MATT JOHNSON, Drums
He was born September 2nd 1982 in New York City. He has lived in Northern New Jersey for all but 4 years of his life. He developed an interest in music at a very young age, though he did not start formally playing an instrument until years later. Listening to whatever his parents put on the radio he was exposed to many types of music such as classical, classic rock, and du-op. When he was 9, his father gave him a pair of drumsticks and he started playing on pillows. At the age of 11, he began coming into his own and seeking out music for himself, discovering bands that he had never been exposed to. By the age of 13, he decided that he wanted to play an instrument in a band. he stared trying to learn the guitar because his best friend played lead guitar and he thought he would like playing rhythmn guitar. After about 6 weeks of finger exercises he decided he didn’t like it and tried playing bass. When taht was even worse, he remembered the interest he always had in the drums. The instrument was a perfect fit. Just before turning 14, he bought his first drumset.
He and his friend that started a band. They played music every day after school. They would jam, play covers, and even wrote some orignal music. After playing for about 8 months, he saw a video with Dave Weckl, Vinnie Couliuta, and Steve Gadd playing at a Buddy Rich memorial concert. The video changed his musical life forever. His interest grew and by the time he was 15, he was practicing up to 6 hours a day. In the spring of his sophmore year in high school, he was in a concert where he played a drum solo that he wrote. After recieving a standing ovation and praise from all his peers he knew that life as a musician was his future. At this time, he started looking outside his own high school to other chools and programs to find better players. His choices in music became more sophisticated, listening to artists like Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Medeski, Martin, and Wood, Brlack Light Syndrome, and Miles Davis. He started a progressive rock band with musicians that were already in college at that time. He also began attending audition based jazz workshops at college such as Jazz for Teens at William Paterson University, The Berklee World Percussion Festivial, and NJPAC’s springtime jazz workshop.
After high school he attended Berklee College of Music for 4 years. During this time, he emerced himself in the study of jazz and became a truly educated musician. He studied music theory, ear training, conducting, and learned how to read and transcribe music. On the drums he studied with a wide array of incredible teachers such as Kenwood Dennard, Ian Froman, Mike Mangini, and John Hazilla. He learned how to play well in a mulititude of styles and became a much more accomplished sideman. He graduated cum laude from Berklee in 2004.
After College he went back home to New Jersey where he joined several different bands and kept pursuing his musical goals. While maintaining his jazz playing, he also went back to his hard rock roots and joined The Michale Graves Band fronted by the former singer of The Misfits. With this band he went on two national tours that the band headlined. Upon his return from tour. he started several more bands ranging from jazz to funk, folk, and indie rock. He then began playing a mixture of club dates and rock shows primarily in New Jersey and New york City. He also started being a bandleader and booking his own residency gigs at various establishments. At the same time he also began taking on private students. Soon he learned he loved to teach. It was fun and challenging in ways he wasn’t used to. He continued to take on more private students. Soon he learned he loved to teach. It was fun and challenging in ways he sasn’t used to. He continued to take on more private students and in 2007, he got a call from the CJC Music School saying they needed a drums teacher. He accepted the offer and continues to teach there today. In late 2009, he rejoined the Michale Graves Band and recently played the Minerva music festival with that band under the name Gotham Road. The festival was the biggest rock show in Mississippi’s history with over 6000 people in attendance. Matt Johnson cotinueds to educate students, and excite audiences to this day. But to him what is most important is that he makes a living doing what he loves.