Matt Culbertson – Piano Teacher

Piano, Voice, and Clarinet
Piano Performance, Montclair State University
Jazz, Classical, Pop

piano, jazz, lessons, fishtown, phillyI am a pianist, accompanist, and teacher that graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance from Montclair State University. I’ve been blessed with incredible mentors and teachers my whole life, and I owe my success to them, and that’s one of the main reasons why I teach.

Aside from projects and responsibilities within the John J. Cali School of Music, I was a part of (my hometown) Montclair’s community arts as a student and professional for nearly 10 years. After years as a student of several music education programs within Essex County, I moved on to teaching private lessons for all ages and all styles. I have performed throughout Northern New Jersey and New York, including Steinway Hall and Carnegie Hall. Now, after moving to Philadelphia, I intend to build my reputation among the educators and collaborators and continue my own education and artistry in music.

When did you begin playing Instrument, and why?
I started playing piano at the age of 8 years old, I began with with classical training but soon thereafter became intrigued by jazz as well. From even younger than that I had been immersed in all forms of music and expression. 

What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
I’ve pursued the violin, clarinet, the saxophones, the voice, as well as the guitar. Although my experience in some is limited, I have taught up to Intermediate levels of Clarinet.

What are your personal goals as a musician?
My goals include always improving my own ability to express myself, but also to work and build a way for my students to do the same. To find an escape from all the frustrations of modern life using music and education. 

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?
The most important realization in my career has been the idea of “working smarter not harder.” In the past, I’ve pushed myself physically too far and did not understand that “technique” is all about making the music easier for yourself. Once I was able to let go of the tension I was putting on myself physically and mentally, I was able to take my skills to the next level.

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
My private teacher for years, Dr. Lisa Yui, strived to get me to shape my own interpretation of my music. It’s often difficult for performers to fully understand that they are artists as well, and as that artist, the performer needs to be able to input their own expressions and interpretations, not just that of the original composer.

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
The most difficult piece I’ve performed so far (for my Senior Recital), is Chopin’s Ballade in G minor. It’s an extremely intense, long piece of music, that is compacted with emotionally tender music as well as virtuosic moments. This piece took me so long to be able to play, and it’s something I’m still improving all the time. The ending is so fast and so loud, I even hurt myself in the learning process. This was another piece that helped me to realize that I needed to figure out how to play with as little tension as possible.

What is your biggest musical achievement?
My Senior Recital. Last December, after a long tenure in music school, I was able to accomplish a Senior Recital filled with 75 minutes of memorized music. It took months upon months of training and studying. When I was on stage and finally in the moment, I realized I had never felt a better sense of accomplishment in my life, and that that was going to be a tough one to beat.

Favorite thing about teaching?
Getting students to realize how music is constructed harmonically and rhythmically. Once you have that deeper understanding, so much of music becomes accessible not only to enjoy and listen too, but to be able to learn and play on their own.

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
It’s corny, but Have Fun! In music and really all aspects of life today, we all put so much pressure on each other and more importantly ourselves. Yes, it is difficult and requires hard work, but it can be so rewarding and downright a fun time, if we realize together that the music is about a message and building a relationship with our audience. 

Beethoven said, “To play a wrong note is insignificant, but to play without passion is inexcusable.”

Personal music projects:
Not only do I pursue performances and collaborations, but I’m also steeped in the classical music publishing tradition. I’ve engraved and edited chamber and orchestral music and am pursuing librarianships as well as representation/management of artists and orchestras.