Notes of inspiration: Adjunct professor Matt Walley takes center stage with unique trombone repertoires

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"As someone very experienced in the trombone and brass instruments, Walley wanted his students to open their minds up to different ways of music during his performance and get exposed to pieces that aren’t specifically written for the trombone so they could incorporate them into their music knowledge." - Contributor / Lauren Picariello

Dr. Matt Walley opens up about his trombone journey while exposing his students to different trombone repertoires during the last concert of The Festival of Brass at Rowan University. 

The adjunct professor of trombone who teaches students who pursue a Bachelor of Music and Performance and a Bachelor in Music Education, performed three trombone pieces on Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. in the Boyd Recital Hall. 

Walley recently joined the Rowan faculty in the fall of 2022 and currently lives in Upstate New York continuing to teach at the Kaufman Music Center’s Lucy Moses school for most of the week. His love for teaching only increased after getting into the Trombone back in sixth grade. 

“Because all of my family were woodwind players, I wanted to be different and so I wanted to rebel a little bit,” said Walley. “Originally, I wanted to play the trumpet, but the mouthpiece was too small and I think my band director lied to me so that she could get more trombone players in her band.” 

The first time Walley got paid to play the trombone was when his teacher recommended him to a church that ended up hiring him to play in an orchestra. About 10 years ago, while doing his Doctorate at Rutgers University, Walley’s student taught at Rowan which opened doors to the Atlantic Brass Band that he ended up playing with. 

“I met a lot of faculty that were playing in the band and I played with them for like three years,” Walley said. “So I got to know Rowan really well through that and so when the position opened up, I applied.”

As someone very experienced in the trombone and brass instruments, Walley wanted his students to open their minds up to different ways of music during his performance and get exposed to pieces that aren’t specifically written for the trombone so they could incorporate them into their music knowledge.

“I want my students to hear me play standard work,” Walley said. “If people are thinking about playing it, they can refer back and see how I played it and we can work it together.”

Even though Walley is an inspiration to his students, he also has people he has been looking up to throughout his trombone journey. For advice, Walley goes to Paul Pollard who plays the bass trombone in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. He is also close to Megumi Kanda who is the principal in the Milwaukee Symphony. 

“I look up to her playing, she plays great,” Walley said. “There’s just so many people who I enjoy listening to all the time.”

Even though the trombone wasn’t Walley’s first pick as a child when it came to instruments, he fell in love with it and believes that the trombone is special and is different compared to other brass instruments, specifically because of the slide.

“You can do all sorts of things on the trombone that are inherently more difficult or impossible on other brass instruments,” Walley said. “And that’s one thing I like about the trombone. You can do glimpses and all kinds of stuff to kind of make music different.”

Walley believes that dedication and perseverance are very important for students who are trying to get into the music business. To make a living as a performer, Walley mentions how critical it is to be dedicated to practice every day along with being able to get through different challenges. 

“New things come up that you have to work on just going at it all the time,” said Walley. “It’s probably the thing musicians need the most because if you’re not dedicated enough to practice daily, then your odds of success go down drastically.”

After 25 years of experience with the trombone, Walley’s goal for the near future is to grow the studio located at Rowan, as they have about seven to eight students who currently learn there. At his concert, Walley played pieces that are not played as much as others and so he was excited to have a bit of fun with it. 

“Hopefully my students enjoy my teaching, but hopefully they’ll see that you know, I can play as well.”

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