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Performing Arts

Matt Albert joins U-M as first chair of new department of chamber music

By Marilou Carlin

U-M Men's Glee Club performs "Seven Last Words of the Unarmed"
ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance has appointed renowned violinist and violist Matt Albert as the first chair of its new Department of Chamber Music.


Albert, currently director of chamber music and of SYZYGY at the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, will begin his tenure at U-M in September.


Called “preposterously talented” by Time Out Chicago, Albert has been in his current position at the Meadows School since 2011. He was a founding member of the contemporary music sextet Eighth Blackbird, with whom he received numerous awards, including first prizes at the Naumburg, Concert Artists Guild, Coleman, and Fischoff Competitions, and three GRAMMY awards for their recordings on Cedille Records. During the summer, Albert serves as the artistic director of the Music in the Mountains Conservatory in Durango, Colo.


Matt Albert, Photo by Kim Leeson

Matt Albert, Photo by Kim Leeson

Albert has worked with artists as diverse as Meredith Monk, Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues and Wilco, and his orchestral playing has included work with the Shreveport Symphony (as concertmaster), Baltimore Symphony, Florida Orchestra, Firebird Chamber Orchestra and Cabrillo Festival Orchestra. His principal teachers include Kenneth Sarch, Gregory Fulkerson, Kurt Sassmannshaus and Almita Vamos. Albert holds degrees from Oberlin College and Conservatory, the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and Northwestern University School of Music.


“We are thrilled to have Matt join SMTD in this critically important new role,” said Aaron Dworkin, dean of SMTD. “His incredible musicianship, breadth of accomplishment across multiple genres and proven track record as a pedagogue make him uniquely qualified to lead this new department. I have no doubt he will develop it into an unrivaled incubator for the chamber arts, contributing significantly to the success of our students as well as the growth of the field.”


Albert said the creation of a Department of Chamber Music at SMTD is “an incredible opportunity.”


“I hope to continue and build upon the amazing small ensemble work already being done at Michigan, with new resources, support, faculty collaborations and ways of learning—both curricular and extracurricular,” he said. “I am thrilled, humbled and inspired to be chosen to lead this department, and I can’t wait to begin our work together at Ann Arbor this fall.”


Launched in fall 2015, the Department of Chamber Music has been under the leadership of interim chair Christopher Harding, chair of the Department of Piano and associate professor of piano performance.


The new department was one of the key initiatives launched by Dworkin as he began his SMTD tenure as dean last fall, along with a robust new entrepreneurial and career development program (EXCEL: Excellence in Entrepreneurship, Career Empowerment, and Leadership); a reinvigorated partnership with Ann Arbor Public Schools in which SMTD students provide music instruction to local schoolchildren (MAC: Michigan Artist Citizens); and M-Prize, an international chamber music competition—the largest, in terms of both number of applicants and the $100,000 grand prize—created to identify and showcase outstanding chamber arts ensembles and raise awareness for chamber arts.


All of the initiatives share the goal of increasing the relevance of the performing arts by providing students with the tools needed to make impactful contributions to their communities. Chamber arts figure prominently, as Dworkin believes the field offers tremendous educational and entrepreneurial opportunities for musicians and other performing artists.


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