I joined a band called Search and we recorded our first 7-inch when I was 14. At the time I remember how amazing it was to see so many people my age doing something positive and being taken seriously. After spending a few years studying guitar at the University of Utah, I moved to New York City to get serious about playing. What I ended up doing was getting really interested in recording. I was lucky to land an internship at a fancy studio with tons of great gear and a talented group of engineers and musicians.
How did you become involved with Spy Hop Productions?
When I returned to Salt Lake I opened a recording studio with a friend. To make ends meet, I was working as a waiter at Em's restaurant. Erik Dodd and Rick Wray (the founders of Spy Hop) came in all the time. I didn't really understand what it was that they did, so they offered to give me a tour. I remember being blown away by the space and the work that they were doing. I also remember they had a small recording setup, but they didn't offer any formal audio classes at the time. I joined Spy Hop shortly after that (in 2002). It eventually turned into a full-time teaching position. My desire to focus on big-picture programs led me to the Programs Director position a few years ago.
Talk about your teaching experiences.
In the beginning, I didn't necessarily grasp what it meant to be a teacher or mentor. We had these extremely talented people coming through the doors, but they were lacking direction or support. As an artist, it's really difficult to finish a piece and share it with the world. Who really wants to submit their most personal ideas and feelings to the world for critique? Couple that with the challenges of being a teenager and it becomes even more complicated. Throughout the years I was consistently developing new classes and curriculum, from an apprenticeship program where students get paid to participate to an Open Mic program that allows students to come in and record songs for free.
How does it feel to be a mentor to so many young people?
It's strange to think that my actions or opinions have carried weight, or influenced someone else. I always did my best to get my students to see that they had a story to tell, and most importantly, that there was someone there to listen. The key to being a good mentor is listening and honesty. I loved telling my students that I didn't know the answer to something – it leveled the playing field and gave them more confidence to find their own answers.
Do you still write music?
After my daughter Mia was born, I took time off from recording and bands and focused my attention on scoring. I've stayed consistently busy for the past few years. I've started playing music again with my band Hello Amsterdam. I did a song for the Sister Dottie musical, but felt extremely out of place doing it. I also recently wrapped scores for a couple of films, Troy Williams' "ecognosis" and a feature-length documentary called "One Revolution."
What is Spy Hop?
Spy Hop Productions is a not-for-profit youth media arts education center. It offers after-school classes to high school students in filmmaking, audio recording, radio, graphic and web design, gaming, music and other computer arts.
Where • 511 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City
More info • spyhop.org or mattmateus.com