By Blaine Schultz + Photo by Kate Engeriser
Matthew Schroeder, guitarist and department chair at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, has traversed the entire spectrum of music, from guttural electric with local rock groups Pet Engine and The Barbeez to Signal, his recently released debut solo album of original acoustic finger-style compositions. On November 18, Schroeder will launch the Midwest Guitar Summit with longtime friends and collaborators Dan Schwartz and Ben Woolman at the WCM. Find tickets at www.matthewschroederonline.com.
1. With instrumental music, do you have certain images that come to mind for songs when you play them?
Imagery is central. In composing it helps you stay the course, and in performing it takes you where you need to go emotionally to best play the piece. If you play well, you create art in the mind of the listener, and much like a good book, it’s a bit different for everyone. Many times someone will know just what the tune is about, and what’s best is when they add surprise details to the picture.
2. What makes for a good instrumental guitar tune?
There are no particular elements that need to be present. I simply need to enjoy hearing and reacting to it. I do like tunes that incorporate something slightly off the beaten path in note choice or technique. A tune that succeeds in the imagery category is John Fahey’s “The Approaching of the Disco Void.” Recorded live in Tasmania, it will scare you! In the groove/melody area, Leo Kottke’s “Orange Room” is pure fun.
Coming from a rock background and looking for more, finger-style guitar was a means of expression outside of the traditional classical or jazz guitar idiom. Along the way I fell in love with the style. Many people keep searching for what they should be doing with their life. I feel I’ve found it.
4. What is the Midwest Guitar Summit?
The Midwest Guitar Summit is a finger-style guitar concert featuring myself, Dan Schwartz and Ben Woolman. We all met in the early 90s while attending the cooperative guitar program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee/Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and received BFAs in American finger-style guitar performance. We enjoy each other’s music and friendship, and have stayed close over the years, so doing some shows together is a natural result. A typical MGS performance will consist of each player doing a short solo set, some duets, and culminate with all three guitarists onstage together, displaying their versatility by including other instruments such as lap steel, bass and electric guitar.
5. How do you define success as a musician?
I currently teach and perform. When my students are learning, and I am moving people with music, that is success for me as a musician. VS