Q & A with Dazzle’s Matthew Rathkey

When did you start piano lessons?

While Matthew isn’t clear he knew he was quite young. Sometime in his teenage years, he became “irrevocably obsessed with music.”  He credits great teachers including his piano professor, Kenneth Huber at Carleton College and saxophonist Kenyon Brenner at the University of Northern Colorado for helping him focus on technique and musicianship.

Why switch from classical piano to a sax?  And why switch from sax to booking agent?

In 4th grade, Matthew had the chance to play a band instrument. “I can’t remember why I chose the saxophone, but I know at least that I wanted to play an instrument that would allow me to perform in both the symphonic and jazz bands.” He admitted to not practicing the sax as often as the piano despite his love of jazz band.  After graduating from Carleton Matthew found work as an actuary in Chicago but “missed music too much to continue working in that field. After slogging away at a job you don’t want for 15 months, what you do want can suddenly become crystal clear.” Without a piano in his studio apartment saxophone became his outlet and jazz became his genre. Trained as a classical musician he took on the challenge and was accepted into UNC’s graduate school as a jazz saxophonist. He performs with various groups in Colorado.  After Dazzle hired him as a booking assistant and to update the website, the owner “tapped me to be in charge of booking classical shows and creating this new series.” 

Why a weekly classical music series in a jazz club?

“I believe the demand is there. We’ve got loads of great classical musicians in Denver,” but not many chamber concerts allow diverse programming for “curious first-time listeners.” At Dazzle’s supper club one can sit at a  table with friends “against the stage” instead of being distanced from performers in a concert hall. He strives “to create a cozy, relaxed vibe.” Matthew insists that “art is communication — nothing more, nothing less” and should be savored like “a fireside chat with an old friend.”  “We’re very invested in forging a sense of community and shared experiences through this series, which is why we’re actively booking excellent local and student performers alongside national names. We want the Dazzle stage to be a symbol of community — a watering hole of sorts where musicians and music-lovers from all walks of life can come together and comfortably and enthusiastically share in the inborn joy of human expression.”

–Where can I hear you play?

“I lead my own New Orleans-style brass band, No Hands Brass Band, and we’ll be playing Mardi Gras (February 25th) at Dazzle.”  The band will also perform on February 22nd at the Tilt Pinball in Louisville.

What is on the lineup for 2020?

  • January 20th: Students and alumni from Lamont will present a tribute to black classical composers. A string quartet will perform pieces by  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Florence Price, and George Walker who according to Matthew are “criminally underrated composers!”
  • January 27th: CSO concertmaster, Yumi Hwang-Williams and pianist Hsing-ay Hsu will perform Beethoven.
  • February 10th: MAS Eclectic Concert Series will host a tribute to composer, conductor and performer David Amram, who is nearly 90. The evening of Chamber Music Duos featuring CSO Concertmaster Yumi Hwang-Williams, pianist Sara Parkinson, Principal, flutist Brook Ferguson, flutist Lausa Schulkind, and saxophonist Ken Radnovsky and pianist Yoshiko Kline.
  • February 17th: Duo970 with UNC Flute Professor James Hall and Susie Maddocks on piano.  Hall debuted at Carnegie Hall in 2004. He’s performed with legendary saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera and violinist Jennifer Koh.


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