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In Memoriam: Matt Marvuglio

Dear members of the Berklee community,

Matt MarvuglioOn August 5, I received the very sad news that longtime colleague Matt Marvuglio passed away. Matt’s presence and career at the college spanned more than four decades, beginning with his time as a student, then continuing in several vital administrative roles. He chaired the Woodwind Department, served as dean of the Professional Performance Division, and most recently, assumed the new role of dean of Performance Division Institutes.

Matt grew up in New Jersey, a place he reminds his website readers that Woody Allen once said this about: “God watches over the world, except for certain parts of New Jersey.” He was part of a musical family. He and his brothers, Tony (now Berklee’s assistant vice president for academic technology) and John, played musical instruments. His uncle Joe played trombone and bass. According to Matt, his dad played the radio and was proud of it. The musical passion extended to Matt’s sons, both of whom graduated from Berklee—David in 2009, now a faculty member in the Bass Department, and Michael in 2013, also a bass player.

Matt started playing clarinet when he was 8 years old, thinking that the clarinet was the name for the saxophone. He really wanted to play sax, but stuck with the clarinet for about four years. He claims that “back then I was told that if you could play the clarinet, you could play anything.” Later he reflected, “I think if you can play the clarinet, you can do anything!”

During his freshman year in high school, Matt quit playing the clarinet and took up the sax. The first recording that piqued his interest in jazz was the Cannonball Adderley and Charles Lloyd performance of Lloyd’s “Sweet Georgia Bright.” Intrigued, Matt checked out other Lloyd recordings. “His flute playing knocked me out. That was it for me, and it has been the flute ever since.”

Matt attended Berklee as a composition major and studied with Andy McGhee, Herb Pomeroy, Jeronimas Kacinskas, and John Bavicchi. During his time at Berklee, he continued to play the saxophone as a double so he could play in a number of big bands. Disenchanted with having to split time between flute and sax, he finally sold all of his saxes and bought a Haynes flute. That instrument “…changed my life. I now had the equipment to embark upon a flute-playing career.”

Graduating from Berklee in 1974, Matt continued his flute studies with Bill Grass at The Boston Conservatory and private counterpoint and composition with Hugo Norden, two teachers he stated “had a major impact on my music.” He stopped attending the Conservatory to gig around town and do a lot of freelance work, which included playing in the orchestras at the Shubert and Colonial theaters and on numerous radio commercials. He finished his Master of Arts degree at the University of Massachusetts with an emphasis on critical and creative thinking.

At that time, he received a call from Alex Ulanowsky, chair of Berklee’s Harmony Department, who was looking for a teacher for an advanced harmony course. In 1974, Matt started his long teaching career at the institution. In 1988, he became chair of the Woodwind Department and, in 1996, was selected as dean of the Professional Performance Division. Matt is the longest serving dean in the history of the college.

During his 21-year tenure as Performance Division dean, Matt oversaw many significant academic programs and curriculum changes, including the development and implementation of the Master of Music in Contemporary Performance (Production Concentration) program at the Valencia, Spain, campus, and subsequently the Master of Music in Contemporary Performance (Global Jazz Concentration) program at the Boston Campus under the direction of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute. He established the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, the American Roots Music Program, the Effortless Mastery Institute, and Planet MicroJam Institute. He also oversaw and championed the addition of banjo, mandolin, and steelpan as principal instruments. During his 40-plus year teaching career, he taught a variety of courses, including theory, arranging, composition, and directed study, as well as many private flute students, and provided advising for graduate students. He also taught the Berklee Online courses Basic Improvisation and Basic Ear Training 1 for several years and remained a tireless advocate for online music education.

Matt was an ardent advocate for students and the value of performance. “Performance is probably the first experience that any student has with music. I would imagine that performance is at the core of any musical experience,” he said. He was an equally dedicated supporter of Berklee faculty members who practice what they teach. “What makes our faculty distinctive is that they’re all professionals—they’re all doing what they teach. We make sure that we have role models for different students, different styles.”

As a virtuosic flutist and composer, Matt traveled throughout the world premiering his compositions for jazz flute. He performed at the National Flute Association, the Acoustical Society of America, International Association of Jazz Educators, and the International Flute Convention in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Matt was a board member for the Jazz Harp Foundation and the jazz chair of the National Flute Association. He presented clinics for the Acoustical Society of America, the International Association of Jazz Educators, and the British Flute Society, and authored numerous articles on jazz flute performance and MIDI wind controllers for The Instrumentalist and other national magazines. He was a GUO Musical Instrument Company endorsed artist.

Matt authored the Chorus and Modal Etudes for Woodwinds and the initial Traditional Harmony workbook at Berklee. He was the curriculum editor and composer for the Berklee Practice Method series, and has written and hosted Berklee’s When Music Works DVD series. He is the flute soloist on the instructional demonstration CD/book packages, Reading Key Jazz Rhythms, Playing Through the Blues, and Let’s Play Rhythm, written by Fred Lipsius, an associate professor in Berklee’s Woodwind Department, and published by Advance Music.

Matt made several recordings. His composition, Simples of the Moon, for processed flute, EWI MIDI wind controller, and acoustic and electronic percussion, can be heard on former Percussion Department Chair Dean Anderson’s record, Divinations. On a recording with Berklee Brass Professor Phil Wilson, he plays bass flute, which adds a very haunting color to the sound. He also played on the recording, Tomorrow’s Dream, a harp quartet with Berklee Strings Professor Felice Pomeranz, as well as Meditations in a Contemporary World, a two-flute improvised album on which Matt plays alto flute and his wife and Berklee Woodwinds Professor Mia Olson plays concert flute. He has recorded and performed with Danilo Pérez, John Patitucci, NEA Jazz Master Joanne Brackeen, and Eddie Gomez. He appears on Danilo’s Providencia recording, which was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2011 for the Best Jazz Instrumental Album.

Matt made many meaningful contributions to Berklee, and was always dedicated to being an educator and musician. His impact on students, faculty, staff, and alumni was profound and lasting, and he will be greatly missed.

But to really know Matt, you had to know his family. What an iconoclastic tribe. Sicilian to the core, draped in New Jersey sand and attitude. Matt’s homemade pizza made while jazz played in the kitchen with Matt holding forth with sardonic irony was such a delicious delight. It was Mia, his completely devoted wife, who made Matt whole, joyful, and giving. Armed with yoga and her Minnesotan “every day is spring” attitude, Mia composed the last years of Matt’s life as a masterpiece to dedication and absolute commitment. To be in their presence was to be in the presence of divine intervention.

Visitation will be held on Wednesday, August 23 from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at:

Keohane Funeral Home
785 Hancock Street
Quincy, MA 02170
617-773-3551

Celebration of Life Service will be held on Thursday, August 24 at 10:00 a.m. at:

Granite Links Golf Club
100 Quarry Hills Drive
Quincy, MA 02169
617-689-1900

We will plan a Berklee celebration of Matt’s life in late September or early October.

I invite you to share your stories and memories in the comments below.

If you wish to make contributions, please make them to:
Matt Marvuglio Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at Berklee.

I will deeply miss Matt, his rapier wit, his sardonic smile, his friendship, his hardly hidden swagger, and his abiding love of Berklee.

Sincerely,

Larry Simpson, Ph.D.
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs/Provost

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5 Comments

  1. Ying-Ting Luo

    I took Matt’s private lesson for 4 semesters. Matt was not just a fantastic professor but a very nice person. He did not just teach me but gave me some opportunities to perform in some great concerts. He also gave me scholarships even my major is not performance. I really appreciate him a lot. I learnt a lot from him.
    I remember one time, I saw an exotic wooden flute on his desk, and asked him what that is randomly. Then, he told me that is an Indian flute called Bansuri. And then, he just gave it to me as a gift. That was an unforgettable moment to me. I’m very sad that I didn’t have any chance to take a photo with him because he couldn’t come to school for our last few lessons. However, I have the Bansuri that he gave me. I’ll keep it forever.
    I really miss Matt and the time we played duo in the class. Few days ago, I dreamed that he was teaching me playing the flute as before. I hope he is doing super well on the other side.
    R.I.P., Matt. You are already be greatly missed. Thank you very much!

  2. Bob Zung

    My name is Bob Zung. (Berklee ’74) I was deeply saddened to hear of Matt’s passing.
    I started Berklee in 1970 with Matt. We had our first ensembles together. At that time he was playing tenor, and he used to play this strange line, which I later found out was from the song “Freedom Rider” by Traffic. (Check it out and you’ll see what I mean!) So, from the beginning, I knew this guy was a little different! And more than that, his main instrument was flute, and he was the first “real” flute player I’d ever heard up close. He was an early inspiration for me on that instrument, and I owe him many thanks for helping me to get serious about it. More than anything, his sense of humor remains in my memories of conversations with him throughout our time as students at Berklee, and later as teachers there. He also did a great impersonation of Joe Viola saying, “Why do you do that?” Anyone who studied with Joe would immediately recognize it and laugh!

    Thanks Matt.
    Bob Zung

  3. C. Scott Free

    My name is Scott Free, I knew Matt since I was a student at Berklee back in the early 1970’s. We played a lot of gigs together starting as students, and continuing for decades. For me, the camaraderie that musicians share is a treasure. One of my favorite memories of Matt was while we were waiting for a plane to a gig in Martha’s Vineyard. He turned me on to a technique in a Yoga book called, “Yoga for Health.” Later on he also introduced me to a book that helped me to quit smoking. It was Matt’s friendship and my knowing him that made some big differences in my life. I am saddened at his passing, and send my deep regards to his family and friends. He did so much for our Berklee community and will be missed.

  4. Robin Blakeman

    I knew Matt Marvuglio from our contemporaneous student days at Berklee back in the mid-1970s, and I’m pleased to say that our paths crossed again in recent years at the Panama Jazz Festival. I wish I had gotten to know him better, as I perceived him as a very fine and noble person, and a very fine musician. As a woodwind doubler (“juggler”) myself, and a great fan of the music of the late A. C. Jobim, I was astounded by the amazing facility with which Matt played bass flute (as if it were a concert flute) on the album of “Tom” Jobim’s music that he recorded several years ago with Berklee trombone veteran Phil Wilson and other members of the Berklee faculty, and I have decided to dedicate one of my very recent Jobim transcriptions (from the historic “The Composer of ‘Desafinado’ Plays” – on Verve, 1963) to Matt’s memory. Matt’s passing is a great loss to his family, friends and the Berklee community (of which I’m proud to be a part and which I now hope to renew and strengthen). RIP, Matt Marvuglio. Robin Blakeman, Brighton , UK. §

  5. Robin Blakeman

    Upon reflection, maybe I was wrong in referring to our “contemporaneous student days”, as I now seem to recall that Matt was already teaching when I came to Berklee in 1974 (in fulfillment of a ten-year ambition). Robin Blakeman §

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