thompson has presented multiple times at the North American Conference on Video Game Music (2018: “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).  In 2018, Thompson was lead organizer and host for the 5th annual NACVGM, held at U-M, and he continues to serve on the NACVGM program committee.  At NACVGM 7 in 2020, Thompson spearheaded, organized and emceed the inaugural NACVGM concert.  In 2018, Dr. Thompson chaired and presented for the first ever academic ludomusicology/ sound studies track at GameSoundCon, historically an industry based conference, and he serves on the advisory board for GSC.  During the 2018-2019 school year, Thompson won a grant allowing him to create the first ever collegiate studio of pianists studying video game piano transcriptions.  As part of this experimental year, Thompson invited Video Game Pianist, Dr. Martin Leung, to have a residency at U-M and Thompson joined Leung for Leung’s first public performance of video game piano duets.  In 2020, Thompson released the world premiere recording of “For the Piano,” a solo piano piece by Halo and Destiny composer, Marty O’Donnell.  Dr. Thompson has a forthcoming chapter in the Game Syllabi Handbook with Karen Cook, Julianne Grasso, Dana Plank, and Ryan Thompson and has written proactively commissioned book reviews published in the American Journal of Play. Thompson also maintains a blog which has attracted both scholarly and industry attention at


As a pianist, Dr. Thompson has performed with operatic celebrities including Thomas Hampson, Golden Mask winner 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 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 SMTD faculty including Nancy Ambrose KingAmy Porter, Professor Emeritus Bill Campbell, Professor Emeritus Fritz Kaenzig, and Jeffrey Lyman.  He has performed with the Flint Symphony and the Michigan Philharmonic.  Thompson is Artistic Director for the Carolyn Mawby Chorale, based in Flint Michigan, which was recently featured in the Netflix original series, Flint Town.  Thompson can be heard in numerous live performances online from Thompson’s YouTube channel and the Carolyn Mawby Chorale’s YouTube channel.  He can also be heard in a recently released recording with U-M alumnus and oboist, Dr. Alex Hayashi, Japonica, and with David Ammer, trumpet, in La trompette a renouvelé.


Dr. Thompson has been honored multiple times recently by U-M for his interdisciplinary research and teaching.  In 2019, U-M created the “Thompson Prize,” an annual award for a non-SMTD student to create a multidisciplinary project under his guidance.  The same year, Thompson was bestowed Associate Faculty status by the U-M Center for Japanese Studies for his research in Japanese classical and video game music.  In 2020, Thompson became an ArtsEngine Faculty Liaison and was awarded a U-M Multidisciplinary FEAST research team to embark on a multi-year study of Korean Art Song 가곡 (Gagok).  The team will collect scores, translate, record, and phoneticize the texts, with the goal of making these songs more accessible for English speakers.


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 where he completed an honors thesis: The Russian school of piano in America: the pedagogy of Rosina Lhevinne.  Thompson’s summer training included prestigious young artist programs Song Fest, the Merola Opera Program, and Wolf Trap Opera.  Summers are now typically spent teaching music to students of all levels; most recently, he has been teaching at SMTD’s MPulse Solo Vocal Institute.

Bio last updated November 2020

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