Matthew Finck

Matthew Finck

Visiting Professor, Music Industry

Professional Experience

The more hands-on experience a music educator has in the trenches of the professional performing world, the better equipped that individual is to teach the young artist who has professional aspirations. But that educator must also have the unique teaching skills of being able to best convey that information. Matthew Finck is fully equipped with both.

From the organ bars of Harlem in the 1990s to the Philharmonic concert stages of the 21st Century, Matthew has been on a remarkable journey of musical expression and exploration for more than 20 years. Over the span of his career he has performed and recorded with outstanding artists both inside and outside the jazz world, including Steve Wilson, Dennis Mackrel, Randy Brecker, John Medeski, Don Byron, Heather Masse, Roswell Rudd and renowned Herbie Hancock drummer Mike Clark performing the music of Herbie’s iconic Headhunters band. His enormous versatility in jazz, rock, pop and fusion has led to performances for the Hudson Valley Philharmonic performing with a broad span of diverse artists from Irish tenor Ronan Tynan to Chris Barron of the Spindoctors, and backing notable popular singers of many eras. Matthew has also toured with the traveling Broadway review The Broadway Boys with Jesse Nager (who played the part of Smoky Robinson in the Broadway show Motown).  Freelancing in a variety of settings in blues, rock and funk, Matthew currently performs with Jerry Marotta’s Reelin’ in the Years, playing the music of Steely Dan; and with Steve Maglio who has the longest running nightclub show in NYC history. Matthew has led his own funk band Fat Mink since 2005, and is co-leader of the jazz ensemble the Matthew Finck Jonathan Ball Project. He also has composed and performed music for video games since 2001.

In truth, Matthew’s intensive musical journey began at birth, through the influence of his prominent saxophonist father Ron Finck, the extended family of notable musicians with whom he played, and the future musicians who studied with him – along with major figures in popular entertainment such as Sammy Davis Jr., Milton Berle and Jackie Mason – many of whom were frequent presences in his home. This immersion into the oral traditions of the jazz legacy through direct contact with elders and others in the pursuit of truth through music is an age-old element in the jazz tradition which has been less of an influence in more recent years.

This experience and exposure has been deeply embedded in Matthew as a musician and equally so as an educator, and makes his teaching skills that much more valuable to the young emerging artist. With the combination of vast professional experience in jazz and various forms of popular music, his personal musical virtuosity and the influence of direct contact with the historical legacy, Matthew’s educational offerings are particularly valuable to young artists on the committed path of musical expression and fulfillment in all disciplines.

Teaching Interests

Spanning the full gamut of musical genres, including Jazz, Funk, Rock, Pop, Jam Band, Metal, Matthew’s teaching programs include four distinct areas:

  • One-on-one guitar instruction
  • Two separate guitar ensembles
  • Two contemporary music ensembles
  • A chamber jazz ensemble

The art of live performance is fully incorporated into all of these classes.

The one-on-one guitar instruction classes are available to 12 Music Industry Majors and are selected through a competitive audition process. The lessons are geared to the specific abilities and goals of the individual guitarists.

He also offers secondary lessons to anyone in the Music Industry program who would like to study guitar and/or improvisation/harmony on another instrument.

Guitar Ensemble 1 is focused upon fundamentals: individual performance; ensemble playing; and improvisational technique. Although the class is a group setting, information will be tailored to each guitarist based on individual need. This course is about preparing the artist for the professional world, and classroom topics will vary week to week based on student input. It is also preparatory for the advanced ensemble. The classic Guitar Canon supplies the content from an enormously varied perspective that encompasses Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Kenny Burrell, the Allman Brothers, Jimmy Page, Van Halen, Black Sabbath, the Meters and all stops in between.

Guitar Ensemble 2 is repertoire-based. The focus is upon equipping the student to play in an ensemble environment. Emphasis is placed on reading one’s individual part, blending within a group of guitarists, and developing one’s ability to improvise over a chord progression.

The repertoire of music that is selected for both ensembles features a wide range of composers; and is selected with the students’ individual interests and directions in mind. Past courses have included music ranging from Duke Ellington and Antonio Carlos Jobim to Bach to Weather Report and Queen. Much of the music is arranged by Matthew based on the students’ input and preferences, which in the past have included works like Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Weather Report’s Birdland.

Contemporary Music Ensembles Both ensembles are essentially comprised of 4-6 singers, 2 guitars, keyboards and drums. The focus is upon performing with an ensemble in contemporary music, and the specific context is established following the formation of the class and by a general consensus. The last two years have featured the music of Steely Dan, Queen, Classic Rock of the 70s/80s, and artists affiliated with the legendary Clive Davis.

Incorporated into the process is the timeless method of learning individual parts from the original recordings as opposed to using written charts. Students are responsible for doing their homework which helps not only develop a much deeper understanding of the particular tune but also deepens their knowledge in preparing them for the professional world of rehearsing their own ensembles and teaching their own students.

Chamber Jazz Ensemble is basically comprised of 4 horns, 2 guitars and rhythm section. The students are taught to play within various ensemble situations designed to improve reading ability, proper blending with respective sections and increasing the ability to improvise on various song forms. The latter includes transcription of idiomatic soloists like Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington band members.

Matthew’s arrangements for this ensemble are also based on students’ interests in learning and performing particular compositions. This year’s repertoire included iconic jazz composers Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Wes Montgomery; Great American Songbook standards by Cole Porter, Richard Rogers and Henry Mancini; and the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim.

The ensemble classes are all selected through the audition process and culminate in live performances in front of an audience.