"(Jazz saxophone great) Sonny Rollins performed here during Sweet Pea that year. I took my mother (Marie Gary of Bozeman) up to the stage so we could watch the whole show," Matzinger recalled. "That's when I knew. I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life."
And do it he has. In the following years, Matzinger has traveled the world, won a Grammy and performed with some of the greats of jazz. Recently, he brought his "A" music game back to Bozeman and Montana State University's School of Music where he is guest saxophone instructor and director of jazz studies while writing books and music and pursuing a new gig in academia.
Matzinger will treat his hometown fans to a concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, at Reynolds Recital Hall. Also appearing in the faculty recital are Kelly Roberti of Bozeman on jazz bass and Richard Sellers, a percussionist and drummer based in Los Angeles.
"Kelly has played with many of the major jazz musicians, and drummer Richard Sellers is very big in Southern California jazz," Matzinger said. He hinted that there may be some other surprise guests with him on the stage Friday night. Tickets for the concert are $10 for general admission, $5 for students and are available at the door.
The concert is just one way that Matzinger would like to give back to the community that nurtured and supported him.
"Family and community are incredibly important to me," said Matzinger, who is the grandson of the late Judge Joseph B. Gary. "I have been so incredibly blessed to see the things I have, to have shared the stage with the people I have. To bring some of that and play in this beautiful community, that just means so much to me."
Matzinger credits his music training in Bozeman as giving him a solid background. He said teachers Russ Newberry at Bozeman High School and local musicians Craig Hall, Eric Funk and Allan Fauque, among others, were great mentors for him while he grew up far away from the country's jazz centers.
That changed when Matzinger was a senior in high school and traveled to New York City to audition at elite East Coast conservatories and music schools. Through a Bozeman connection, Matzinger appeared on a National Public Broadcasting radio program that interviewed bright young musicians. Unbeknownst to him, the same Sonny Rollins that had inspired him when he was five years old heard Matzinger perform and called Paul Jeffrey, a friend who was a professor at Duke University, and told him about Matzinger. Although Matzinger initially opted to study at the Hartt School because "it was closer to the New York jazz scene," he later transferred to Duke to study music performance under Jeffrey as well as cultural anthropology.
Matzinger had an opportunity to move to San Diego in 2000 to become the artist community director for mp3.com. In the decade since, he has worked in nearly every aspect of the music business. He has performed, studied or shared the stage with Ray Charles, Ellis Marsalis, Javon Jackson, Antonio Hart, Sam Rivers and T.S. Monk. A connection through a fellow musician landed him a job with Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm. Matzinger toured the world with Turner and won a Grammy Award in 2007 in the best traditional blues album/band for his work with Turner and his band group. Matzinger performs under the name Ryan Montana and is currently working on a recording project under the direction of world music guru, Ravi Shankar.
While visiting his hometown this summer, Matzinger had coffee with Greg Young, interim director of the MSU School of Music, who asked Matzinger if he had considered teaching. Young explained that while Matzinger has a doctorate in practical experience and five years of university coursework, he was a few courses short of finishing his undergraduate degree, which he will finish in May while also pursuing a master's degree at MSU. In addition, Matzinger plans to write books on saxophone methodology as well as a book on how to practice. His work at MSU will also allow him to tour and perform internationally in the summer.
"Ryan brings a wealth of experience from the real world, having played saxophone on six continents with some of the hottest jazz and popular music performers," Young said. "Our students benefit so much from his knowledge and skills. The School of Music is delighted to have him as a performer and teacher."
Matzinger said it feels good to be back home, and he plans to continue his career from Bozeman.
"Having been all over the world and played with some of the people that I have been blessed to play with, I feel that it is now my responsibility to share it with students," he said. "I feel incredibly grateful to be able to do that."
For more information about Matzinger's concert, and other concerts at the MSU School of Music, go to: http://www.montana.edu/wwwmusic/concerts/
Ryan Matzinger firstname.lastname@example.org